Breaking Down the Wildcats

By Frank Gogola

Football (1-0) heads to Evanston to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (0-1) 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Ryan Field for an in-state showdown. The Huskies took their season opener with a 55-3 home win over Presbyterian, and the Wildcats dropped their first game to California, 31-24. Sports Editor Frank Gogola breaks down the Northwestern players to watch.

Quarterback: Trevor Siemian

Redshirt senior quarterback Trevor Siemian holds the reins of the Northwestern offense after sharing duties with Kain Colter, who graduated after last season. Siemian completed 59.7 percent of his pass attempts (178-of-298) in 12 games last season, throwing 11 touchdowns and getting picked off nine times. In the 2014 season opener against California, he completed 23 of his 44 pass attempts for 229 yards, tossing one touchdown and two interceptions. Siemian is a pure pocket passer and should test the Huskie secondary with his strong, accurate arm.

Running Back: Treyvon Green

Senior running back Treyvon Green carried the ground game last season and will have to do the same since Venric Mark transferred out. Greene rushed for 736 yards and eight touchdowns last season, leading the Wildcats with 66.9 rushing yards per game. Green ran for 37 on 13 carries and caught one pass for 4 yards against in the season opener. The Huskies’ front seven will have their hands full with Green and the rest of Northwestern’s running backs.

Wide Receiver: Tony Jones

Redshirt senior wide receiver Tony Jones figures to serves as Trevor Siemian’s favorite target this season, especially early on. Jones led the Wildcats with 55 receptions, was tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions and was second on the team with 630 receiving yards. He posted team highs in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (64) in the season opener and should be targeted more often with Siemian settling in. The Huskies’ secondary will have its hands full with Jones and the Wildcats’ deep receiving corps.

Offensive Line: Paul Jorgensen

Redshirt senior left tackle Paul Jorgensen will be tasked with backing Trevor Siemian’s blindside. Jorgensen started at right tackle in all 12 games last season but made the move across the line for the 2014 campaign. Last season, the offensive line helped the Wildcats average 172.4 rushing yards per game, including a season-high 332 rushing yards against Western Michigan. The offensive helped the Wildcats’ quarterbacks complete 63.1 percent of their pass attempts, which ranked third in the Big Ten.

Defensive Line: Dean Lowry

Junior defensive end Dean Lowry will guide a young offensive line. Lowry started in nine games at defensive end last season, finishing second on the team with seven tackles for loss and third on the squad with 4.5 sacks. Lowry also posted 33 total tackles, picked off two passes, forced two fumbles and recovered one fumble. Lowry recorded one tackle — a 6-yard sack — in the 2014 season opener against California. Northwestern’s defensive line may have some struggles containing the Huskies and their potent running game.

Linebacker: Collin Ellis

Redshirt senior middle linebacker Collin Ellis will head a veteran-laden linebacking core for the Wildcats. Playing strong side linebacker last season, Ellis placed third on the Wildcats with 78 tackles, third with three interceptions and sixth with 5.5 tackles for loss. He posted a team-best 12 total tackles, including nine solo tackles, and intercepted one pass in the season-opening loss. The Huskies will have to know where Ellis is at all times as he could drop a running back for a loss or drop back into coverage and pick off a pass.

Secondary: Ibraheim Campbell

Redshirt senior safety Ibraheim Campbell is the leader of the Wildcats’ secondary as the lone senior in the defensive backfield. Campbell started all 12 games at strong safety last season and earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention. He finished fifth on last season’s squad with 73 tackles and was tied for the team lead in interceptions (four) and in passes defensed (nine). Campbell racked up 11 total tackles and picked off one pass in the Wildcats’ loss last week, but Northwestern’s secondary may be tested by NIU’s deep wide receiving corps.

Special Teams: Jack Mitchell

Redshirt sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell is still adjusting to kicking at the college level with exactly one field goal attempt under his belt. Mitchell redshirted his freshman season and did not see action last year with two-time Big Ten kicker of the year Jeff Budzien handling field goal duties. He converted his first collegiate field goal attempt from 24 yards out last week with 5:18 remaining in the fourth quarter and Northwestern trailing 31-21. If the game is close and comes down to a field goal, NIU may very well have the edge.