Scouting the Enemy: Northwestern Wildcats
2007 Record: 6-6
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (3rd Season, 14-14 at Northwestern)
All-Time Series: Iowa leads 46-20-3
Last Meeting: Iowa 28 Northwestern 17 (Nov. 8, 2007 at Northwestern)
The Hawkeyes will celebrate homecoming and open the Big Ten season on Saturday as they welcome Northwestern to town. After non-conference wins over Syracuse, Duke, Southern Illinois, and Ohio, the Wildcats find themselves a perfect 4-0 for the first time since 1962. Iowa is looking to rebound from a very disappointing 1-point loss at Pittsburgh and will once again make a change at quarterback with Ricky Stanzi returning to the starting spot for Saturday’s game. Big Ten play is here and it’s time to take a closer look at Iowa’s opponent as we Scout the Enemy once again.
If it wasn’t clear through Northwestern’s first three games that senior running back Tyrell Sutton was the key to the Wildcat offense, it became blatantly obvious in Saturday’s win over Ohio. Sutton left the game in the second quarter due to injury in Northwestern’s less than spectacular 16-8 win over the Bobcats. After his departure, the Wildcat offense sputtered and failed to score any points after halftime. NU coach Pat Fitzgerald does expect Sutton to be ready to play against Iowa which is a huge relief for the tens of Wildcat fans that will be watching. Sutton rushed for 76 yards on just 9 carries against Ohio before his injury forced him out of the game. He has 387 yards and five touchdowns this season and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
Senior C.J. Bacher is once again the signal caller for Northwestern’s offense this season. Bacher has been pretty inconsistent this season and struggled badly in the Wildcat’s win over Ohio throwing 4 interceptions to the Bobcats. On the season, Bacher has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 758 yards with 3 TDs and 5 INTs. His main target and Northwestern’s leading receiver is Eric Peterman. Peterman has caught 14 passes for 195 yards through four games.
The level of competition has been less than spectacular, but it does appear that Northwestern’s defense is much improved from last season. The Wildcats yielded only four total yards rushing against Ohio on 28 carries. They also sacked the Bobcat quarterback five times and caused 4 turnovers (2 INTs, 2 fumbles). For the year, Northwestern’s defense is giving up only 298 yards per game and holding opponents to just 11.2 points per game. Including their effort against Ohio, the Wildcat defense has given up an average of 97.2 yards rushing through four games. Linebacker Malcolm Arrington leads the ‘Cats with 34 tackles and has 1.5 sacks. Defensive ends Corey Wootton and Vince Browne both have 3 sacks in NU’s first four games. The Wildcat defense has a total of 15 sacks on the season.
Not only did Northwestern’s defense come up big in their win last week, but the Wildcats also blocked two Ohio field goal attempts that helped preserve their 16-8 victory. NU’s kicker Amado Villarreal is a perfect 8-for-8 this year with a long of 46 yards. Stefan Demos handles the punting, averaging 37.5 yards per punt and has dropped 10 of 22 kicks inside the 20. In the return game, Stephen Simmons handles most of the kickoffs, and WR Peterman returns punts for Northwestern. Simmons is averaging 23.8 yards per return, and Peterman has returned seven punts for an average of 6.3 yards.
After last Saturday’s offensive collapse at Pittsburgh, it’s hard to imagine any remaining game on Iowa’s schedule will be overlooked, but this is definitely a game not to be taken lightly. As mentioned earlier, Northwestern is off to their best start in over four decades and will certainly be hungry to make a statement early in Big Ten play. The Wildcats will also be looking to avenge their home loss to the Hawkeyes last year that ruined Northwestern’s dim bowl hopes. Iowa fans also certainly remember the last time NU came into Kinnick when the Wildcats won 21-7 in the 2006 season. This Saturday’s game will most likely come down to which team has more success with their running attack. Shonn Greene has emerged as one of the premiere backs in the Big Ten, and Northwestern’s Tyrell Sutton may be the most underrated back in the conference. It is hard to say how Sutton’s injury will limit his play, if at all. Saturday’s contest has almost become a must win game if the Hawkeyes want to be considered a realistic candidate for a January Bowl game again.