Preps Talk

Budzien's record day lifts Northwestern

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Budzien's record day lifts Northwestern

EVANSTON The Northwestern Wildcats are figuring out their identity during their non-conference schedule.

At this juncture, the identity is incomplete.

The Wildcats have yet to play a complete game, and Saturday they had trouble scoring touchdowns.

Despite racking up 560 yards of offense and going 4-for-5 in the red zone, Northwestern scored just one touchdown in its 22-13 victory over Boston College on Saturday afternoon at Ryan Field.

The Wildcats (3-0) are the lone college football team to beat three BCS teams, but they kicked five field goals before scoring their touchdown on their 100th and final offensive play with 1:37 left.

At the end of the day, weve got to get six points instead of three, quarterback Kain Colter said. A lot of that comes down to me. A lot of that comes down to a bunch of guys, but weve got to go out there and execute. At the end of the day, were 3-0 and were not nearly playing our best football. Thats the encouraging thing. We can go out and play a lot better. I can play a lot better. Thats something to look forward to.

Jeff Budzien tied a school record kicking five field goals, from 19 yards to 42 yards, but the offense struggled to finish drives, losing two of their three fumbles.

At the end of the day, weve got to turn those threes into sevens, coach Pat Fitzgerald said. Weve got to finish drives. A lot of those issues we had on drives were self-inflicted by drops, by penalties, by not hitting guys who were open. So, were still a work in progress on both sides of the ball.

Northwestern hung on without its top play maker. After fumbling in the third quarter, Venric Mark left the game with an ailment described only as a lower body injury by Fitzgerald and never returned. He rushed for 77 yards on 18 carries. But Mike Trumpy stepped up to rush for a team-high 106 yards on 16 carries and scored on a 27-yard run.

He did great, Colter said. Thats what we expect out of all our running backs. They do a great job. Everybody is in competition. Everyone wants to play. When one guy goes down the other guy gets his opportunity.

The Wildcats continued with a two-quarterback system, as Colter and Trevor Siemian finished with almost identical statistics. Colter started and finished, completing 16 of 20 passes for 144 yards and rushing for 66 yards. Siemian went 14 for 20 for 123 yards.

Fitzgerald said using two quarterbacks is a good situation, and both have shown they can be effective.

Im not in the business of keeping people happy. Im in the business of winning football games and doing it in whatever way we can, Fitzgerald said. I would say both guys are happy because were winning. I would say going 30 for 40 and the way we didnt score touchdowns, I would say both guys are not satisfied with the way they played.

Both quarterbacks lost fumbles. As the offense sputtered overall, Budzien enjoyed a milestone day. He has nailed eight field goals this season, two more than all of last season. But even he wants to see touchdowns.

Its great to get field-goal reps. I work on that quite a bit in practice, Budzien said. Its nice to put that in a game aspect and help the team out like that. But in a time like that we need touchdowns, (and) its great to see the team put seven points up. Its a great job by Mike Trumpy and the offense closing the deal.

After Boston College (1-2) was forced to punt on fourth-and-10 with under three minutes left, the Wildcats drove 44 yards on four plays to set up Trumpys 27-yard touchdown for a 22-13 lead.

But after outgaining the Eagles 293-25 in rushing yards and finishing with 560 total yards to Boston Colleges 316, the Wildcats feel unsatisfied. Northwestern will have a chance to improve with a favorable schedule for the rest of the month, as the Wildcats will face South Dakota and Indiana in home games.

It was frustrating for us because were thinking were moving the ball at will, and we just get down to the red zone and hit a brick wall, center Brandon Vitabile said. So, for us, it was very upsetting. We kept saying, Weve got to finish, weve got to finish because thats what we build our program on, but we werent able to do that today until the end.

Weve got to take a look at it and get better and move on.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”