Wildcats looking to get physical

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has challenged his Wildcats to step up their physical nature during each game, and that has become a point of emphasis in practice each week.

The Wildcats emphasized playing more physical last week, and the results of the game spoke for themselves.

NU allowed just 25 rushing yards to Boston College, gave up just one touchdown and held BC to 2-11 on third down conversions. And that was just on defense.

"It's been a lot of fun just to play the run like that and to know that we can dominate the run, dominate the line of scrimmage is just huge for us, huge for a defense," defensive end Quentin Williams said.

The NU offense has shown a similar physicality, putting up 293 rushing yards against Boston College, including 106 from tailback Mike Trumpy. The Wildcats also posted 191 yards on the ground against Vanderbilt the week before.

"That was a key," offensive lineman Brian Mulroe said of playing more physical. "I don't think anyone was too happy with our first couple weeks and last week we tried to make it an emphasis on being more physical and I think we did that on both sides of the line."

Mulroe said it was nice to see back-to-back 100-yard rushers – Trumpy against BC and Venric Mark with 123 yards against Vandy – but that that isn't a major motivator for the offensive line.

"We like hearing that, but there's gonna be a bunch of guys rolling through, rolling in," Mulroe said. "In a way it's like it doesn't matter as long as we're creating holes and moving the ball on offense it's fine, but its awesome having guys back there that can do that and it's a compliment to them. We do our best to create holes for them."

And though the NU plays against FCS opponent South Dakota this week, don't expect the physical nature of the ‘Cats play to dwindle against a less-proven opponent.

"They're a good opponent, we're not going to change a thing," Mulroe said. "We're preparing as if we're playing the Bears this week … We're still going to try to be as physical as we can, and just keep improving."

Pat Fitzgerald, who has challenged the team to be more physical, said he doesn't think it's something that will end. He added that Tuesday's practice was a very intense one.

"I don't think you ever kind of take your hate off and say ‘hey, we've arrived,'" Fitzgerald said. "[Tuesday practice is] a physical go. We get after it pretty good, we're going live in some controlled settings and the guys are embracing it."

Fitzgerald added that the success the ‘Cats had in being more physical against Boston College was a testament to their work in practice preparing for the game. He said he sees that as a motivator moving forward on the practice field.

"They saw some of the success they had on Saturday because of what they did last week in practice," Fitzgerald said. "Hopefully we just keep getting one week better, one practice better, one rep better."

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