Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

73° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Football notebook: NU continues slow-starting habit, responds with comeback

Northwestern couldn’t have asked for a worse start. One-and-a-half quarters into the game, the Wildcats were down by 25 points, their largest deficit of the season, and against Indiana, who was two weeks removed from a disastrous 47-7 loss at Virginia.

Senior wide receiver Andrew Brewer explained the feelings of the team on the sidelines.”It’s kind of like, ‘What are we doing here?'” Brewer said. “Let’s play the way we know we’re capable of playing. For some reason this season, we are starting out late and having some tremendous finishes, playing really well in the second half, and just imagine how good we could be and how the score would look if we played both halves that way.”

If the Cats’ lackluster play in the first quarter seemed familiar to fans, it’s because it was. NU has been outscored 52-16 in the opening quarter of its last six games.

After the game, Fitzgerald took the blame for the Cats’ first-quarter woes.

“We’ve played pretty well early,” Fitzgerald said. “We just haven’t been able to get over the hump in some areas. I put it on the coaches’ shoulders. We’ve got to do a better job.”

But quarterback Mike Kafka wouldn’t let the coaches take sole responsibility for the team’s slow starts.

“Right off the bat it starts with us, the guys playing the game,” Kafka said. “The coaches are calling the right things, but we’ve got to go out and execute better. That’s something we can get fixed, and it’s something we’re working on. It ain’t gonna be perfect but we’re just going to keep on fighting, and together as a team we’ll get the win.”

WILDCATS CONTAIN WILDCATThe Cats had faced teams that ran a version of the Wildcat formation before, but they had never gone up against a team that ran it as often as the Hoosiers. Not only did Indiana run it a lot, they ran a variation that NU had never seen on film.

“They were giving us a tricky front,” senior defensive end Corey Wootton said. “It was five linemen on one side (of the ball) and four on the other. We had never seen that.”

In the first half, Indiana ran the Wildcat seven times, racking up 19 yards and one touchdown. But after making halftime changes, the Cats were ready for the Wildcat in the second half.

NU’s adjustments paid off late in the third quarter, when Indiana lined up in the Wildcat for a fourth-and-goal on the 1-yard line. Do-it-all back Mitchell Evans took the snap, faked the keeper and dropped back to pass. The Cats didn’t bite, and no Indiana receivers were open. Evans scrambled and took off to the other side of the field. He broke through the Cats’ defense and had a wide open lane to the end zone, but Evans stumbled over his own offensive lineman and fell at the 2-yard line.

“They tried to run a little (Tim) Tebow play where he faked like he was coming in and he popped a pass,” Fitzgerald said. “We had it covered. Guys were really disciplined.”

WOOTTON BACK WITH SACKSometimes, the first one is the hardest. Coming into Saturday’s game, Wootton was still looking for his first sack of the season. Against Indiana, he didn’t have to wait long.

A little more than two minutes into the game, Wootton charged untouched into the backfield and grabbed hold of Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell. Chappell went down immediately, and fans at Ryan Field witnessed a familiar sight – Wootton’s sack celebration.

“It was definitely good just to get that out of the way,” Wootton said. “I had that on my shoulders for a couple weeks now. It definitely gave me the confidence I need.”

Wootton is still recovering from ACL surgery after tearing the knee ligament against Missouri in the Alamo Bowl. Then against Purdue three weeks ago, Wootton tweaked his ankle and played sparingly since.

“It’s been a hard road for him this year,” Fitzgerald said. “The great thing about Corey is that his attitude has been unbelievable. For a young man with the expectations that he has on himself, I could not be more proud of him.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Football notebook: NU continues slow-starting habit, responds with comeback