Location: Evanston, Ill.
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
Record: 4-4 (0-4 Big Ten)
Series with Nebraska: Nebraska leads 4-2.
Last game: Lost to Iowa 17-10, OT
Flipping the calendar
Northwestern went oh-fer in October, which is really nothing new for the Wildcats. Under Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern is 12-21 in October, but in recent years has gotten stronger in the month of November. The Wildcats are 12-6 in November since 2008, including 5-2 over the past two seasons. Of those 12 victories since 2008, five have come against ranked teams — including 2011 at Nebraska.
Northwestern comes to Lincoln riding a four-game losing streak, with all four losses coming in Big Ten play. It’s similar to the situation the Wildcats were in two years ago. Northwestern had lost five straight games, including four in Big Ten play, but ended the month of October with a 59-38 victory at Indiana. The Wildcats then came to Lincoln and upset No. 9 Nebraska 28-25, part of a four-game winning streak that propelled Northwestern to bowl eligibility.
Northwestern and Nebraska have a couple of connections. Most fans have heard of the friendship between Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell and Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. They grew up together in Colorado and played against each other in high school. A lesser-known connection is that of Pat Fitzgerald and Nebraska receivers coach Rich Fisher. They were on the same coaching staff at Idaho in 2000 — Fitzgerald coached linebackers and Fisher coached receivers.
Wildcats on offense
The season hasn’t gone the way Northwestern planned, especially on offense, where the Wildcats have been riddled by injury.
Senior running back Venric Mark, who last season rushed for 1,366 yards, and had an 80-yard touchdown run against Nebraska, has played in only three games because of an ankle injury and isn’t expected to play Saturday.
One of his replacements, junior Treyvon Green, leads Northwestern with 463 rushing yards but sat out the Wildcats’ 17-10 overtime loss at Iowa because of injury. He’s since returned to practice and is expected to play.
Senior Mike Trumby is listed No. 1 on this week’s depth chart at running back. He made his sixth career start last week at Iowa and rushed for 99 yards but also fumbled twice in Iowa territory.
And a review of Northwestern’s offense wouldn't be complete without mentioning senior Kain Colter, the quarterback/receiver who engineered the Wildcats’ upset in Lincoln two seasons ago. He’s also not 100 percent because of an ankle injury that was bad enough that he missed Northwestern’s 20-17 loss to Minnesota. He’s rushed for 399 yards (4.5 per carry) and is completing 81 percent of his passes.
Colter can also play receiver, although he has only one reception this season. His backup at quarterback, Trevor Siemien, is completing 58 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
Northwestern has allowed 28 sacks, including six last week to Iowa.
Offensive averages / national rank
28.5 / 70
408.5 / 68
181.9 / 52
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226.6 / 69
Wildcats on defense
Northwestern gives up significant yardage in the passing game — it ranks 10th in the Big Ten and 88th in the nation at 246.4 yards per game — but does make big plays. The Wildcats have 14 interceptions, already more than they had all of last season, and had at least one interception in 10 straight games before going without a pick Oct. 19 against Minnesota.
Junior safety Ibraheim Campbell leads Northwestern with four interceptions and set a school record with picks in five straight games. The Wildcats have returned four of their interceptions for touchdowns — two by linebacker Collin Ellis, and one each by defensive end Dean Lowry and linebacker Damien Proby.
Junior linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo doesn’t have a pick this season, but does have five interceptions and five fumble recoveries since the start of last season, and leads Northwestern this season with 72 tackles, nine per game.
Defensive end Tyler Scott has a team-best eight tackles for loss, and he’ll move to the tackle position on third-down passing situations, when defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will bring in four defensive ends. Lowry, a normal defensive end, also moves inside, and speed-rushers Deonte Gibson and Idfeadi Odenigbo will rush from the outside.
Defensive averages / national rank
25.9 / 61
411.1 / 78
164.8 / 65
246.4 / 88
Wildcats on special teams
Northwestern’s special teams, coordinated by head coach Pat Fitzgerald, returned some familiar faces this season. Place-kicker Jeff Budzien, punter Brandon Williams and long-snapper Pat Hickey all returned for at least their third season as a starter.
Budzien, a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last season, is 13-of-15 on field goals, with a long of 43 yards and misses from 42 and 49 yards. He’s 32-of-35 on field goals since the start of 2012, and has also made 128 consecutive PATs.
Williams is averaging 37.5 yards on punts, and the Wildcats have had one punt blocked. Tyler Scott blocked a field goal against Maine. On returns, Northwestern has returned only three punts all season, all by Tony Jones, and Matthew Harris has 13 kickoff returns to lead Northwestern, with a long return of 47 yards.
Players to watch
Kain Colter, QB, sr., 6-2, 200 pounds
He has a gimpy ankle but is still a threat. With his 60 rushing yards and 104 passing yards last week against Iowa, Colter became the ninth quarterback in Big Ten history to reach 2,000 career yards in both rushing (2,014) and passing (2,083).
Tony Jones, WR, jr., 6-0, 200 pounds
The speedy wideout leads the Wildcats with 38 receptions for 492 yards and four touchdowns, and his 69.7 receiving yards per game rank sixth among Big Ten receivers. He caught eight passes two weeks ago against Minnesota.
Tyler Scott, DE, sr., 6-4, 265 pounds
Scott was the Big Ten’s returning sack leader after getting nine sacks in 2012 and has five this season, pushing his career total to 15. He’s among the Big Ten’s leaders in tackles for loss with eight.