Zeke Markshausen, WR – Markshausen has developed into QB Mike Kafka's favorite target, catching 50 passes for 459 yards and a touchdown. That total includes a 16-catch, 111-yard effort Saturday against Michigan State, a reception total that ranks fourth in the all-time annals of the Big Ten Conference. Markshausen isn't much of a threat to get on top of a cornerback and get free for a big touchdown, but he's more than capable of finding the holes in a Cover-2 and moving the chains all afternoon long. It's been an unconventional path to the record books for the 5'11", 185-pound senior. The Capron, Ill., product began his college career at UW-Platteville back in 2005 before deciding he could play at a higher level. That prompted a move to Northwestern, where he's spent the last four seasons as a walk-on. With only one career reception into this fall, his contributions prior to the '09 campaign have been almost exclusively as a practice player. But that's clearly changed.
Mike Kafka, QB - the Wildcats' quarterback ranks 23rd nationally in total offense. He's completed 173-of-255 throws for 1,755 yards and seven touchdowns, and he'd actually be Northwestern's leading rusher if it weren't for the fact he's had 152 yards in loss to due to sacks (overall, he's 87 times for 141 yards). Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald loves the success Kafka has had through the air, but he's frustrated by his team's inability to move the ball on the ground. No Northwestern tailback has 200 yards rushing on the season, and Fitzgerald has grown so frustrated with his team's inability to run it that he might scrap the idea of offensive balance altogether. "If we can't run it, I'm not going to keep running it," Fitzgerald said after Saturday's 24-14 loss at Michigan State. "I want to win. If that means we have to throw it 175 times in a game, that's what we're going to do." Northwestern won't throw it 175 times, but don't be surprised to see Kafka put it up at least 50 times on Saturday at Ryan Field.
Quentin Davie, LB - this 6'4", 230-pound strongside linebacker has been the Wildcats' biggest playmaker on defense. Besides leading the team in 53, he's also tops in tackles for loss (7 ½), sacks (4), quarterback hurries (4) and forced fumbles (3). His productivity has also been on the rise as of late, totaling 23 tackles, 5 ½ tackles for loss, and all four of his sacks in the last three weeks. Davie is a gifted athlete that has sideline-to-sideline speed, someone who can defend the run, drop back into pass coverage or rush the quarterback. One of the reasons he's emerged as an All-Big Ten caliber linebacker is the fact he's finally been able to put on weight. Davie arrived at Northwestern as a 6'3", 199-pounder and he struggled his first couple of seasons to put on many pounds. But he's up 15 pounds from his playing weight of 215 a year ago, and it's paid off through the first half of the season.
Corey Wootton, DE – Wotton was a preseason All-America candidate after totaling 10 sacks in 2008 and earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. But that productivity a season ago hasn't been mirrored this season. Wootton has been a statistical non-factor in the Wildcats' first seven games with only eight tackles and zero tackles for loss. The biggest reason for Wootton's big drop-off is the fact he's only 10 months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. Wootton blew out his right knee last Dec. 29 in the Alamo Bowl against Missouri, and he admits the knee is still "achy." The 6'7", 280-pounder had toyed with the idea of declaring for the NFL Draft a season ago and had been projected as a second-round pick. Now, he's trying to get himself untracked and back on pace for a career in the pro ranks.
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
N'WESTERN: Four Days and Counting
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