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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 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.

Men’s Basketball: 2017-2018 home games to be played in Allstate Arena during Welsh-Ryan renovations

Men’s Basketball: 2017-2018 home games to be played in Allstate Arena during Welsh-Ryan renovations
(Source: Northwestern Athletics)

One Northwestern team has found a home during renovations to Welsh-Ryan Arena, as the athletic department announced in a release Tuesday that the men’s basketball team will play its home games in the 2017-2018 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.

The arena, which is a half-hour or more drive from the Wildcats’ Evanston campus, is the current host of DePaul’s basketball teams. With the Blue Demons planning to move into a new downtown arena in the fall of 2017, NU will temporarily take their place as Allstate Arena’s college basketball tenant.

Athletic department spokesman Paul Kennedy said venue size and proximity to Evanston were major factors in the decision to move 2017-2018 home games to Allstate Arena, which seats roughly 18,500. Additionally, he said that the arena’s past experience hosting college basketball games and its ability to commit to a number of necessary open dates played a part in the decision.

Tuesday’s announcement did not discuss arrangements for game-day transportation for students to the arena. Kennedy said providing transportation from Evanston for students is a priority, but a plan to do so isn’t in place yet.

Additionally, Kennedy said that details about plans for the other teams displaced by the renovations, the women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams, will be made public soon.

In June, the athletic department announced plans for a “complete renovation” of Welsh-Ryan Arena, slated to cost roughly $110 million and take place from the end of the 2016-2017 basketball season until the fall of 2018.

This post has been updated with comment from Paul Kennedy.

Rapid Reaction: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13

Rapid Reaction: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13
(Jacob Swan/Daily Senior Staffer)

Northwestern just didn’t have enough on Saturday night.

Its offense struggled with efficiency, its defense struggled to get off the field, and No. 20 Nebraska’s offense, led by senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr., put up 556 total yards in a 24-13 Wildcats defeat.

The game started with a strange play on the Cornhuskers’ first drive, as Nebraska running back Terrell Newby broke free for a 49-yard run but fumbled the ball as he dove untouched for a touchdown. The ball rolled out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a touchback and NU possession.

The Cornhuskers eventually drew first blood, however, after nailing a 23-yard field goal to take a 3-0 opening lead early in the second. The Cats struck back, though, when Thorson got to the edge on a designed quarterback run and turned on the afterburners on a 42-yard touchdown to give NU a 7-3 lead.

That lead stood briefly after a goal-line stand ended with junior safety Godwin Igwebuike ripping the ball away from Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo and the Cats recovering the fumble. But on the ensuing drive, the Cornhuskers finally broke through for a touchdown after a 59-yard reception by receiver Alonzo Moore set up a short Newby run for six. NU had a chance to tie with a 40-yard field goal at the end of the half but instead chose to attempt a fake, which was unsuccessful.

The Cats got the ball to start the second half, but a Thorson interception on a throw to the end zone stopped a promising drive. Nebraska marched back down the field on the next drive, and Armstrong hit on a four-yard touchdown pass to Cethan Carter on third down to take a 17-7 lead.

NU responded quickly, with Thorson hitting senior wideout Austin Carr for a 24-yard touchdown, but senior kicker Jack Mitchell missed the extra point, leaving the score at 17-13. Mitchell continued his nightmare start to the season after a missed field goal in the first quarter.

From there, Nebraska controlled the game, constantly finding holes in the Cats’ defense through the air and wearing it down on the ground. An end-around touchdown by receiver Jordan Westerkamp late in the third quarter gave Nebraska an insurmountable lead, as NU’s offense couldn’t find a way to score for the rest of the game.

Stats to know

Northwestern:

  • Thorson: 24-for-37, one touchdown, two interceptions; 10 carries for 43 yards and one touchdown.
  • Justin Jackson: 20 carries for 79 yards
  • Austin Carr: Career-high eight catches for 109 yards and one touchdown; 392 yards for the season is more than any NU receiver had in 2015
  • Igwebuike: 15 tackles, forced fumble
  • Mitchell: 0-for-1 on field goals, 1-for-2 on extra points; now 1-for-4 on field goals for the season.

Nebraska:

  • Armstrong: 246 yards passing with one touchdown, 132 yards rushing
  • Newby: 10 carries for 69 yards and one touchdown
  • Kevin Maurice: Two sacks

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.

Wilimovsky, Slowing represent Northwestern in Rio

Wilimovsky, Slowing represent Northwestern in Rio
(Daily file photo by Brian Lee)

In 2012, Northwestern’s headline Olympian was a 6-foot-8 swimmer, Matt Grevers, whose specialty event took less than a minute.

The top Wildcat at the 2016 Games is also a swimmer, but Jordan Wilimovsky is a skinny 5-foot-10 man and the defending world champion in a race that lasts nearly two hours.

Wilimovsky, a rising senior who took the 2015-16 school year off from NU to focus on Olympic preparation, will represent the United States in both the 1500-meter freestyle — the longest event in the pool — and the 10-kilometer open water event, in which he won the 2015 world championship.

Incoming freshman swimmer Valerie Gruest Slowing will represent Guatemala in the 800-meter freestyle and potentially other events.

Wilimovsky, who began swimming at age 9 after failing a swim test at a summer camp, had a breakout year in 2015. He won the Big Ten title in the 1,650-yard freestyle, then finished third at the NCAA Championships in the same event. Less than a month later he won the national championship in the 10K event, his first senior national title of any kind.

He then won the 10K world title in Russia in July of that year, qualifying him for the U.S. Olympic team in the event. In July of 2016, he swam a personal best time in the 1,500 free to finish second at the U.S. Olympic Trials and earn a berth in that event as well. Wilimovsky, 22, will become the first American to swim in both the pool and the open water at the Olympics.

Slowing enters the games with a considerably less decorated résumé. Though she owns 12 Guatemalan national records, her 800 free time of 8 minutes, 33.28 seconds makes her just the 44th fastest swimmer in that event this year.

The 800 free is the only event Slowing has directly qualified for. However, because she has hit the Olympic “B” standard in the 200- and 400-meter freestyles and no other Guatemalan swimmers have qualified in those events, she could swim them if she chooses.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist Grevers, meanwhile, did not make the U.S. team. He finished third at the Olympic trials in his signature event, the 100-meter backstroke, despite swimming the fourth fastest time of 2016.

No other current or former Wildcats are set to compete in Rio. Fencer Juliana Barrett, a 2016 graduate, won an African Olympic qualifier to represent South Africa in the games, but was not named to the Olympic team because South Africa’s Olympic committee did not consider the continental qualification mechanism satisfactory to compete in Rio.

Big Ten announces Northwestern men’s basketball conference opponents

The final pieces of Northwestern men’s basketball’s 2016-2017 schedule are coming together, as on Monday the Big Ten announced the team’s conference home and road conference opponents.

The Wildcats will play both home and away games against Indiana, last season’s Big Ten regular-season champion who blew NU out in their lone matchup in Bloomington last year, as well as against in-state rival Illinois, Purdue, Nebraska and Rutgers.

After preparing a nonconference slate for next season that was panned for its difficulty, the Cats will need to look for quality wins in conference play if they want to stake a claim to a postseason berth. While projecting exactly how the Big Ten will look when the conference season rolls around is impossible, those games against the Hoosiers and Boilermakers, as well as a home date with Maryland and games at Michigan State and Wisconsin, look to be NU’s best chances to boost its resume.

As with pretty much any major-conference schedule, the Cats’ slate gives them ample opportunities to prove themselves against high-caliber opponents and face some difficult tests at home and on the road. Once the Big Ten releases the dates and times of each conference game, a better idea of the key games to circle on NU’s schedule will emerge.

Northwestern men’s basketball releases 2016-2017 nonconference schedule

Northwestern men’s basketball releases 2016-2017 nonconference schedule
(Daily file photo by Luke Vogelzang)

After Northwestern’s men’s basketball team won 20 regular-season games for the first time in school history but finished the season out of the running for major end-of-year tournaments, most observers pointed to a weak nonconference schedule that left the Wildcats with few chances for signature victories and many wins over some of the worst teams in college basketball.

Coach Chris Collins will be hoping that next season’s nonconference slate, announced by the team Wednesday, will give NU a boost as it looks to return to the postseason.

There are no real marquee games among the newly-announced matchups on the schedule. The Cats open the season on Nov. 11 at home against Mississippi Valley State, and ends their nonconference schedule with a four-game home stretch in December against New Orleans, Chicago State, IUPUI, and Houston Baptist. IUPUI ranked No. 203 by KenPom at the end of last season, while the other four teams ranked below No. 270.

On top of these, NU will participate in the Legends Classic tournament in Brooklyn, with games on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 against two of Notre Dame, Texas, and Colorado. The Cats will host two other to-be-announced team in tie-in games to the Legends Classic on Nov. 14 and Nov. 25.

NU also is slated to travel to Butler on Nov. 16 as a part of the Gavitt Games, host Wake Forest on Nov. 28 as a part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and play Dayton at the United Center on Dec. 17 in the inaugural Chicago Legends event. The team will also host local rival DePaul on Dec. 3

The schedule will give the Cats chances to beat as many as four teams who played in last season’s NCAA Tournament interspersed with games against some of college basketball’s lesser lights. NU will have to hope that this nonconference slate is enough to set the stage for a run at the postseason.