Max Gelman

Austin Carr named third-team All-American

Austin Carr named third-team All-American
(Daily file photo by Allie Goulding)

Senior receiver Austin Carr has been named to the All-America third team, the Associated Press announced Monday.

Carr, a former walk-on, easily had the best season of his career, leading the Big Ten with 84 receptions, 1,196 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. Carr’s bond with sophomore quarterback Clayton Thorson also boosted Northwestern to the fourth-best passing offense in the Big Ten.

Additionally, Carr finished as one of three semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given out annually to the best receiver in the country.

Carr was the only Wildcat named to any of the three AP All-America teams.

Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo shares third-team honors with Carr. The two receivers finished behind Oklahoma receiver Dede Westbrook and Western Michigan wideout Corey Davis (first team), as well as East Carolina pass-catcher Zay Jones and Washington receiver John Ross (second team).

For the list of the full AP All-America teams, click here.

Northwestern to play No. 23 Pittsburgh in Pinstripe Bowl

Northwestern to play No. 23 Pittsburgh in Pinstripe Bowl
(Source: Pinstripe Bowl)

After earning a bowl berth in their final game of the regular season, the Wildcats (6-6, 5-4 Big Ten) will face No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-4, 5-3 ACC) in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28, the bowl announced Sunday afternoon.

The Panthers finished fourth in the ACC Coastal division, but had the same record as North Carolina and Miami. Pittsburgh also has a number of impressive wins on its resume including victories over No. 2 Clemson and Big Ten Champion Penn State.

Northwestern will be participating in its second straight bowl and 13th all-time. The Cats fell to Tennessee in last year’s Outback Bowl, 45-6.

Ifeadi Odenigbo named First-Team All-Big Ten; Four others earn honors

Ifeadi Odenigbo named First-Team All-Big Ten; Four others earn honors
(Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson)

Senior defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo was named to the First-Team All-Big Ten roster by the media, the conference announced.

Odenigbo led the conference with 10 sacks in 2016, pushing him to second in program history with 23.5 career sacks. His season was punctuated by a four-sack performance against Iowa in October, a Northwestern single-game record.

The D-Lineman also picked up a Second-Team nomination by the conference’s coaches.

Four other Wildcats also earned All-Big Ten honors: junior safety Godwin Igwebuike, junior linebacker Anthony Walker, junior kick returner Solomon Vault and sophomore cornerback Montre Hartage.

Igwebuike and Walker were named Second-Team by coaches and Third-Team by media. Igwebuike led Big Ten defensive backs with 101 tackles, while Walker averaged 9.4 tackles over his last eight games after sustaining an injury during training camp.

Vault was named to the Third-Team by the media. The junior, who already holds the program record for kick/punt return touchdowns, recorded his fifth career return TD against Michigan State in October.

Hartage earned an honorable mention as selected by media. The sophomore led NU with five interceptions and nine pass breakups.

Austin Carr departs in third quarter after injury

by Max Gelman 0 Comments

Senior wide receiver Austin Carr left the Wildcats’ game against Minnesota with about five minutes left in the third quarter.

Carr was injured on the play and walked off the field gingerly after taking a hit from Minnesota defender Duke McGhee. It is unclear where Carr was injured, though McGhee was ejected from the game for targeting. The ejection was McGhee’s third this season for targeting.

Coming into the game, Carr led the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was named one of ten semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, handed out to the nation’s top receiver, earlier this week.

Austin Carr named semifinalist for award given out to top receiver

Austin Carr named semifinalist for award given out to top receiver
(Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette)

Northwestern senior Austin Carr was named a semifinalist Monday for the 2016 Biletnikoff Award, given out annually to the best receiver in the nation.

Through ten games, Carr leads the Big Ten with 75 catches, 1,102 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. On Saturday against Purdue, Carr tied the Northwestern single-season record for touchdowns and needs 144 more receiving yards for the program record in yards.

The Biletnikoff Award is handed out every year by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation to the nation’s top receiver, which can include anyone who catches passes such as running backs and tight ends. However, all ten semifinalists for the 2016 honor are wide receivers.

Half-N-Half: Optimistic and Pessimistic Outlooks for Week 4

by Max Gelman 0 Comments
Half-N-Half: Optimistic and Pessimistic Outlooks for Week 4
(Daily file photo by Zack Laurence)

Each week, two Daily writers will debate the upcoming football matchup. One will take a glass half-full view and the other glass half-empty. Here is the Half-N-Half for Northwestern’s contest against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

1. Will Justin Jackson run for more than 100 yards?

Max Gelman (half-full): Jackson has an excellent chance to break the century mark against the Cornhuskers. Though he only tallied 40 rushing yards at Nebraska last season, Jackson is still the elite running back we all know him to be.

Last week against the Blue Devils, Jackson had nearly 70 rushing yards in the first quarter as the Wildcats opened the game with a near-perfect drive. That has been a common theme for NU throughout the first three games — good opening drives and then a faltering offense. I don’t believe the offensive line troubles will last the whole season and if the line improves, which should be the case going forward, then Jackson should reach 100 again this week.

Tim Balk (half-empty): With the exception of a three-game lull in the middle of the season, Justin Jackson was almost a lock to hit triple digit rushing yards each week in 2015. Through three games this year, those days seem to be over.

Jackson missed the mark for the second straight week against Duke in Week 3, as offensive line problems continued to dog NU. With those problems unresolved, and the Cats’ offense forced to lean pass-heavy, it’s hard to imagine Jackson putting up big numbers against Nebraska, particularly in light of the fact that the Cornhusker defense was one of three — along with Michigan and Iowa — that managed to shut down “The Ball Carrier” during his mid-season slump last fall.

Against a quality defense that will gameplan for the run, it’s unlikely Jackson will be a major factor.

2. Will the Cats out-possess Nebraska?

Balk (half-empty): This one is easy.

Nebraska has out-possessed all three of its opponents. NU has been out-possessed by two of its three. Nebraska managed to chew up clock against Oregon. The Wildcats’ offense struggled to stay on the field against an FCS team. You get the picture.

NU can beat Nebraska even without controlling possession if the defense bends more than it breaks, and the big offensive plays that materialized against Duke keep on coming. But, more than likely, Nebraska’s multidimensional offense will spend a majority of the night on the field.

Gelman (half-full): In order for NU to beat the Cornhuskers, it will need to sustain lengthy drives and keep the defense on the field. With the recent play of sophomore quarterback Clayton Thorson, that will be entirely possible.

In the first three games of the season, Thorson has averaged 6.9 yards per attempt — not overwhelming by any standard but enough to get the job done. He spread the ball around beautifully, completing passes to eight different receivers, and has the deep ball working. It would be a shock if Thorson can’t move the Cats down the field against Nebraska.

Furthermore, NU currently has the second-best punter in the Big Ten in Hunter Niswander. Pinning the Cornhuskers within their own 20 repeatedly will be key to a Wildcat win.

3. Will Hunter Niswander punt like it’s the Western Michigan game…or the Duke game?

Gelman (half-full): I am all in on the Niswander for Heisman campaign.

After finishing 2015 with the most punts in the Big Ten but the lowest average yards, Niswander has vastly improved his game so far this year. NU and Nebraska always manage to play close games, and Niswander’s punting could play a huge role if this game turns into a battle of field position.

Against Western Michigan, Niswander averaged 51 yards per punt, easily the highest of his career. All he has to do to continue that progress is get a nice stretch before the game, and he should be golden.

Balk (half-empty): Max has taken to tweeting #Heiswander after punts from the junior punter. And, at least so far, it hasn’t been good luck. After kicking the leather off the ball on each of his three punts Week 1, Niswander has come back to earth. Against Duke he managed a respectable but unspectacular 42.9 yards per punt and lofted two into the end zone for touchbacks.

Which is not all that surprising, because Niswander appears to have developed into a respectable but unspectacular punter. That’s still good news for NU, which has struggled in the punting game in the past; Niswander will likely have to punt plenty this week. But it’s more likely he’ll be solid than Ray Guy worthy.

Half-N-Half: Optimistic and Pessimistic Outlooks for Week 3

by Max Gelman 0 Comments
Half-N-Half: Optimistic and Pessimistic Outlooks for Week 3
(Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson)

Each week, two Daily writers will debate the upcoming football matchup. One will take a glass half-full view and other glass half-empty. Here is the Half-N-Half for Northwestern’s contest against the Duke Blue Devils.

1. Will NU reach double-digit points?

Tim Balk (Half-full): Duke’s defense is respectable. And NU’s offense is scuffling beyond belief. But I still cannot see the Cats failing to reach 10 points again after scoring just seven against Illinois State.

For one, NU is due to get some points out of its defense and special teams. The Cats were often able to make up for poor offensive production with defensive scores and big plays in the return game last year. In their 19-10 win at Duke, Solomon Vault returned a kickoff for a touchdown and a Godwin Igwebuike fumble recovery set up the offense for an easy field goal. NU’s 19 points came in spite of one of the worst starts of Clayton Thorson’s career. It was a familiar theme throughout the 2015 season. This fall, the Cats’ defense has yet find the end zone and has made few big plays. It’s about time that changes.

Plus, NU’s offense is equally due to find something resembling a rhythm. After the ill-advised air attack backfired against Illinois State, look for NU to find some success with its bread and butter — the run game — against a Duke team that surrendered 239 yards on the ground last week against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons managed to score 24 against Duke. It’s not too much to expect NU to at least reach 10.

Max Gelman (Half-empty): The Wildcats are coming off a week in which they scored just seven points against an FCS defense and have only scored 28 points through their first two weeks. I find it hard to foresee a situation where NU manages to score more than 10 points.

While the special teams unit may be “due” to score some points, let’s not forget it also seems to hurt the Cats’ chances at scoring quite regularly. Kicker Jack Mitchell missed another field goal against the Redbirds last week and coach Pat Fitzgerald seemed extremely reluctant to try another field goal following the miss. If the Cats can’t kick, their drives will continue to stall around their opponents’ 35-40 yard lines.

But the biggest problem is NU’s offensive line — it’s a mess. Thorson was forced to throw 41 times against Illinois State, a career high, because the line couldn’t open any lanes for running back Justin Jackson (who is battling an injury). Until the O-Line improves, it will be extremely difficult for the Cats to put up 10 points.

2. Will the Cats keep Duke quarterback Daniel Jones to under 250 passing yards?

Gelman (Half-empty): Right now, the Cats’ secondary is a major concern. Starting cornerbacks Matthew Harris and Keith Watkins II are out, as well as safety Kyle Queiro, whose name popped up on the injury report out of nowhere.

Igwebuike is the only starter still healthy at this point. That leaves the rest of the secondary to be comprised of sophomore corner Montre Hartage, whose only two starts came in the first two weeks of this season filling in for Watkins II, redshirt freshman corner Trae Williams, who has never started a game before, and sophomore safety Jared McGee. The situation is so dire, that third-string quarterback and baseball pitcher Dan Kubiuk was taking reps at corner in practice this week.

What’s surprising about Duke is that Jones, as their backup quarterback, threw for 332 passing yards last week. Although that was against a bad Wake Forest team, it’s still cause for concern. The Cats’ secondary is at DEFCON 1 with all the injuries.

Balk (Half-full): Yes, with three out of its four projected opening week defensive back starters sidelined by injuries, the NU defensive secondary has to be a cause for concern at the moment. But, there’s plenty of reason to think NU will keep Duke to fewer than 250 passing yards. NU is giving up just a touch over 250 passing yards per game through two contests, but those numbers are inflated due to the fact that opponents have had far too many opportunities to sling it.

Opponents have dominated possession because of NU’s offensive trials and the lack of big defensive plays. So, naturally, they’ve picked up tons of yards. But the Cats’ front seven seemed to be finding its legs last week, even as the offense struggled through a nightmare. The progress is likely to continue against a Duke team with a subpar offensive line and a freshman quarterback.

Look for a strong performance from NU’s defensive line to keep Duke’s pass attack in check.

3. Over/Under 4.5 freshmen will trip while running onto the field?

Balk (Half-full): Obviously, you have to go under on this one. As far as I can recall, not a single freshmen tripped last year. The Class of 2019 was smooth and poised under pressure. And each class is supposed to be better, brighter (more athletic?) than the last, right?

Gelman (Half-empty): Almost everything else has gone wrong so far this year for the Cats, so why wouldn’t that extend to the Wildcat Welcome Dash? Under the bright lights of primetime, there will definitely be some jitters Saturday night. I can see about a dozen unlucky new students taking a fall while the Ryan Field crowd tries to hold in its laughter.