WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes @JimSannes takes a look at Northwestern football’s class of graduating seniors and the numbers behind their careers.While reading this article, it is best if you imagine a slow jam playing in the background to commemorate the sadness associated with the departure of Northwestern’s seniors. I prefer this, but you can choose whatever best suits you. Although the 2013 Northwestern Wildcats will be returning guys like Kain Colter, Venric Mark, Nick VanHoose and others, they will be losing a quality group of seniors that helped lead this team to their third 10-win season in program history.
100: Number of combined career starts by graduating offensive linemen.
The left side of Brian Mulroe (40 career starts) and Patrick Ward (39) helped ignite a rejuvenated Northwestern ground game and spring Venric Mark to a second-team All-Big Ten honor. Ward, a former 4-star recruit, out-performed his predecessor at left tackle, Al Netter, and Netter is headed to the NFC Championship game as a member of the 49ers practice squad. Mulroe was named second team All-Big Ten, but you could make the argument that he deserved to be on the first team list. The ‘Cats have some great players waiting in the wings (Paul Jorgensen, Matt Frazier, Geoff Mogus, Adam DePietro), but replacing those two will be critical to Northwestern’s success next year. Also a huge round of applause is owed to Neal Deiters who was able to step in and lock down the right guard spot while playing some quality football.
14.5: Combined tackles for loss by Brian Arnfelt and Quentin Williams this season.
The Northwestern pass rush improved drastically this year, and these two seniors were a large part of it. Arnfelt and Williams forced two fumbles each and combined for 7.5 sacks (3 for Arnfelt and 4.5 for Williams). Arnfelt was also instrumental in turning around the Northwestern rush defense that finished third in the Big Ten. While Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson should be able to fill Williams’ void, the ‘Cats will need to find someone (Chance Carter or Will Hampton) to step up at defensive tackle. More importantly, Arnfelt was the only Minnesotan on the roster, meaning I AM ALL ALONE… you betcha.
181: Tackles by David Nwabuisi the last two years.
Nwabuisi finished second on the team in tackles (97) and third in tackles for loss (8.5) this year. He also finished tied for the team lead in interceptions with three, including his sick pick six (say that five times fast) against Michigan State. Nwabuisi may be best remembered for his forced fumble in the Outback Bowl that gave the ‘Cats new life against Auburn. The emergence of Drew Smith near the end of the season should help smooth the transition at outside linebacker, and Chi Chi Ariguzo is a worthy replacement for best name on the team.
2: Number of iconic catches by Demetrius Fields.
My list of favorite plays in the last three years goes: 1) Jeremy Ebert taking a dump on the entire state of Nebraska, 2) Fields’ touchdown to beat Iowa in 2010 (minus the Persa injury on the play), and 3) Fields’ touchdown to beat Syracuse in the 2012 season opener. ALL HE DOES IS WIN. Fields finished fourth on the team in receiving each of the last three years and seemed to have good chemistry with Trevor Siemian. Fields was a consistent contributor on offense who got the job done in big moments. Demetrius Fields forever.
It’s impossible to mention all of the seniors who have had a positive impact on this team (Tyris Jones, Jared Carpenter, Chuck Porcelli, Bo Cisek, et al). To ease the pain of losing all of these outstanding players, I will be listening to a Taylor Swift playlist to remind me that life could be a lot worse. That girl got issues. That said, nothing can lessen the blow of knowing that Evan Watkins and I are never ever ever ever getting back together. Considering the terrible luck this guy had, I would have given anything to see him get a shot at superback. But, alas, his graduation is the reason for the teardrops on my guitar.