Football Prepares For Northern Illinois

Sept. 11, 2001

Winston-Salem, N.C. -

WAKE FOREST FOOTBALL NEWS & NOTES
Game #3
September 15, 2001

Wake Forest (2-0) vs. Northern Illinois (1-1)
Groves Stadium (31,500) - Winston-Salem, NC

Kickoff: 6:38 p.m.

Site: Groves Stadium (31,500), Winston-Salem, NC

Television: None

Radio: The Wake Forest ISP Sports Network, heard on 18 stations in North Carolina and Virginia. Full station listing is on page five of this package. Voice of the Deacons Stan Cotten calls the play-by-play. Former Deacs Ed Bradley and Mike Pratapas serve as color analysts.

On the Web: The radio broadcast can be heard live over the internet via WFU's homepage: www.wakeforestsports.com

The Series: Saturday's game marks the first meeting between WFU and Northern Illinois.

The Rankings: Neither team is ranked.

The Coaches: Wake Forest's Jim Grobe is 2-0 as the Deacons' head coach with wins over East Carolina and Appalachian State. His career record now stands at 35-33-1 in his seventh season as a head coach.

Northern Illinois coach Joe Novak is 15-42 in his sixth season as a head coach, all with the Huskies.

Tickets: Tickets are available by contacting the WFU ticket office at 336-758-3322.

Officials: Announced on game day.

DEACONS, 2-0, host Northern Illinois on Saturday
The Wake Forest football team, off to its best start since 1996, hosts Northern Illinois at Groves Stadium this Saturday in the second of a three-game homestand.

Wake Forest is 2-0 this season after winning its season opener on the road at East Carolina, 21-19, and downing Appalachian State, 20-10, in the home opener on September 8.

Saturday's game marks the first-ever meeting with Northern Illinois, a Mid-American conference team who is currently 1-1 on the season.

APP STATE recap
WFU improved its series record to 14-7-1 over the Mountaineers and halted a two-game series winning streak by ASU in front of 29,127 fans at Groves Stadium last Saturday evening. After going up 3-0 in the first quarter on a Tyler Ashe field goal, the Deacs fumbled and lost the ball on two straight possessions in the second quarter, leading to 10 ASU points. Ashe hit a 33-yard field goal to close out the half and reduce the Deacon deficit to four (10-6).

In the third period, quarterback Anthony Young engineered a 13-play, 90-yard drive, capping it off with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Fabian Davis to give WFU a 13-10 lead. The Deacon defense returned the ball to the offense just 38 seconds later, as linebacker Dion Williams recovered a fumble at the ASU 23. This time it was James MacPherson directing the Deacs, as John Stone rushed for the endzone from eight yards out for the TD.

With WFU holding on to its 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, Mountaineer Remi Awolowo forced a Young fumble and returned it 46 yards to the Wake 24. Costly penalties hurt the App State cause as it was unable to capitalize on the turnover. (ASU finished the game with 10 penalties for 91 yards.) Wake Forest got the ball back with just under four minutes and was able to run out the clock for the 20-10 win, its largest margin of victory over the Mountaineers since a 20-3 win in 1993.

DEACON details
Last season Wake Forest had the fewest number of returning starters in Division I-A football. The numbers look a little better this season as Grobe and his staff welcomed 45 returning letterwinners, including 19 starters, into preseason camp.

On offense, starters return at every position but one along the line. Four experienced linemen, including All-ACC candidates Vince Azzolina and Michael Collins, return to the trenches this season, with some slight shifts in positions. The changes have been effective, as Deacon backs have piled up nearly 500 yards of rushing and WFU QBs have been sacked just twice over the first two games.

At quarterback, the battle for the starting job has picked up where it left off between junior James MacPherson and sophomore Anthony Young. The two continue to split playing time as they did in 2000 after the season-ending injury to starter C.J. Leak in the third game of the year. While Young has actually started both games so far this season, the two alternate nearly every series.

The Deacs return speed at wide receiver, although the position has been somewhat depleted in the preseason with an injury to senior Ira Williams. Williams broke a bone in his right foot during a summer workout and has not returned to action yet. Senior John Stone and junior Fabian Davis lead the receiving corps in terms of experience and catches, but junior Jax Landfried and redshirt freshman Jason Anderson have been impressive, as the underclassmen duo were Wake's top receivers at ECU. Landfried caught the game-winning touchdown pass against the Pirates, hauling in a 44-yarder from Young.

Junior veterans Ovie Mughelli at fullback and Tarence Williams at running back provide leadership in the Deacon backfield as both return to their starting roles in 2001. Williams has picked up where he left off in 2000, rushing for over 100 yards in the first two games of the season. Mughelli has not carried the ball in 2001, but switches between the fullback and tight end spots as a key blocker. Sophomore Fred Staton is starting to make an impact after returning to game shape (he arrived at preseason camp overweight), and is second on the squad with 51 yards a game.

Wake's defense, now settled in its new 3-4 lineup, boasts talent and experience, including senior Nate Bolling and junior Calvin Pace at the ends, with junior Montique Sharpe at nose tackle. All three have created or recovered fumbles through two games this season.

Two veterans - Ed Kargbo-Okorogie and Marquis Hopkins - lead the linebacking corps. Hopkins posted a team high 100 tackles last season, and again leads the Deacs in 2001 with 20 stops. Kargbo-Okorogie recorded the first interception of the 2001 season, picking off a David Garrard pass at ECU. At outside linebacker, redshirt freshman Mike Hamlar earned his first career start against the Pirates, and a week later recorded his first interception against ASU, while Kellen Brantley has tallied 15 tackles in two games at the other inside spot.

A host of young players make up the Deacon secondary, led by lone senior Adrian Duncan, who switched from corner to safety. Returning starter Quintin Williams returns to his post at corner and has already recorded his third career interception (versus ASU). A number of underclassmen will challenge for playing time at all four spots. Redshirt freshman Marcus McGruder has stood out in the early goings, as he intercepted a pass and recorded a sack at ECU.

Placekicker Tyler Ashe returns to his role for the second straight year, and will also handle kickoffs for the fourth season. Wake Forest has used two punters in two games, as sophomore walk-on Chris Rolle handled the duties at ECU and James McPherson punted versus Appalachian State.

HUSKIE highlights
Mid-American Conference member Northern Illinois is 1-1 in the 2001 campaign. The Huskies topped South Florida, 20-17, in its season opener as placekicker Steve Azar kicked a 42-yard field goal in the game's closing seconds. NIU actually scored 13 unanswered points in the final quarter for the come-from-behind victory. It was the Huskies' first season-opening victory since 1990.

Last Saturday, NIU faced Illinois on the road, falling 17-12. Quarterback Chris Finlen threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to receiver Darrell Hill with 1:12 remaining, but the two-point attempt failed, squelching the possibility of a second straight comeback.

Under sixth-year head coach Joe Novak, Northern Illinois returns 39 lettermen and 13 starters (7 offense, 4 defense) from a team that went 6-5 a year ago, its first winning campaign in 10 seasons. The Huskie lineup is a young group, with seven underclassmen on offense and nine on defense listed as starters.

Finlen, a senior and three-year starter at the QB spot, has passed for 4,800 yards and 30 touchdowns in his career. His favorite target so far this season has been junior split end P.J. Fleck, who has 132 yards on 14 receptions through two games. Junior tailback Thomas Hammock is the No. 6 returning rusher in the country in 2001, and has already compiled 288 yards on the ground so far this season. Junior linebacker Larry Williams owns a a team-high 23 tackles this season, including four tackles for loss and a sack. Placekicker Azar is the team's leading scorer, booting 4-of-8 field goals and two PATs (14 points), while punter Jimmy Erwin is averaging 31.8 yards per punt with a long kick of 58 yards this season.

MORE NOTES from the ASU game
* Wake Forest's game captains were seniors John Stone and Nate Bolling.
* Quarterback James MacPherson served as Wake's punter against the Mountaineers, his first action at punter since the 1999 Aloha Bowl. He finished the night with three punts for 118 (a 39.3 average). He booted a long punt of 46 yards and landed one inside the 20.
* Wake Forest has not given up a point in the first quarter through two games this season.
* Tyler Ashe's 33-yard field goal just before halftime was his longest of the season so far. His career long is 50 yards, set against Appalachian State last season.
* Fabian Davis' third-quarter touchdown was his first of the 2001 season and fifth of his career.
* Saturday's attendance of 29,127 was the largest since Sept. 9, 2000, when the Deacs hosted North Carolina (30,087) and bested last year's Appalachian State game attendance by nearly 2,300 (26,853 on Aug. 31, 2000).
* Nate Bolling forced his second career fumble and Dion Williams picked up his first fumble recovery off a Joe Burchette fumble late in the third quarter, which led to a WFU touchdown.
* John Stone recorded his second career rushing touchdown on an eight-yard run late in the third quarter after WFU's fumble recovery. The senior wide receiver has five career touchdowns to his credit, two by kickoff return and two by rushing.
* Quintin Williams' fourth-quarter interception was the third career pick for the sophomore cornerback. He also picked off passes against Duke and Florida State last season.
* Wake Forest is 2-0 for the first time since the 1996 season and for just the third time since 1988.
* Wake Forest improved its lead in the series to 14-7-1 and defeated ASU for the first time since 1996. It was the largest victory margin for Wake Forest since a 20-3 win in 1993.
* With 116 yards on the ground, Tarence Williams recorded his fourth career and second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. He needs just 15 more yards to reach 1,000 career rushing yards.
* Talk about splitting time at quarterback - Anthony Young and James MacPherson divied up the duties evenly versus ASU - both took 37 offensive snaps.

Two-and-0 in First Deacon Season
Two weeks ago, we looked at how Wake Forest coaches have fared in their debut on the Deacon sideline. Jim Grobe became the 17th of 31 coaches in Wake Forest history to win his first game with the Deacs. After picking up two victories in his first two games, he now joins a more elite group. Only five other coaches in WFU history have won their first two games as the Deacons' head coach. The last to do so was Bill Dooley (1987-92), who is actually the most successful first-year WFU coach, opening his inaugural season 5-0 and finishing with a 7-4 mark. Only two - Tom Rogers and Dooley - won their first three games. Listed below are the WFU coaches who have won their first two games:

1910 Reddy Rowe def. Warrenton Prep, 17-0
   def. Horner, 28-0
1926 James Baldwin def. North Carolina, 13-0
   def. Wofford, 27-0
1951 Tom Rogers  def. Boston College, 20-6
   def. NC State, 21-6
1964 Bill Tate  def. Virginia, 31-21
   def. Virginia Tech, 38-21
1987 Bill Dooley  def. Richmond, 24-0
   def. NC State, 21-3
2001 Jim Grobe  def. East Carolina, 21-19
   def. Appalachian State, 20-10

IRA WILLIAMS questionable for action
Senior Ira Williams, WFU's leading receiver last season, is still being evaluated daily and is questionable for action on Saturday versus Northern Illinois. Williams broke a bone in his foot while doing voluntary practice drills earlier this summer. After wearing a boot on his lower leg during most of the preseason and missing two-a-day practices, Williams had the boot removed on Thursday, Aug. 24 to beginning running and gradually start participating in drills.

Williams also missed part of spring drills with a broken finger. The 6-2, 207-pound senior caught a team-high 45 passes last season for 495 yards. Entering the 2001 campaign, Williams was the second-leading returning receiver in the ACC in receptions per game.

INJURY update
* Senior reserve linebacker Matt Myers sprained his left ankle against Appalachian State and is questionable for action this weekend.
* Sophomore linebacker Jamaal Argrow twisted his right knee against East Carolina and is doubtful for the Northern Illinois game after not dressing against Appalachian State.
* Sophomore reserve lineman Chad Rebar dislocated his right shoulder and is scheduled for surgery later this month.
* Earlier this year, senior Jonathan Helms suffered a sublexed patella in his left knee and is out indefinitely, while senior Marcus Kisner is out for the year with chronic knee problems. Both players were listed as backups on the offensive line.
* True freshman Chris Owen injured his knee during the final days of preseason practice, and will undergo testing to determine the extent of the damage.

ON THIS DATE in WFU history
Wake Forest owns an all-time record of 3-1 in games played on September 15. One of the greatest victories in Wake Forest history occurred on this date in 1979, when the Deacs upset 12th-ranked Georgia, 22-21, in Athens. Wake also enjoyed Sept. 15 victories in 1973 over Florida State (9-7) and in 1984 over Appalachian State (17-13). The lone loss on this date came in 1990, when the Deacons fell 15-20 against NC State.

NORTHERN ILLINOIS connections
* Wake Forest defensive back Jason Carter and NIU defensive end Sean Hopson both hail from Evanston, Ill.
* Deacon defensive back Ricky Perez and NIU nose tackle Rashad Walker both graduated from Bedford High School in Bedford Heights, Ohio.
* Wake Forest defensive line coach Ray McCartney and NIU offensive coordinator Dan Roushar both served as assistants at Ball State University during the 1994 season.
* Jim Grobe's Ohio teams defeated Northern Illinois twice during his tenure. The Bobcats won 35-30 in DeKalb in 1997, then were victorious 28-12 at home in Athens in 1998.
* Mid-American Conference commissioner Rick Chryst was an assistant commissioner at the ACC office in Greensboro from 1992-99.

First Meeting versus the MAC
Saturday's game marks Wake Forest's first-ever meeting with a Mid-American Conference school. The Deacs played current MAC member Marshall three times from 1939-41, prior to the formation of the league.

The Atlantic Coast Conference goes head-to-head with the MAC three times in 2001. Prior to Wake Forest's meeting with Northern Illinois on Saturday, NC State hosts Jim Grobe's former team, Ohio University, on Thursday, Sept. 13. Last Saturday, Maryland demolished Eastern Michigan, 50-3.

MacPHERSON joins elite group
Wake Forest quarterback James MacPherson became the 19th player in WFU history to throw for over 1,500 career yards with a 95-yard passing performance against Appalachian State last Saturday. The junior, who has seen action in only 10 career games as a quarterback, has completed 125 of 228 passes for 1,505 yards.

Wake's all-time leader in passing yards is Brian Kuklick, who threw for 8,017 yards from 1994-98.

MacPherson's completion percentage of 54.8 also ranks fifth all-time among Deacon signal-callers.

MARKED improvement
Through two games, Wake Forest has put up remarkably better numbers than it did through two games last season. The biggest difference has been rushing offense, where last year the Deacons averaged just 26.5 yards through two games, compared to 249.5 yards per game this season. Another key indicator has been third-down conversions, where Wake was just 5-of-29 through two games last season, compared to 14-of-32 this year:

Through 2 Games 2000 2001
Won-Lost 0-2 2-0
Points 30 41
Points Allowed 55 29
Total Offense 171.5 417.0
Rushing Yards 26.5 249.5
Passing Yards 145.0 167.5
Passes Intercepted 1.0 0.0
Third Downs 5-29 14-32
Turnovers 2.5 2.0
Rushing Yards Allowed 138.0 110.0
Passing Yards Allowed 214.5 178.0
Total Defense 352.5 288.0

COMING up next
Wake Forest plays its third straight home game when it hosts Maryland on Saturday, Sept. 22. Kickoff time at Groves Stadium is set for 3:30 pm. Having played all its 2001 non-conference opponents in the first three games of the season, the Deacons open eight straight games against ACC rivals with the Terrapins, who are already 1-0 in league play with a win over North Carolina.

 

 

 

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