Out of all the stats being thrown around this week, none are more stunning than these.
‚?Ę Since Pat Fitzgerald took over at Northwestern in 2006, Penn State has not allowed a single second-half point to the Wildcats.
‚?Ę In those four meetings (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011), the Nittany Lions have outscored Northwestern 76-0 after halftime.
‚?Ę Northwestern hasn‚??t scored a second-half touchdown against Penn State since 2004, which is the last time the Cats won a game in the series.
Of course, the all-important locker room adjustments made by the Lions in those games came under the direction of former defensive boss Tom Bradley.
But new coordinator Ted Roof also has a surprising amount of experience against the Wildcats, facing Fitzgerald and his predecessor, the late Randy Walker, five times in the past decade while at Duke, Minnesota and Auburn.
‚??Well what they do is, they make your defend the entire width of the football field. They stretch you horizontally,‚?Ě said Roof, who spoke to reporters on a midweek conference call ‚?? a new bit of increased access from the new regime. ‚??It forces guys to make plays in space. It doesn‚??t allow you to gang up on tackles and it forces you to make plays one-on-one.
‚??They have a lot of flexibility in their offense.‚?Ě
Roof personally has had some mixed results against Northwestern, playing the Wildcats twice as defensive coordinator at Duke (2002, 2003), once as the Blue Devils‚?? head coach (2007), once as coordinator at Minnesota (2008) and finally at the end of the 2009 season with Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
His teams went 2-3 against the Wildcats, allowing 25.4 points per game.
The good news for Roof is that he‚??ll have some help on Saturday. Long-time defensive assistants Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden are still around, and they should be well-versed in what has worked so well against the Cats in the past.
‚??We‚??re all on the same page,‚?Ě Roof said. ‚??We‚??re all working as one team, and I‚??ve been pleased with that. I‚??ve enjoyed coaching with and working with them. They both have good ideas and are good coaches and good people.‚?Ě
Of course, this Northwestern offense isn‚??t exactly like the ones from recent years. The scheme is more or less the same, but these Wildcats have had much more success on the ground. Their 255.8 rushing yards per game ranks ninth in the country.
That doesn‚??t mean that Northwestern will be lining up in the I-formation. But quarterback Kain Colter and tailback Venric Mark are both threats each time they take off.
The key for the Lions will be containing Colter, who will throw, run and even catch passes out of the slot.
‚??What we‚??ve tried to do is identify where he is (before the snap),‚?Ě Roof said. ‚??We‚??ve seen what they‚??ve done with him up to this point. As his role has expanded, we have to figure out what the next step (for him) is. Because there‚??s going to be a next step. It‚??s just a matter of figuring out what it is.
‚??We have to be prepared for everything.‚?Ě
Roof said it reminded him of facing a wildcat scheme, where a top athlete ‚?? typically a tailback ‚?? is taking the snaps directly from center.
‚??But (Colter‚??s) such a good quarterback as well. So it‚??s not like he‚??s just an athlete back there,‚?Ě Roof said. ‚??It presents a lot of challenges. They do a good job with the system. We‚??re trying to find out what the next step with that package is.‚?Ě