Sep 22, 2012; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats running back Tyris Jones (3) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the South Dakota Coyotes during the first quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Penn State Preview: Who Are the Northwestern Wildcats?

Northwestern at Penn State
October 6, 2012
12:00 EST

Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois

Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (40-36 career)

2011 Record: 6-7

2012 Record: 5-0

Returning 10 starters; 5 on offense, 5 on defense.

Key Players: 

QB #2 Kain Colter: Colter is the “running quarterback” in NW’s spread attack. He’ll throw quick passes, run the read-option and even line up at wide receiver at times. He’s second on the team in passing and rushing and has 9 catches through the first five games. He had 43 receptions in 2011 playing primarily wide receiver.

QB #13 Trevor Siemian: Has only attempted 16 more passes than Colter, but has 672 yards to Kain’s 369. Siemian is not a threat to run, but when he’s on the field, you must locate Colter.

RB #5 Venric Mark: Though slightly undersized, Mark is averaging over 100 yards per game and is coming off of a 29 carry, 139 yard performance against Indiana. He’s averaging 23 touches per game and is a big-play threat when he touches the ball.

WR #6 Tony Jones: Jones is the big-play wideout, averaging over 14 yards per catch on his 14 receptions. Keep an eye on the potential matchup between Jones and Penn State freshman CB DaQuan Davis.


There’s no denying that Northwestern is off to a hot start. 5-0 is impressive, and the fact that they’ve done while playing 3 teams from AQ conferences (Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Boston College) is a commendable effort in scheduling. However, Northwestern’s five wins have come against teams who have just one combined win over FBS competition. In comparison, Ohio has beat five FBS teams thus far.

Losing veteran QB Dan Persa to graduation could have been a big blow to the Wildcats, but Colter and Siemian are doing a fine job replacing him with three passing touchdowns, six rushing touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Adding to the Cats success is the play of their defense. Unlike in recent years, the offense isn’t getting caught in as many shootouts this season. NW held Vanderbilt and Boston College to 13 points each and is only allowing 20.6 points per game this year.

Statistically, Northwestern is the worst pass defense that PSU has faced this season. Being 5-0, some of that may be attributed to teams trying to play catch-up. However, Penn State will try to run the ball, chewing up the clock and keeping Colter and Co. off the field. Bill O’Brien is not interested in battling the Northwestern offense in a chase to 40 points and will look to limit possessions throughout the game. Look for another heavy dose of Belton and Zwinak as Penn State uses the run to set up the pass. Problem with that is Northwestern’s defense is much stronger against the run (90 ypg) than they are against the pass (289 ypg).

Fun Facts:

  • Northwestern is one win away from becoming eligible for their 5th straight bowl.
  • The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since the 1948 Rose Bowl (0-9)
  • Penn State linebacker coach Ron Vanderlinden was Pat Fitzgerald’s linebacker coach at Northwestern.
  • Fitzgerald is one of two players to win multiple Chuck Bednarik (Best LB) Awards. The other: Vanderlinden pupil Paul Posluszny.
  • Five of the last seven NU-PSU meetings have been decided by 10 points or less.
  • Northwestern has not won since 2004 and Fitzgerald has never beat Penn State.


For all of the latest on the Penn State Nittany Lions, follow VBR Lead Editor Tim Tolley on Twitter.

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