Football: Demos dominates Big Ten with his foot

Robbie Levin

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Northwestern’s victory on Saturday was in no small part due to its special teams play. In addition to recovering one fumble on a kickoff and one on a punt, the Wildcats held one of the conference’s most dangerous return men to 39 yards on four returns.”We played our best game of the year in the kicking game,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We played really fast on kickoffs. Stefan (Demos) put the ball where we wanted it and I thought our guys covered very well.”In his first season as the team’s kicker, Demos has shown why he was a highly touted recruit coming into NU. On Sunday the junior was named the Big Ten’s Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Purdue. Demos was 4-of-4 on field goals against the Boilermakers, upping his season tally to a perfect 8-of-8 mark.”I’m starting to get a lot more relaxed out there,” Demos said. “After such a hiatus from kicking field goals I really feel a little more comfortable out there now.”This is Demos’ second such honor. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native, who ranks 22nd nationally with 1.6 field goals per game, also won the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance as a punter against Syracuse last year.

Hey ArnoldThere is one new name on this week’s depth chart: sophomore linebacker David Arnold. The converted safety wasn’t even listed on the two deep at the beginning of the year, but a strong performance against Purdue helped move him past sophomore Ben Johnson on the strong side.”(Arnold) played really well on Saturday, ” Fitzgerald said. “Not that Ben’s not playing well, it’s just that we’ve got competition at a couple positions and we’re going to put guys that are playing well consistently out there on the field. I thought David stepped up, I thought he looked really well in the kicking game. He was really active, he was really flying around and it’s great to have him back.”After battling through several injuries in his first two seasons on the team, Arnold had a breakout game last week. The Copley, Ohio, native notched four tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble.

Crazy legs KafkaOn Saturday fans saw flashes of the 2008 version of Mike Kafka. Before factoring in yards lost on sacks, Kafka rushed 16 times for 61 yards and one touchdown against Purdue. After the tackles, the senior quarterback’s rushing total dropped to 39 yards.”We felt like we could take advantage of some of the things they were doing schematically,” Fitzgerald said. “There were some times where they were aggressive with the pass rush and Mike was able to run, which is a good sign.”While Kafka did not have as good a day through the air as he did in his last two games – when he threw for a combined 699 yards and five touchdowns – he bailed out the Cats with several first down runs.”On offense we try to avoid as many negative plays as possible,” Kafka said. “We made it a big stress this past week that if nothing was there to just take off and get a positive play. Sometimes, whether it was protection or missed timing, I was just able to get out and get a few yards.”

Quick Hits:Saturday’s game against Miami (OH) will kick off at 11 a.m. CT. Coverage will be provided by the Big Ten Network. … The American Football Coaches Association donated $10,000 to the Randy Walker Memorial Fund this week in honor of former NU and Miami coach Randy Walker. …The teams last met in 2006 in the season opener when the Cats topped the Redhawks, 21-3, in Oxford,