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: Backups fill in for injured secondary

Once the veterans of the defense, Northwestern’s secondary has become the rookies.

Sophomores Ricky Weina and Brian Peters and freshman Jared Carpenter recorded significant playing time on Saturday due to injuries to seniors Brad Phillips, Brendan Smith and Sherrick McManis. It’s uncertain whether the three seniors will play Saturday.

Regardless, Weina, Carpenter and Peters filled in admirably for the trio against Indiana.The secondary held Hoosiers quarterback Ben Chappell to 163 passing yards, his lowest mark of the season.

“They’ve done a great job,” said Smith of the young players in the secondary. “What I’ve told (Carpenter) is ‘Just be you, don’t worry about any other thing. Just do your job, know your assignment and worry about doing that first and then be a playmaker after that.'”

Saturday marked Weina’s first meaningful playing time, and he made the most of it. In addition to breaking up one pass, Weina blocked a punt in the third quarter.

“(Weina) didn’t get a million reps in practice last week with our ones, but he really pays attention to detail – like a lot of our players do – and the opportunity presented itself and he stepped up,” Fitzgerald said.

OFFENSIVE OVERLOADFor the second consecutive game, the Wildcats will face the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. Penn State signal caller Daryll Clark had a standout game last week at Michigan, passing for 230 yards and four touchdowns. Clark is also a rushing threat, as he finished fourth among Big Ten quarterbacks with 282 rushing yards last year.

A 2008 semifinalist for the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards, Clark enters Saturday’s showdown tied for third in the nation with 17 touchdown passes.

“If we have good coverage on him, there’s always that chance that he could run,” Carpenter said. “It’s not only covering, it’s sticking your foot in the ground and coming up and containing him if he runs.”

But Clark isn’t the only Nittany Lions player who can burn opposing defenses on the ground. Penn State also features the conference’s second-best rusher, junior Evan Royster. The 2008 Doak Walker award semifinalist is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

“Royster is one of those backs that you just don’t see anymore,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s really physical, he has great vision, he catches the ball well out of the backfield, he protects well. He’s that full package with good size.”

Clark’s crew is averaging 428 yards of offense and 30 points per game, ranking first and second in the conference, respectively. Though Penn State’s Spread HD offense puts up gaudy numbers and lights up the scoreboard, it doesn’t do anything extraordinary.

“They don’t do too much misdirection or anything,” sophomore linebacker Ben Johnson said. “What you see is what you get. They just play brute-strength football. They’re just going to come and smack you in the mouth.”

LIONS D LEADING LEAGUEPenn State’s numbers on defense don’t lie – the Nittany Lions have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. They lead the Big Ten in rushing defense, pass defense, sacks, tackles for loss and scoring defense.

Still, Fitzgerald isn’t concerned with those figures.

“Stats are for losers,” Fitzgerald said. “The only stat that matters is wins, and they’ve got seven, and to me that’s impressive.”

Regardless, NU’s offense boasts strong statistics of its own. Senior quarterback Mike Kafka ranks first in the Big Ten in passing yards per game and total offense, and senior wide receiver Zeke Markshausen ranks second in receptions per game. Notably absent from this list is a top rusher. The Cats have not had a player run for more than 100 yards in a game all season.

“It’s real important to establish the run game,” Kafka said. “It’s going to keep those linebackers and their defensive line real honest and that’ll open up our pass game. It all has to work together, it has to transition and roll. That’s going to be the key point; to make sure all our systems are rolling and we’re executing.”

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Football: Backups fill in for injured secondary