Northwestern looks to build on upset, meets E. Illinois
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) Northwestern was feeling pretty good about itself after the season-opener - and then came the video review.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald saw plenty of room for improvement as the Wildcats (1-0) prepared for Saturday's game against Eastern Illinois after a surprising 16-6 win over then-No. 21 Stanford last week.
''I think after watching the video, there aren't too many big heads around here right now,'' he said. ''The eye in the sky doesn't lie.''
The Wildcats came in looking to show they had rediscovered their winning formula after back-to-back 5-7 seasons that snapped a five-year run of bowl appearances. They are off to a good start, holding Stanford to 85 yards rushing and 240 in total offense.
But beyond that, Fitzgerald saw two drives inside the 20 end with field goals instead of touchdowns. He was critical of his offensive line even though Northwestern ran for 225 yards - 134 by Justin Jackson. And he let his team hear about it.
''We're trying to be great,'' receiver Miles Shuler said. ''We're not trying to be average.''
Here are a few things to look for as the Wildcats meet Eastern Illinois (0-1):
STEADY HAND: Freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson ran for a 42-yard touchdown and played turnover-free ball last week in a mostly steady debut. He was fortunate not to come away with at least one interception considering he threw several passes into double and triple coverage while going 12 of 24 for 105 yards.
''The goal for him was to not turn it over and to win the football game and learn and grow through each rep that he takes,'' Fitzgerald said. ''I think did all three very well. We won, good job. He was close to turning it over, but he didn't, which was a good job.''
ABOUT EASTERN: After opening with a 33-5 loss at Western Illinois, Eastern Illinois will try to beat a Big Ten program for the first time. The Panthers are 0-7 against the conference, including losses to Northwestern in 2011 and Minnesota in 2014. Their closest game against the Big Ten was a 42-21 loss at Ryan Field in 2011.
Eastern Illinois outgained Western Illinois 308 yards to 266 last week but committed five turnovers and saw its streak of 65 games with a touchdown end. Vanderbilt transfer Jerron Seymour ran for 59 yards on 12 carries, and Illinois transfer Devin Church had 149 all-purpose yards (29 rushing, 43 receiving and 77 yards on kickoff returns).
CARRYING THE LOAD: After rushing for 1,187 yards as a freshman, Jackson is off to a good start as a sophomore. He carried 28 times and hit the 100-yard mark for the fourth consecutive game dating to last season. In fact, he has led the Wildcats in rushing in all 13 games he has played.
MOVING CHAINS: Receiver Christian Jones looked good in his return after sitting out last year because of a knee injury. He had 52 yards on five catches - four on third- or fourth-down conversions - against Stanford.
''Getting back out there, getting tackled, getting rolled up - that first hurdle to get over is pretty hard,'' Fitzgerald said. ''It's tough, I mean mentally. It's more difficult mentally than it is physically. I texted him on Saturday night just how happy I was for him. He sent me an emoji with a smiley face.''
CREATING HAVOC: Linebacker Anthony Walker was a disruptive force for Northwestern last week. He was credited with 10 tackles - three for loss - and two pass break-ups. He also had recovered a fumble and had a half sack.
Online: AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org