Northwestern Wildcats

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Big Ten lines up Thursday and Friday night football for 2018

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The Big Ten is planning ahead to buckle down and try to make Thursday night and Friday night football a thing in the conference. After breaking the ice on Thursday and Friday night football in the 2017 season, the conference has officially moved five games on the 2018 conference schedule to Thursday and Friday nights.

Purdue will host Northwestern in the Big Ten season opener on Thursday, August 30, marking the second straight season the Big Ten will kick off the college football season with a Thursday night football game. Indiana hosted Ohio State in a Thursday night season opener this season. The opening week of the season will continue the following night with Michigan State hosting Utah State and Wisconsin hosting Western Kentucky on Friday, August 21, 2018. This will mark the second straight season Wisconsin will open the season at home on a Friday night in Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers hosted Utah State on Friday, September 1 this season.

The three games on Thursday and Friday night in the opening week of the 2018 season keeps the Big Ten on the primetime lineup on various TV partners between ESPN, FOX Sports, and the Big Ten Network, although the programming specifics will come later on. But the idea of adding games to Thursday and Friday nights has been designed to add programming to TV partners and add content across all partner networks as part of the latest contracts with ESPN and FOX, along with the Big Ten Network.

The Big Ten has moved two additional games Friday nights next season as well. Illinois will host Penn State on Friday, September 21, 2018. Minnesota will host Indiana on Friday, October 26, 2018.

Johnny Unitas Award makes midseason cut to 20 QBs

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And then there were 20.

Tuesday, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award announced that its 47-player preseason watch list has been whittled down to 20. The award has been given annually since 1987 to the to the top quarterback in the country who is either a senior or fourth-year junior for his accomplishments both on and off the field.

“The Golden Arm Award considers character, citizenship, integrity, leadership, and honor – characteristics that were displayed by my father – to be every bit as important as the quarterback’s completion rate or number of touchdowns scored,” John C. Unitas, Jr., president of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation and son of the quarterbacking legend in whose honor the award is named. “Despite my Dad’s outstanding accomplishments, he never forgot his humble beginnings and that won him a permanent place in the hearts of everyone who ever knew him.”

Last year’s winner was Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Below is the complete list of the 20 players to survive the latest cut:

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
David Blough, Purdue
Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Luke Falk, Washington State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Ryan Finley, NC State
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi St.
Quinton Flowers, South Florida
Justice Hansen, Arkansas St.
Kenny Hill, TCU
Stephen Johnson, Kentucky
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn St.
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Nick Stevens, Colorado St.
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Mike White, Western Ky.
Logan Woodside, Toledo

Northwestern can’t keep lid on Saquon Barkley as No. 4 Penn State scores 31-7 road win

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Northwestern managed to tie down Penn State running back Saquon Barkley for the majority of the afternoon, but sooner or later he was bound to break loose for a big play. And break loose he did, Barkley ripped off a 53-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to flip the script in the box score for his Heisman Trophy campaign, but it was a full team effort that contributed to No. 4 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) picking up a decisive 31-7 victory on the road against Northwestern (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) in Big Ten play.

Barkley ended his afternoon with 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns, with the 53-yard score being the highlight of the day for him. At one point in the game, Barkley had more rushing touchdowns (1) than he had rushing yards (0). It was that kind of day against Northwestern, who excelled in not letting Barkley get too many opportunities to do damage. But that meant other players would have chances to step up for Penn State. Saeed Blacknall caught four passes for 74 yards. Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens caught two passes, including a touchdown. Juwan Johnson had a team-high six catches for 43 yards as Penn State spread the ball around in the passing game. Trace McSorley was 25-of-34 for 245 yards and a touchdown without a turnover.

Northwestern’s only score of the day came late in the fourth quarter after missing on some opportunities to make a game of it earlier in the game. Northwestern held the football on Penn State’s side of the field three times in the first half but saw each possession end with a turnover.

Penn State’s defense came close to pitching a third shutout of the season, but it continues to be a strength of the Nittany Lions. Northwestern managed just 265 yards of offense in the game.

Penn State heads into a bye week before what should be the make-or-break stretch of the season as far as Penn State’s Big Ten and College Football Playoff hopes may be concerned. After getting off next week, Penn State will host Michigan the following week. After that is a road trip to Ohio State. If Penn State doesn’t have their offensive line playing better for those two games, they could be in trouble.

Northwestern will hit the road in Big Ten play next week to play Maryland. The Terrapins will be coming off a road game at Ohio State.

Northwestern tying down Saquon Barkley, but Penn State pitching shutout

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Penn State running back Saquon Barkley arrived in Evanston as the supposed Heisman Trophy favorite. Right now he’s looking to leave town just with some positive rushing yardage. Northwestern has held Barkley to negative rushing yardage (-1) so far, but Penn State has managed to take a 10-0 lead on the Nittany Lions.

Northwestern failed to take advantage of a fourth down conversion on their offensive opportunity. After completing a 4th and 8 from the Penn State 34-yard line to the Penn State 10-yard line, the Wildcats immediately started moving the wrong way thanks to a holding penalty and a sack by Curtis Cothran to move the ball back to the Penn State 28-yard line. Two plays later, Clayton Thorson’s desperation ball was picked off by Amani Oruwariye. The Wildcats turned the ball over on a Thorson fumble on their next offensive possession, which also crossed midfield.

Barkley has carried the football eight times and has been stuffed every time. He enters halftime with -1 rushing yards and just seven all-purpose yards with one eight-yard catch.Can Northwestern manage to dial in on Barkley like this for another two quarters? If they do, then the Northwestern offense has to start finding a way to get some point son the board and avoid letting other offensive options from hurting them when Penn State has the ball. Penn State has tended to make adjustments and play well in the second half over the last year.

The only touchdown of the half came on a pass from Penn State’s starting quarterback, Trace McSorley, to Penn State’s backup quarterback, Tommy Stevens.

No. 10 Wisconsin uses strong second half to power past Northwestern

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After being locked in a defensive battle at home, No. 10 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) established control of the game and sent Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) home with a 33-24 defeat in Madison.

Northwestern was down two scores when Clayton Thorson was picked off over the middle by Natrell Jamerson, who then returned the interception for the knockout blow early in the fourth quarter.

It was Jamerson’s second interception of the day for the Badgers on a day that saw the Wisconsin defense really set the tone. Although Northwestern held a narrow lead at halftime, Wisconsin managed to key the victory by holding Justin Jackson to just 25 rushing yards on nine attempts. Northwestern also converted just two of 13 third downs and accumulated 147 yards of total offense before putting together a drive later in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats did trim the lead down to 31-24 with a chance to work the field for a possible game-tying score, but then Thorson took an awful safety that never should have been taken.

The Badgers were able to overcome three turnovers in the first half by allowing just three points off turnovers. That came at the beginning of the game when Wisconsin lost a fumble on the first play of the game, but the Wildcats could not gain much yardage and had to settle for the field goal. Not being able to capitalize on mistakes haunted Northwestern as the game went on.

Wisconsin’s defense continues to shine this season, and with a favorable schedule ahead of them, the Badgers look ready to make a return to the Big Ten championship game the way things are lining up right now around the division.

Wisconsin will be on the road next week to take on Nebraska in Lincoln. The Badgers have dominated Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. Wisconsin is 5-1 against Nebraska since 2011, including a 70-31 victory in the 2012 Big Ten championship game.

Northwestern will return home to Evanston next week for a showdown against Penn State. Northwestern has won the last two meetings between the two schools, with wins in 2014 and 2015.