Northwestern Passing Attack breaking in new QB, WRs

northwestern passing

During his time at the podium at Big Ten Media Day, Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald discussed how his team’s appearance in a New Year’s Day bowl is changing the program’s national image.

“I believe our system is quarterback friendly. It’s amazing, when you come out of the Outback Bowl, I get a bunch of calls from quarterbacks nationally saying:  So you throw the ball 79 times?  Cool.  Okay.  So obviously it’s pretty quarterback friendly from the standpoint of development, too.”

Ah yes, the 2010 Outback Bowl, it was certainly one for the ages. Nine FBS and/or NCAA records were set in that 38-35 overtime loss to Auburn. A game where NU out-gained the Tigers by nearly 200 yards, and QB Mike Kafka set a NCAA record for offensive plays (78 passing, 20 running) compiling 562 yards. He also threw for a school (and Outback Bowl) record 532.

By Paul M. Banks

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Dan Persa taking over for Mike Kafka in Northwestern Air Show


Last year, Northwestern led the Big Ten in passing offense and were among the national leaders in passing completions and plays per game. Their offense was extremely fun to watch as their QB Mike Kafka was one of the nation’s best in the total offense department, and wide receiver Zeke Markshausen was essentially the Wes Welker of college football; one of the best go-to receivers you can find on third down.

But today, Markshausen is at Chicago Bears camp and Kafka was a fifth round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles.

So this fall, it’s Dan Persa‘s turn to take the reigns.

By Paul M. Banks

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Three more Northwestern Wildcats to get shot at NFL

zeke markshausen

EVANSTON, Ill. — After having three Northwestern players chosen in last weekend’s NFL Draft, three more Wildcats — wide receivers Zeke Markshausen and Andrew Brewer, and safety Brendan Smith — have earned invites to NFL camp tryouts this weekend.

For a complete interview and profile of Markshausen, go here

Markshausen will try out for the hometown Chicago Bears, while Brewer earned an invitation to the New England Patriots camp. Smith landed in Washington and will try out for the Redskins.

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From Walk-on to Conference Receptions Leader: the Zeke Markshausen Story


By Paul M. Banks

Northwestern wide receiver Zeke Markshausen has some extraordinary qualities, and they go well beyond his unique name. Entering the 2009 season, the Wildcats had graduated all receivers of significance, forcing them to depend (literally) on a no-name receiving corps. The unquestioned go-to guy who emerged from that group is ESPN the magazine Academic All-American Zeke Markshausen, whose original sounding name has confused NU fans this season. I’ve heard people in purple call him “Munchausen” (as in “the adventures of Baron Von  ___”) and “Manfred Richtofen” (proper name of the “Red Baron”). But opposing defenses know him well. Down the stretch, Markshausen was leading the Big Ten in receptions, and finished second to Purdue’s Keith Smith. He earned All-Big Ten second team status as he caught 79 passes (16th nationally) for 774 yards  and three touchdowns.

He had over a 100 yards receiving two games, including a win over rival Illinois, in the first battle for the Land of Lincoln trophy. In that November 14th contest, he beat the Illini on a corner-post route twice. On the same sideline in almost the same exact place, in each half.markshausen “Through study of the film throughout the week, we saw how they were playing, we saw how that safety plays his leverage and we saw that they were kind of giving that to us, so we tried to take advantage,” Zeke told me after that game. “We kind of came in knowing that their corners are playing down and their safeties are playing inside leverage, we knew if we ran that route, that it would be there,” Markshausen said.

And studying is something he does extremely well, as he’s garnered Academic All-Conference for the 2nd year, and a graduate student in mechanical engineering in design and innovation. (He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering last June) After Northwestern football ends for him, he’ll have a lot going for him in life.

The Illinois win was especially sweet for the Zeke (a Capron, IL native) and the Cats, because it was the Illini who came into the season with a highly heralded (both locally and nationally) wide receiving corps. But that unit has failed to come even remotely close to putting up the numbers the Cats “no-name corps” has in ‘09. Northwestern finished 2nd in the conference, 28th nationally in passing yards per game this year.

The diminutive Markshausen has emerged to fill a sort of Wes Welker type role for the Wildcats this season. Both receivers are diminutive (Welker is 5’9” 185, Markshausen goes about 5’10” 195 lbs). And Welker consistently runs out of the slot to make huge catches for the Patriots on third down to keep New England’s offensive drives going. Likewise, Zeke is QB Mike Kafka’s go-to guy on 3rd down, making plays when they absolutely must be made in order to keep the chains moving.

It’s been quite a progression for Markshausen; a journey from walk-on and afterthought to one of the big ten’s best receivers. “Coming in at first, it was like okay Zeke, watch for little awhile and don’t do anything dumb. Don’t get anybody hurt, and then I convinced them that maybe, I could actually run a route or two, and then I got going with Mike {Kafka}, we started torching the first team defense out there and the rest is history,” Zeke said.

Towson Northwestern Football

He came into this season with just catches, and now he’s one of the most valuable players on offense. “It’s been incredible, it’s been a dream come true for sure. I can’t ask for much more, and I’ve just tried to take advantage of everything I got. Coming here was an opportunity for me to see how good I could be, and the people in this program, academic services, athletic staff have allowed me to excel and chase my dream, and they put the resources in front of you that you need to excel,” he said showing gratitude for the chances that he’s been given. If the 2009 season was a gift for him, then the wrapping paper and bow would be the program’s first bowl win in half a decade; the destination and announcement will come Sunday night.

“These last three games we seem to be getting better and better, I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re feeling pretty good about it, and no one’s really gotten in our way except for us this season,” the departing senior leader said.