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Reports: Dan Vitale to join Buffalo Bills

by Max Gelman 0 Comments
Reports: Dan Vitale to join Buffalo Bills
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

Former Northwestern superback Dan Vitale has landed with the Buffalo Bills just a few days after being cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ProFootballTalk and ESPN reported Sunday.

Buffalo claimed Vitale on waivers after he failed to make Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster in the preseason. The Buccaneers had selected Vitale in the 6th round (197th overall) of April’s NFL Draft.

With the Bills, Vitale will likely serve as the backup fullback to Glenn Gronkowski, younger brother of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Should Buffalo coach Rex Ryan choose to utilize the ex-Wildcat at tight end, Vitale would fight for playing time with Charles Clay, Jim Dray and Nick O’Leary.

Reports: Ex-Wildcats Dan Vitale, Kain Colter cut from 53-man rosters

by Max Gelman 0 Comments
Reports: Ex-Wildcats Dan Vitale, Kain Colter cut from 53-man rosters
(Daily file photo by Jacob Swan)

Dan Vitale, Northwestern’s leading receiver in 2015, has been cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday morning.

Vitale was selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft (197th overall) by Tampa Bay as a fullback, but had shifted to tight end during the preseason. Undrafted free agent Alan Cross, a former walk-on at Memphis, beat out Vitale for a roster spot.

As a Wildcat, Vitale totaled 135 catches for 1427 yards. His 11 career receiving touchdowns are tied for 10th-most in program history.

UPDATE (11:45 a.m.): Former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter has been released by the Buffalo Bills, the NFL Network reported.

Colter gained national fame after moving to unionize NU’s football team in January 2014. Two months later, the National Labor Relations Board for Region 13 ruled in favor of Cats players, establishing the College Athletes Players Association as a union and claiming the players are employees of the University.

However, the NLRB dismissed Colter’s petition by declining to rule on the case in August 2015, effectively declaring that student-athletes are not university employees.

With NU, Colter thrived in dual-QB system. He threw for 2,160 yards and 18 touchdowns against nine interceptions, rushed for 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns, and amassed 683 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He had transitioned to wide receiver and bounced around the NFL for a few years, including stops with the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams, before signing with Buffalo at the beginning of August.

Trevor Siemian starts third preseason game for Denver Broncos, plays entire first half

by Max Gelman 0 Comments
Trevor Siemian starts third preseason game for Denver Broncos, plays entire first half
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

Ex-Wildcat Trevor Siemian started the Denver Broncos’ third preseason game Saturday night, solidifying his chances to begin the regular season as the team’s No. 1 quarterback.

Siemian started in front of rookie Paxton Lynch and veteran Mark Sanchez in the dress rehearsal, completing 10-of-17 passes with 122 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. Lynch took over after halftime with the Broncos leading 10-9.

The Broncos’ Week 1 starter against the Carolina Panthers will be announced at a later date, but coach Gary Kubiak said earlier this week he would make a decision sometime after Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Denver began with a heavy run attack Saturday, as Siemian did not attempt a pass through Denver’s first two drives — both three-and-outs. Later in the second quarter Siemian got into a bit of a groove, hitting his targets consistently, but threw the interception on about a 30 yard pass by the front corner of the endzone, killing the drive’s momentum.

However, on the very next drive, Siemian completed all four of his passes to lead the Broncos down the field on a 67-yard scoring drive, capping it off with a one-yard TD pass to tight end Virgil Green. Denver went ahead 7-6 at the time.

Over the course of his Northwestern career, Siemian threw for 5,931 yards, fourth-most in NU history, in addition to 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. After relieving Sanchez in the Broncos’ preseason opener, Siemian started last week’s game and went 10-for-14 with 75 passing yards and one interception in four drives. Siemian had been announced as Saturday’s starter earlier this week, but Kubiak did not decide on the order behind him until shortly before the game.

Siemian was drafted by the Broncos in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft (No. 250 overall) and played one snap — a kneel-down to close out the first half against Pittsburgh on Dec. 20 — during Denver’s Super Bowl run last season. After Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler signed with the Houston Texans, the Broncos traded for Sanchez and drafted Lynch to compete with Siemian for the 2016 starting job.

Watch below to see Touchdown Trevor’s touchdown pass:

Men’s basketball Big Ten game dates released

The final piece of the puzzle for Northwestern’s men’s basketball schedule is finally in place, as the Big Ten announced its conference schedule Thursday.

The Wildcats will open Big Ten play at Penn State, kicking off a stretch of four road games in five to start the conference season featuring perennial contenders Michigan State and some of the conference’s lesser lights in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Rutgers.

Other schedule highlights include a few consecutive-game stretches against quality opponents, such as back-to-back games against Indiana and Purdue and against Wisconsin and Maryland. A three-game stretch featuring the Hoosiers, Michigan and the Boilermakers closes out NU’s conference slate with a few chances to pick up good wins heading into the postseason.

Trevor Siemian to start Broncos’ next preseason game, Week 1 role unclear

by Max Gelman 0 Comments
Trevor Siemian to start Broncos’ next preseason game, Week 1 role unclear
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

After earning the start in the Broncos’ second preseason game last Saturday, Trevor Siemian will begin Denver’s next preseason game under center, coach Gary Kubiak said Thursday.

Kubiak added that all three QBs on Denver’s roster — Siemian, Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch — will see playing time in Saturday’s upcoming contest against the Los Angeles Rams. It remains to be seen who will start the Broncos’ season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 8, but Kubiak said he will make a decision next week.

Siemian is also dealing with a sore shoulder, according to a report from the Denver Post.

In four drives against the San Francisco 49ers, Siemian completed 10-of-14 passes for 75 yards and also threw an interception, which the 49ers returned for a touchdown.

This post was updated at 2:43 p.m. with additional information.

Northwestern alum Matt Fitzpatrick qualifies for Ryder Cup

Northwestern alum Matt Fitzpatrick qualifies for Ryder Cup
(Source: NU Athletics)

Ex-Wildcat golfer Matt Fitzpatrick has qualified for the prestigious Ryder Cup tournament, he announced Sunday on Twitter.

The 21-year-old Fitzpatrick is one of nine golfers to automatically qualify for Team Europe in the once-every-two-years match play tournament, which will take place at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota at the end of September. Team Europe’s remaining three golfers will be announced at a later date.

Fitzpatrick made waves earlier this season after his performance at The Masters, where he tied for seventh place with an even 288. In his short Northwestern career, Fitzpatrick helped the Cats win two of five events in fall 2013 before departing to play professionally in Jan. 2014.

Team Europe has won the last three Ryder Cup tournaments and six of the last seven dating back to 2002.

Trevor Siemian starts Denver Broncos’ second preseason game

by Max Gelman 0 Comments
Trevor Siemian starts Denver Broncos’ second preseason game
(Daily file photo by Brian Lee)

As the 2016 NFL season inches nearer, Trevor Siemian finds himself closer to a starting job.

The ex-Wildcat QB earned the start in the Denver Broncos’ second preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, leading the first-team offense for a little over one quarter. In four drives, Siemian went 10-for-14 with 75 passing yards and one interception.

Siemian’s first drive resulted in a 19-yard touchdown run by running back C.J. Anderson after the QB went 5-for-6 with 55 passing yards, his best drive of the night. At the beginning of the second quarter, Siemian was picked off by 49er defensive back Eric Reid who returned the ball for a touchdown.

“Co-starter” Mark Sanchez took over with 11:13 left in the second quarter and San Francisco leading 14-7.

Over the course of his Northwestern career, Siemian threw for 5,931 yards, fourth-most in NU history, in addition to 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. In Denver’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bears last week, Siemian relieved Sanchez, going 7-for-12 with 88 passing yards. Rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch came in afterwards with the backups, going 6-for-7 with 74 passing yards.

Siemian was drafted by the Broncos in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft (No. 250 overall) and played one snap — a kneel-down to close out the first half against Pittsburgh on Dec. 20 — during Denver’s Super Bowl run last season. After Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler signed with the Houston Texans, the Broncos traded for Sanchez and drafted Lynch to compete with Siemian for the 2016 starting job.

Cornerback Keith Watkins II to miss 2016 season with knee injury

Cornerback Keith Watkins II to miss 2016 season with knee injury
(Daily file photo by Jacob Swan)

In a major blow to Northwestern’s secondary, junior cornerback Keith Watkins II will miss the 2016 season with a knee injury, the program announced Tuesday.

As the No. 3 cornerback on the roster last year, Watkins II was a valuable fill-in player in the secondary. He tied for ninth on the team with 41 tackles and tied for third with six passes broken up.

“I’m really disappointed for him, he’s worked so hard, but we’ve got great depth at that position (and I’m) excited about the guys that now get that opportunity from somebody else’s tough situation,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said via a video on the team’s Twitter account.

Watkins II said via the video that he twisted his left knee in practice last week but played through it until it swelled up after practice. He will have surgery next week.

He had nine tackles, including eight solo tackles, in a breakout performance against Iowa before following it up with eight tackles the following week against Nebraska. With cornerback Nick VanHoose injured for the Outback Bowl against Tennessee, Watkins II recorded a career-high three pass break-ups.

The injury will leave NU more shorthanded than expected at cornerback after VanHoose’s graduation and junior Marcus McShepard’s spring position transfer to wide receiver. Fitzgerald named sophomore Montre Hartage, redshirt freshman Trae Williams and redshirt freshman Alonzo Mayo as possible replacements for the cornerback spot opposite returning starter senior Matthew Harris.

Toronto Raptors sign former guard Drew Crawford

Toronto Raptors sign former guard Drew Crawford
(Daily file photo by Brian Lee)

The Toronto Raptors agreed to a deal with former Northwestern guard Drew Crawford, the team announced Thursday. After finishing as a top-10 scorer in Israel for Bnei Hertzeliyya, Crawford received an invitation to play for the Raptors in the NBA Las Vegas summer league. Crawford played in five games for Toronto, averaging 8 points per game and shooting 50 percent from the field.

Despite receiving a contract from the Raptors, Crawford is not guaranteed a spot on the roster to begin the season, as the team currently has 18 players listed on its roster, three more than the 15 allowed at the start of the season.

The Wildcats haven’t had a player on a NBA roster during the regular season since Evan Eschmeyer played 17 games for the Dallas Mavericks in 2003. Toronto coach Dwane Casey said Crawford was very close to making the team last year, but fell just short. However, the guard impressed the team this time around with his combination of high-intensity on-ball defense and his ability to create his own shot.

Crawford, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.4 rebounds for NU, will have to compete with the likes of Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell for a role with the team. Wright, a standout at Utah, was a first-round pick in 2015 and Powell was drafted in the second round in the same draft and flashed majorly with expanded playing time at the end of last season. Like Crawford, VanVleet went undrafted and will also have to prove his worth to the organization.

It will be difficult for Crawford to make the final roster for the Raptors, considering the already talented team is so deep at guard, but Crawford’s signing is promising for the future of Cats basketball and players who plan on playing beyond Welsh-Ryan.

Ex-Wildcat QB Trevor Siemian named Denver Broncos’ “co-starter”

Ex-Wildcat QB Trevor Siemian named Denver Broncos’ “co-starter”
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

A former Northwestern quarterback has (sort of) locked down an NFL starting job heading into the preseason.

Ex-Wildcat Trevor Siemian, who played QB for NU from 2010-2014, has been named “co-starter” for the Denver Broncos, according to the team’s first depth chart. Siemian shares the starting job with former New York Jets quarterback and 2009 No. 6 overall draft pick Mark Sanchez.

In his Cats career, Siemian threw for 5,931 yards, fourth-most in NU history, in addition to 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Broncos and spent almost all of his rookie season on the bench, though he did play one snap in 2015 — a kneel-down to close out the first half in Denver’s Dec. 20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers the Super Bowl in February and, following the retirement of Peyton Manning and departure of Brock Osweiler in free agency, have been searching for a quarterback. Denver traded for Sanchez in March and drafted ex-Memphis QB Paxton Lynch in the first round of April’s draft (26th overall) but so far no one has run away with the job.

Sanchez started his NFL career with the Jets, tagging along at QB as coach Rex Ryan’s defense led them to two straight AFC Conference Championship appearances. He underwent shoulder surgery during the 2013 season and, after being released following that season, spent the last two years as the Philadelphia Eagles’ backup.

At Memphis, Lynch passed for 8,865 yards over three seasons, tossing 59 touchdowns against 23 interceptions. In 2015, his 28:4 TD:INT ratio helped boost his draft stock and was the third quarterback taken, following Cal’s Jared Goff by the Los Angeles Rams and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz by the Eagles.

Denver begins its preseason schedule on Thursday against the Chicago Bears at 7 p.m.