Scouting Report: Northwestern

Vanderbilt (0-1, 0-1 SEC) travels to Evanston, Illinois to play Northwestern (1-0, 0-0) in its first away game of the year. The Commodore passing attack will face off with a Wildcat defense that gave up 596 total yards--including 470 passing yards in their thrilling 42-41 victory over Syracuse. The Wildcats saw a third quarter lead of 22 points evaporate as Syracuse..

.. quarterback Ryan Nassib completed 28 of 39 passes while adding four touchdown passes--all in the second half.

Starting Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter led Northwestern--completing 14 of 21 passes with 135 yards, two touchdown throws, while adding one with his legs. Late in the fourth quarter, down 35-41, Colter took himself out of the game for redshirt sophomore Trevor Siemian. The Wildcats went on a 10-play 75 yard drive that ended in a five-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields. Colter would later state that throwing pain caused by bruised ribs made him think Siemian was Northwestern's best chance at winning.

In the first half of their season opener at Syracuse, the Wildcat offense was led by running back Venric Mark. Mark scored Northwestern's first touchdown of the year on an 82-yard punt return. Later Mark punished Syracuse again with a 53-yard punt return which led to a 14-yard Kain Colter touchdown pass to Christian Jones. Mark later scored on a 21-yard touchdown reception and ended the day with 14 carries for 82 yards, and 281 all-purpose yards.

Senior receiver Demetrius Fields led the Wildcat receiving corps with catches of 21, 19, and 25 yards. Fields ended the night with eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Christian Jones added three catches for 34 yards and a score. Four other Wildcat receivers caught two or more passes including sophomore receiver Tony Jones who added three for 30 yards.

Northwestern allowed four quarterback sacks including a nine yard sack that put them at 3rd and 14, down six points with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter. On the next play backup quarterback Trevor Siemian scrambled for eight yards and the Orange were called for a personal foul that extended the drive. On Northwestern's last possession Fields was able to get a foot down on a corner route thrown by Siemian for the go ahead score.

The Wildcat offensive line is powered by a trio of returning starters anchored by left guard Brian Mulroe who returns with 28 starts and serves as offensive captain. Patrick Ward made the switch from right tackle to left in the spring and returns with 27 starts while center Brandon Vitabile anchors the offensive line with 14 starts.

Defensively the Wildcats had a tough day containing Orange receiver Marcus Sales who torched them for 11 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Seven other Syracuse receivers had three or more catches in Nassib's 44-of-65, 596 yard day. Sophomore safety Ibraheim Campbell--who led the team in tackles as a freshman in 2011-- showed no signs of relinquishing that position in the opener, topping the team with 13 tackles. In their season debut, the Wildcat secondary was flagged for pass interference four times. Safety Davion Fleming added ten tackles and a forced fumble.

Sophomore linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo was the Wildcats' top playmaker with an interception returned for 49 yards and a fumble recovery returned 33 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Defensive captain David Nwabuisi tallied seven tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a fumble recovery at will linebacker. Middle linebacker Damien Proby added ten tackles which was good for second on the team.

Northwestern will be without defensive end Deonte Gibson, who injured his elbow in the opener. In Gibson's absence the 'Dores will face freshman Ifeadi Odenigbo who will burn his redshirt and get in the rotation at defensive end. Odenigbo will back up Tyler Scott who finished with five tackles, a tackle for loss, and a sack at the right defensive end spot.

The last time these two met in 2010 the Wildcats squeaked away with a 23-21 victory against the Larry Smith led Commodores. Northwestern jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and Vanderbilt responded late in the first half with a four yard Warren Norman touchdown run. A missed point after kick, and a Northwestern punt later, Vandy got a little help from a Wildcat personal foul which put the 'Dores in position to end the half down 10-9. Vandy would trade scores on a day that saw Zac Stacy run for 69 yards, 7.7 yards per carry, and score that put the game at 23-21 Northwestern. Smith and the 'Dores were unable to convert the following two-point conversion and the Wildcats were able to get out of Nashville with a victory. The game in Evanston is the first of a four-game home series for Northwestern.

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