Murphy leads Glenbard North


Murphy leads Glenbard North

Brian Murphy could be excused if he just handed the ball off to Justin Jackson, stepped back and admired how Glenbard North's sensational junior running back carved up opposing defenses, as he did in Saturday's 29-23 victory over top-ranked Maine South in the quarterfinals of the Class 8A playoff.

Murphy, the Panthers' 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior quarterback, admits he is tempted from time to time to ooh and aah. But he has too many other things to do. Like Jackson, he rarely comes off the field. He loves being a two-year, two-way starter in one of the state's premier programs.

"He is a great leader," coach Ryan Wilkens said. "He led us to the semifinals last year. He does more than hand off to Jackson. He is very quick. He extends plays. His decision-making is very good. We can run the option with him. He is such a great competitor."

Not bad for a kid who has earned a full scholarship to Michigan as a 152-pound wrestler.

"Football is over for me after this year. I've got to make it a good ending," Murphy said. "I love football I don't have it to be playing in Division I. It takes a lot to play in Division I, especially in football. I watch them on TV and they are on a whole different level."

Murphy started playing football with the Carol Stream Panthers youth program. But his father, who wrestled in high school, asked his son if he would like to try out for the sport. "Will I get punched or kicked?" Brian asked.

"Wrestling puts a lot of pressure on yourself. You are the only one on the mat. It is embarrassing when you get pinned (he has been pinned twice in his career)," Murphy said. "You've got to perform. Your teammates look for you to do something big. But they can't help you. You have to do it by yourself.

"In football, you have to work as a group. You have to stay positive. Teamwork is very important. I've been playing with guys for eight years. In football, victory isn't just for yourself. It is a great time when you know people you care about you made happy.

"A pin is the biggest satisfaction you can get in wrestling. It is nice to know you accomplished that goal all by yourself. In football, winning a game is the biggest satisfaction, knowing that you did it together, playing with your teammates and your friends."

On the football field, Murphy was an all-conference selection this year. He has rushed for more than 500 yards and five touchdowns and passed for more than 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns. He was brought up to the varsity as a sophomore to play safety. On defense, he starts at strong safety, Jackson at cornerback.

Against Maine South, Murphy completed 8 of 12 passes for 133 yards and was credited with three sacks. His 11-yard run on a naked bootleg on third-and-10 with 1:30 to play sealed the victory. Jackson rushed 36 times for 212 yards and four touchdowns as Glenbard North handed Maine South only its fourth loss in the last three years.

"It wasn't the biggest win of my career," Wilkens said. "The biggest win was beating Mount Carmel to get to the state championship game in 2007. We didn't want to make too much of it. We went about it like another game.  But it was a big win."

The Carol Stream school (11-1) will meet Loyola (11-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Wilmette. It is the Panthers' third trip to the state semifinals in the last four years. Since losing their season opener to Batavia 42-41, they have won 11 games in a row and the DuPage Valley championship.

How good is Jackson?

"I wouldn't trade him for anybody," said Wilkens about his star running back, who has rushed for 2,300 yards and 32 touchdowns. "The big thing is he never comes off the field. He plays every down on defense as a cornerback. And now that we've lost our punter with an injury, he is our punter, too."

Jackson, a 5-foot-11, 175-pounder, also is an outstanding student. He has a 5.0 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale in honors classes. Wilkens said colleges are recruiting him as an athlete, a telltale sign that they project him as something other than a running back.

"He wants to be a tailback. But he is a phenomenal defensive back, too. I could see him playing either position in college," Wilkens said. "He seldom practices on offense. He does reaction drills on defense. What amazes me is he wants the ball in his hands and he makes big plays in the fourth quarter."

Murphy sees another side to Jackson. "It is easy to see he is a great athlete and a great football player. But not everybody sees what a great kid and leader he is. I wouldn't want any other running back on our team. I'm amazed at his vision on the field. He knows where everyone is, who is making the blocks. His football smarts make him a great player. Then throw in his athletic ability and you have an outstanding football player," he said.

How good is this team? Better than last year? Better than the state runner-up in 2007?

"I watched the 2007 team but I couldn't make a comparison," Murphy said. "But I think this year's team is more explosive on offense than last year. Both defenses are very good. We don't have any position strength on defense. We all just do our jobs, play with a lot of heart and go to the ball. We never stop on defense. We maybe aren't the most athletic kids but we work the hardest."

In the wake of beating Maine South, is there a danger of being complacent for the Loyola game?

"Maine South is in the past," Murphy said. "If we lost to Loyola, it would be very disappointing. But we won't be complacent. We want to be sure we are focused. We want to go to the state title game. That has been our goal since youth football. At that time, it seemed so far away. But once you are in high school you realize you can do it.

"We want to get over the semifinal hump (Glenbard North was second in 1991, 2000 and 2007). We want to be the first team to win the state title. We believe we can do it."

Badgers defense puts Hawkeyes on lock down in win


Badgers defense puts Hawkeyes on lock down in win

In case you didn't know it already, this Wisconsin defense is very, very good.

Iowa doesn't have the most potent offense in the Big Ten, but that shouldn't cloud the impressiveness of another shut-down performance by the Badgers, who kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone in Saturday's 17-9 win in Iowa City.

Wisconsin allowed just 236 total yards, only 83 on the ground, and limited Iowa to 2-for-13 on third down in the victory, one that moved the Badgers ahead of the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West Division standings.

The Badgers' offensive production, at least when it came to everything besides points, was impressive, too. At halftime, Wisconsin had 246 total yards, 12 first downs, no penalties and nearly seven minutes more time of possession than Iowa. But the Badgers could only turn three red-zone trips into seven points, missing a field goal in the first quarter and giving away a goal-line fumble right before halftime. That lone touchdown was a pitch from backup quarterback Bart Houston to Troy Fumagalli.

After the Hawkeyes had to settle for a field goal that made it 7-3, Alex Hornibrook hit Kyle Penniston for a huge 54-yard gain down to the Iowa five-yard line. But three plays later, Corey Clement leaped for the end zone and coughed up the ball, a fumble recovered by the Hawkeyes for a touchback. C.J. Beathard then took Iowa down the field, setting up a 47-yard field goal that made it just a one-point game at halftime.

The narrow halftime deficit was a huge victory for the Hawkeyes, who had to settle for that first field goal after a series of mistakes emblematic of their first half. On third and one, a false start erased a first down, and on the next play, a Beathard touchdown pass to Riley McCarron was negated when Kirk Ferentz called a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.

Wisconsin finally rediscovered red-zone success midway through the third quarter, Clement punching in a touchdown from a yard out after a 57-yard Hornibrook throw to Quintez Cephus got the Badgers back down to the five-yard line.

But Wisconsin had another missed opportunity not long after, as Andrew Endicott missed his second field-goal try of the game, this one a more understandable miss from 52 yards away. After a battle of the punters for the majority of the second half, Iowa got down to the Wisconsin 21-yard line with about five and a half minutes left, but the Hawkeyes also missed a field-goal attempt, keeping it an eight-point game.

The Badgers marched down the field on a 62-yard drive, Clement's 34-yard dash the biggest play, and sealed the game with a field goal. Not even a massive kick return from Desmond King, which set up another Iowa field goal, could bail out the Hawkeyes.

Clement finished with 134 yards and a touchdown, with Hornibrook completing 11 passes for 197 yards.

Wisconsin's win sent it to 5-2 on the season, the first victory in a while after back-to-back losses to Michigan and Ohio State. Next up is another colossal showdown against Nebraska.

Iowa's loss was its third of the season, dropping the Hawkeyes to 5-3. Next up is a game at Penn State.

Northwestern starts fast, hangs on for win over Hoosiers


Northwestern starts fast, hangs on for win over Hoosiers

EVANSTON — Earlier this week, Pat Fitzgerald declared the Northwestern team that went 1-3 in its first four games of the season dead.

Boy does he seem right.

For the third straight game, the Wildcats’ offense had a big day, scoring early and often in a 24-14 victory over Indiana on Saturday in Evanston. Even with the offensive production falling off a cliff in the second half, that fast start allowed Northwestern to hold on for the victory.

Things started with a bang, Northwestern scoring on each of its first two possessions. Clayton Thorson and the Cats made things look easy, turning back-to-back picture-perfect scoring drives, the first going 70 yards on 11 plays and ending in a Thorson pass to Solomon Vault and the second going 75 yards in just five plays, the capper a 34-yard scoring toss from Thorson to Austin Carr. It was Carr’s sixth straight game with a touchdown catch.

After going three and out on their first two drives, the Hoosiers got on the board with a field goal, though it was one forced on a strong stand by the Cats’ defense at the three-yard line. Then Northwestern struck right back with another touchdown, a 32-yard pass from Thorson to Macan Wilson to end a 79-yard scoring drive.

Northwestern’s defense forced two turnovers after that — a crazy Montre Hartage interception and a turnover on downs — and outside of a strange fake field goal that puzzled all watching, Northwestern finished off a near-perfect first half with a buzzer-beating field goal to go to the break up by three touchdowns.

But after halftime, the Northwestern offense struggled to replicate its first-half success against a much-improved Indiana defense. The Cats ran just 14 plays and gained only 25 yards in the third quarter, allowing the Hoosiers to kick a field goal and score a touchdown (sandwiched around another turnover on downs) to slice the deficit down to 12.

Indiana missed a long field-goal try at the outset of the fourth quarter, but the Northwestern defense deserves plenty of credit for keeping the margin large enough to cover for the suddenly silent offense. The Cats turned in a couple of huge third-down sacks, and defensive back Kyle Queiro made an unbelievable, highlight-reel interception, looking like Odell Beckham Jr. with the one-handed snag.

The Hoosiers made one final attempt at a score with about two minutes remaining but again turned the ball over on downs. The Cats took a safety on purpose in the game's final minute backed up deep in their own territory, hence the 24-14 final.

The win sent the Cats to 4-3 on the season. Next up is a game at Ohio State.

The loss dropped the Hoosiers to 3-4. Next up is a home game against Maryland.