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

The Daily Northwestern

32° 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: Wildcats seek vengeance against Nittany Lions

Sophomore+quarterback+Trevor+Siemian+faces+a+difficult+test+with+Penn+States+defense%2C+especially+its+vaunted+linebacking+corps.++
Daily file photo by Meghan White
Sophomore quarterback Trevor Siemian faces a difficult test with Penn State’s defense, especially its vaunted linebacking corps.

This has been quite an odd week of preparations for Northwestern.

The Wildcats usually know conference opponents pretty well after seeing them on a regular basis on film and the field. However, this week there is a decidedly new feel as NU prepares for its trip to Penn State on Saturday. For the first time in more than 45 years the Cats aren’t preparing for a Nittany Lions team led by Joe Paterno. Instead, Bill O’Brien has taken over in State College, Pa., and the Cats must prepare for a whole new scheme.

“It’s completely different,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “Offensively, Bill’s going to put pressure on you formationally. They do a great job with formation variations (and) with some motions. Defensively, this is the best defense we’ve faced to date.”

Fitzgerald said he watched a lot of tape of the New England Patriots in the off season as he watched tape on NU’s opponents this season. O’Brien was the offensive coordinator for the NFL squad last season, and Fitzgerald said O’Brien has done a good job at conforming his playbook to the talent he possesses at Penn State.

The Cats and Nittany Lions have had two incredible battles in the last two seasons. The last time the two teams met, NU jumped out to a 21-0 lead late in the first half, but gave up a touchdown three seconds before halftime. That killed all momentum and the Nittany Lions outscored the Cats 28-0 in the second half to take the game 35-21. Last season, NU trailed by three at the half, but was once again shut out in the second half in the 34-24 loss to Penn State. For Pennsylvania native Quentin Williams, the losses sting, but he said he is focusing on this Saturday, not the past.

“It still kind of (leaves a bitter taste),” the senior defensive end said. “I’m not focused on two years ago or last year for that matter. We try not to dwell on the past. We learned from it and I think we’re playing much better football this year.”

Penn State had a rough start to 2012, dropping its first two games, but the Nittany Lions have won three straight, including their conference opener last week against Illinois, to get back on track . They have relied on the 14th best scoring defense in the country, which is giving up a mere 13.6 points per game and just 9 points per game in Penn State’s three wins.  At the heart of that defense are linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, who are the teams’ two leading tacklers this season.

NU’s linebacking corps has quietly had a great season as well. Led by sophomore Chi Chi Ariguzo, the starters — junior Damien Proby, senior David Nwabuisi and Ariguzo — are the top three tacklers on the team and have 107 tackles between the three of them. Fitzgerald said the Cats understand if they want to consider themselves one of the best, they need to outperform arguably the best linebackers in the Big Ten on Saturday.

Junior quarterback Kain Colter said it is difficult to study the Penn State defense because the Nittany Lions are constantly changing many parts of the defense. The Cats have played against a Ted Roof defense before, most recently in the 2010 Outback Bowl when NU played Auburn, where Roof was defensive coordinator. Colter said he expects the defense he will face will look more like Auburn’s in 2010 than Penn State’s in 2011.

“They’re a lot different than last year,” Colter said. “They do a lot of switching the coverages up. You never really know what to expect from them. They don’t have a base coverage, so it’s kind of like a flavor of the week.”

The events that transpired at Penn State in the last year have definitely had a dramatic impact on campus. Still, Fitzgerald said he is not expecting anything different and the Cats can’t worry about anything out of their hands.

“All of those things are out of our control,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve moved forward so have they, and you got to tip your hat and be incredibly impressed with the job their coaching staff and their young men have done when it comes to playing the game of football. To have this kind of challenge, we’re going to find out where we’re at come 4 o’clock Eastern on Saturday. “

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Football: Wildcats seek vengeance against Nittany Lions