NU coach Pat Fitzgerald will lead Northwestern into TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday morning.
• Northwestern kicks off the second half of its 2012 regular season schedule with its first Legends Division matchup of the year, traveling to face Minnesota Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium (11 a.m. CT, ESPN2).
• A victory Saturday in Minneapolis would mark the second straight season in which Northwestern secured bowl-eligibility with a win against Minnesota. NU also clinched its sixth win of the 2011 season with a businesslike 28-13 defeat of the Gophers on Nov. 19. The Wildcats are aiming to play in a bowl game for a fifth consecutive season and become bowl eligible for the sixth time in Pat Fitzgerald's seven-year tenure as head coach.
• Northwestern's senior class can achieve a different milestone with a win over the Gophers, as they enter Saturday needing one victory to match the NU school record for most career wins by a five-year senior class. The group has been part of 35 victories since arriving in Evanston prior to the 2008 season, one shy of the mark of 36 set by last year's graduating class.
The Mercurial Venric Mark
• With track-star-type speed and the demonstrated toughness to take a hit, junior Venric Mark is continuing the success he has had as a returnman since arriving at NU while also thriving in his first season as the 'Cats' starting tailback. Below is a look at just a few of Mark's achievements this year:
• His 75-yard punt return touchdown at Penn State made him one of three players in FBS football with two or more punt return TDs this year and one of two players in NU history to record more than one in a season, joining Tom Worthington in 1949.
• Ranks second in the Big Ten and seventh in the nation in all-purpose yards per game with 180.5.
• Now stands at 3,005 career all-purpose yards, good for 14th on NU's career list
Scott Leads NU's Sack Attack
• Junior defensive end Tyler Scott is leading Northwestern's efforts to affect the quarterback this year, earning a team-best four pass sacks to rank fourth in the Big Ten this season. Scott also is tied for the team lead in pass breakups on the year with four and has caused a pair of fumbles.
NU Linebackers Shine at Linebacker U
• Football fans in State College, Pa., have seen plenty of good linebacker play over the years, and they were treated to a strong effort by Northwestern's three starting backers on Saturday. Damien Proby (16) -- who took over the team lead for tackles on the year with 53 -- David Nwabuisi (15) and Chi Chi Ariguzo (12) all posted career highs for tackles against the Nittany Lions, with Proby and Nwabuisi setting personal bests for solo stops with 12 and 10, respectively.
Budzien Off To 'Perfect' Start in 2012
• Junior place-kicker Jeff Budzien has established himself as one of the most accurate place-kickers in the country this season, which was highlighted by a record-setting performance vs. Boston College. Budzien, who second in the Big Ten in scoring with 9.33 points per game, is one of five FBS kickers who have yet to miss on a field goal or extra point attempt this season, joining Matt Nelson (Louisiana Tech), Jeremy Shelley (Alabama), Nate Freese (Boston College) and Nick Sloan (Navy).
Northwestern-Minnesota Series Information
All-Time Series Record: Minnesota leads, 50-32-5 (88th meeting)
Series at Minnesota: Minnesota leads, 28-13-3
Last Meeting: Nov. 19, 2011
Northwestern 28, Minnesota 13
• Northwestern comes into play this weekend having won four of the last five meetings with Minnesota, a series in which the road team has won three of the last four times. Two of those road wins came courtesy of the Wildcats, first in 2008 and again in 2010.
In fact, outcomes between the 'Cats and Gophers have been decided in the fourth quarter or later four times since 2007:
• 2010 (at UM): Northwestern comes back from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to win, 29-28, in its Big Ten opener.
• 2009 (at NU): Minnesota overcomes 24-21 deficit with two fourth-quarter scores to claim a 35-24 victory.
• 2008 (at UM): NU's Brendan Smith returns an interception 48 yards for a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play in NU's final trip to the Metrodome.
• 2007 (at NU): Northwestern trailed 35-21 at the start of the fourth quarter but forced overtime on a TD catch by Eric Peterman with 8 seconds remaining in regulation. Both teams scored two overtime touchdowns, but a two-point conversion attempt by the Gophers failed to give the 'Cats a 49-48 double OT win.
• Minnesota offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover's two-year stint as a graduate assistant coach at Northwestern coincided with the Wildcats' back-to-back Big Ten championships in 1995-96. Limegrover was in Evanston while NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald was wrapping up his Hall-of-Fame playing career with the 'Cats.
• Northwestern has one representative on the squad from the state of Minnesota, senior defensive tackle and 2012 co-captain Brian Arnfelt (Lake Elmo, Minn./Stillwater). Arnfelt played in the Wildcats' 2010 victory in his home state but did not record any tackles.
Tag(s): Gopher Football