The program had to deal with the tragic death of Rashidi
Wheeler a few years ago, and now it'll have to go on without the man
who helped make Northwestern football relevant.
Of course, Gary Barnett got the ball rolling with a
shockingly tough defense and a powerful running attack, and then Randy Walker
tweaked the formula with one of the first forms of
the spread offense and an attitude that allows the little-engine-that-could
battle every big-time team that has the Northwestern game mentally
penciled in as a win.
Now the program has to deal with more tragedy as Walker suddenly
passed away from an apparent heart attack. He was 52.
He was just starting to get his just due as one of the best head
coaches in America considering he won with little of the talent the
big time schools were able to get.
You're not supposed to win when you have the worst defense in
America, and you're certainly not supposed to be competitive in a
conference like the Big Ten when you can't stop the run.
You're not supposed go to bowl games, beat teams like Wisconsin,
Purdue, and Iowa, and come within a big-time clutch play of beating
Penn State when your pool of possible top recruits can fit in a
phone booth. But Walker was able to get the job done more often than
Everyone gushes over guys like Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer and Charlie
Weis; try winning 14 Big Ten games in three years at one of the
world's premier academic institutions with an undergraduate
population of under 8,000 and a fan base that barely fills up half
of a glorified high school stadium. So how does Northwestern get the
job done, and how does it go on without its driving force?
Head coach: Pat Fitgerald
Off. 24, Def. 21, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 16
Ten Best NU Players
1. RB Tyrell Sutton, Soph.
2. CB Marquice Cole, Sr.
3. C Trevor Rees, Jr.
4. OG Ryan Kennan, Sr.
5. DE Kevin Mims, Soph.
6. LB Nick Roach, Jr.
7. WR Shaun Herbert, Sr.
8. LB Adam Kadela, Jr.
9. SS Bryan Heinz, Sr.
10. OT Dylan Thiry, Jr.
at Miami Univ.
at Penn State
2005 Record: 7-5
2005 predicted wins
at Arizona State L 52-21
at Purdue W 34-29
at Michigan St W 49-14
Michigan L 33-17
Iowa W 28-27
Ohio State L 48-7
at Illinois W 38-21
UCLA L 50-38
Looking at it purely in football analysis and taking the
emotional equation out of it, it's about getting good
linemen, tough players who know their roles, and a quarterback who can
run the show efficiently. It's no coincidence that the team's success
over the years came when it have a veteran signal caller. Steve Schnur
was the heady passer who led the way during the initial Big Ten title
years, Zac Kustok was Alex Smith before Alex Smith, and Brett Basanez
improved over his four years to the point of being one of the nation's
leaders in total offense. That's why there's a big concern for a huge
dip this year.
C.J. Bacher, Andrew Brewer, and Mike Kafka are going to have to be
Basanez without the three years of starting experience. There's a
fantastic line to work behind and Tyrell Sutton to put all the pressure
of the offense on his shoulders, but without the nation's seventh-ranked
passing game to keep things moving, another big season might be hard to
It's never right to trivialize a death by saying it could possibly
have anything to do with a football team's success, but this is
still a good enough team to win plenty of games and throw a few scares
into the contenders. Obviously, no team will have to go through this
season more on its mind.
The Schedule: The Wildcats could be in big, big trouble if they stumble in losable
early road games against Miami University and Nevada. Starting out the
Big Ten season at Penn State and at Wisconsin isn't a positive, and a
two-game road trip to Michigan and Iowa should crush bowl dreams. If
that wasn't bad enough, they come home to face Ohio State and has to
deal with improved Michigan State and Purdue teams. NU misses
Minnesota and Indiana.
Sophomore RB Tyrell Sutton. Sutton gained 970 yards in
his first seven games coming within 30 yards of being in the same
breath as Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith, and Adrian Peterson as the
only backs to gain 1,000 in seven games as a true freshman. Even so,
he made a name for himself as both a runner and a receiver catching
44 passes to go along with his 1,474 rushing yards and 16 scores.
Defensive Player: Senior CB Marquice Cole. One of the Big Ten's
best cover-corners, Cole has 4.3 speed and a great nose for the
ball. He became a top all-around defender last year turning into a
good open-field tackler while breaking up ten passes and picking off
player to a successful season: Sophomore QB C.J. Bacher. Andrew
Brewer and Mike Kafka are in the mix for the starting job, but it'll
likely be up to Bacher to be the one who gets the keys to the
offense. He has seen a little bit of work and has the tools to grow
into the job, but he can't just worry about limiting mistakes; he
has to make big plays for the Wildcats to be in the mix for a bowl
season will be a success if ...
the Wildcats win seven games and go back to a bowl. It's
possible if they win every game they have a reasonable shot in. At
Miami University, New Hampshire, Eastern Michigan, at Nevada, and
Illinois all have to be victories, and then there has to be a win
over teams like Michigan State and Purdue along the way.
game: Sept. 22 at Nevada. The defending co-WAC champions will see
this nationally televised Friday night game as a chance to showcase
themselves on national TV. With road games ahead at Penn State and
Wisconsin, Northwestern must beat the Wolf Pack to avoid a possible
three game losing streak and for a likely 4-0 start before facing
the tough Big Ten schedule.
- Sacks: Northwestern 12 for 45 yards - Opponents 11 for 82 yards
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 17 of 23 (74%) - Northwestern
11 of 20 (55%)
- Interception return average: Northwestern 14.5 yards on 20
interceptions - Opponents 4.7 yard on nine interceptions.
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Sun Bowl vs. UCLA)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…1997 (Oklahoma)
…was shutout…2003 (Ohio State)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Wisconsin)
…won a conference title…2000 (share, Big Ten)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Brett Basanez)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Tyrell Sutton)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1998 (D’wayne Bates)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (DT Luis Castillo)