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

Advertisement
Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Advertisement

Advertisement

Football sidebar: ‘Cut-cannon’ crucial in ground game success

It’s no secret Northwestern’s running game has struggled this season. Before Saturday, the Wildcats were averaging 123 yards per game on the ground, putting them at 89th in the nation. NU hadn’t topped 100 yards in a Big Ten game this season, and quarterback Mike Kafka led the team in rushing its past two games.

That all changed against Indiana. The Cats finished the game with 162 rushing yards, their highest total in six weeks.

Against Indiana, an unlikely name topped NU’s rushing list – sophomore Scott Concannon. Coming into the game, Concannon ranked fifth on the team in rushing and hadn’t gotten a carry since the Syracuse game, when he had one rush for a three-yard loss. Concannon was much more productive Saturday, matching his career carry tally with 16 rushes for 73 yards. The Columbia, Mo., native averaged 4.6 yards per carry against Indiana, 1.6 yards higher than his career average.

“He’s shifty,” wide receiver Zeke Markshausen said. “We call him ‘Cut-Cannon’ because he can make cuts that are just insane.”

Primarily a special teams player, Concannon missed time earlier in the year with a concussion.

“It’s always good to get back in the game,” Concannon said. “I had a couple hits to the head earlier in the year, but it’s good to get out there.”

Concannon finally broke free in the second half. After falling behind early, the Cats were forced to rely on their passing attack to bail them out. NU went to the air 40 times in the first three quarters, compared with just 26 rushes. But a change in strategy allowed the Cats to run loose in the final period. In the fourth quarter, NU ran the ball 15 times for 73 yards.

“We knew what they were going to do with the defensive line, and we really just tried to overpower them at the point of attack,” Concannon said. “We just went to it and changed up a few blocks here and there and it really seemed to open up the hole.”

The Cats went to the running game often in the fourth quarter. The first four plays of the quarter were rushes that combined for 20 yards. About 10 minutes later, the Cats registered their longest run of the day on a third-and-seven at Indiana’s 25-yard line.

Sophomore Jeravin Matthews took the ball on a misdirection draw, broke free for 15 yards and put NU in position for its game-winning field goal. In total, NU ran the ball on three of its four third downs in the fourth quarter.

NU’s big day on the ground came largely without the services of its three leading rushers.

Junior Stephen Simmons and sophomore Jacob Schmidt were sidelined with injuries, while freshman Arby Fields managed only 10 yards. Concannon took the opportunity to position himself in the middle of the running back carousel.

“Any one of us would prefer to be the featured tailback on the team,” he said. “But I’m sure when Steph (Simmons) comes back and when Jacob (Schmidt) comes back, it’s going be a competition like it’s always been.”

The running back committee benefited from a much-improved offensive line. The unit held defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton in check while opening up plenty of holes.

“(The offensive linemen) played tremendous,” Kafka said. “Right now they have some great momentum, they have a lot of confidence, and we will try to build on that for next week.”

[email protected]

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Football sidebar: ‘Cut-cannon’ crucial in ground game success