What We Learned About Northwestern Football in Week One

Ryan LindleyContributor ISeptember 8, 2009

EVANSTON, IL - SEPTEMBER 8: Sherrick McManis #24 of the Northwestern Wildcats gets ready for the hike during the game against the Nevada Wolf Pack on September 8, 2007 at Ryan Field at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There was a time when veteran college football coaches scoffed at scheduling easy week one opponents. They believed playing some cupcake you could hammer by 30 points was less useful than practice. Now, though, with a 12-game schedule and more than 30 bowl games which will be open to six-win teams, almost every team builds a few easy wins into their schedule.

Truth me told, I still think certain games are less competitive than practice, say Florida versus Charleston Southern (is there a Charleston Northern?), but playing a cupcake is what you have to do in order to be on equal footing with your opponents in trying to get 6 wins.

For that reason, I have no problem with Northwestern playing Towson today. Would it have benefited NU to play at least a little tougher team? Probably, but in the Wildcats 47-14 win I think we actually learned a few useful things about the 2009 edition of the Wildcats.

1) Arby Fields is NU’s best running back.
I’m not trying to dismiss the contributions of any of the other guys, but it isn’t even close when looking at how quick Fields hits the hole or how effortlessly he cuts up the field when he finds a sliver of daylight. If he gets the ball 20 times a game, I think he can average over 100 yards a contest easily.

2) Sherrick McManis is NU’s best (or at least most important) defensive back.
I love the NU safeties, but when McManis left the game was when Towson started throwing the ball effectively. McManis is a lockdown corner. The rest of NU’s DBs are good, but they don’t blanket wide-outs the way McManis does.

3) Mike Kafka doesn’t have to run to be effective.
Mike Kafka ran for just 1.0 yard a carry, but his 192 yards passing helped NU take control of the game and he showed great touch on several balls during the game. His backup, Dan Persa, also showed good touch and a strong arm on a 72-yard TD to Andrew Brewer.

4) Drake Dunsmore is going to be a major weapon.
Although he only had 2 catches for 24 yards, Drake Dunsmore showed the size and speed he hinted at during his freshman season and before injury his sophomore year. A fully healthy Dunsmore should make Mike Kafka’s job a little easier, especially in the red zone.

5) Andrew Brewer is fast.
Towson’s DBs might not be Big 10 quality, but Andrew Brewer blew right past two of them on his TD catch. If he’s healthy, he’ll be one of the most versatile wide-outs in the Big 10. He’s a big target, he ran run, and he offers some very interesting Wildcat package possibilities as a former QB.

6) We still need to learn more about NU’s defensive unit.
McManis left the game with what might have been a minor injury issue and Corey Wotton was rested for all but the first few series of the game. With both those guys taking the majority of the afternoon off, it was tough to get a true sense of NU’s defense.

The group should be very good, but they weren’t as dominating today as many would have expected. It’ll be interesting to see how they play next week.


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