Siemian, Wildcats open home slate in style

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Siemian, Wildcats open home slate in style

EVANSTON -- It was a little bit of deja vu for coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats in the home opener Saturday.

A week after Trevor Siemian led a late drive to sneak out of Syracuse with a one-point win, the sophomore quarterback was back at it against Vanderbilt in a 23-13 win over the Commodores at Ryan Field.

The Wildcats' offense had sputtered all game until Siemian made his second appearance in the contest with his team down 10-6 in the third quarter. He completed 5-of-6 passes and engineered an 86-yard drive, ending in Venric Mark's seven-yard touchdown scamper.

The Commodores (0-2) promptly marched down the field on the next drive, but the Northwestern (2-0) defense held up in the red zone and forced a field goal.

Rain started to trickle down as Siemian took the ball on the Wildcats' next drive, which seemed to be fizzling out as the clock ticked down under four minutes. But on a third-and-15, the 6-foot-3 Florida native fired a pass toward wide receiver Rashad Lawrence on the sideline, who appeared to come down with the catch before losing control of the ball and fumbling out of bounds.

The referees reviewed the play and after a few tense moments, confirmed the call on the field that it was, indeed, a 34-yard reception and -- more importantly -- a first down.

"I didn't think he held on to it, to be honest with you," Siemian said. "And then it took a while and I thought maybe they're gonna swing it our way. Credit to Rashad. He made a heck of a catch. For him to be able to stick that one was huge for us."

Siemian finished the march down field and Jeff Budzien kicked an 18-yard field goal, his third of the day.

On the ensuing possession, Northwestern defensive end Tyler Scott forced a fumble from Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers -- the younger brother of Packers superstar Aaron Rodgers -- and the Wildcats recovered, all but ending the game.

"As a defense, we said we weren't done," Scott said. "We wanted to go out there and get some pressure on Jordan and cause him to throw the ball away or do something. It turned out even better."

Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter put the final stamp on the victory with a 29-yard dash to the endzone after he appeared to be trapped on another third-and-15. Colter finished with 66 yards on the ground and 42 through the air.

"Great to get a win. Very appreciative of our students. The crowd tonight was great," Fitzgerald said of the 31,644 fans in attendance, many of whom stuck around despite the fourth-quarter rain.

"It was the largest crowd we've had for a non-conference opener in a long time. To see the amount of students today with us not being in class yet was something special. You play for that, hopefully represent them the right way and I was just very appreciative of them coming out."

The fans didn't have much to cheer about in the first half, as the Wildcats put up just 85 yards of offense, only 10 of which came through the air. Colter and Siemian combined for an ugly 3-for-10 completion rate.

"Offensively, we fought ourselves today for a while," Fitzgerald said. "I'm not trying to discredit Vanderbilt. They played well and they had a great plan. But we have to throw the ball better, we have to catch the ball better and we've gotta execute better if we're gonna win moving forward.

"That was probably my biggest disappointment going into half, was the plays we left out there...I think we can be better than that. I really do. That's what we talked about at halftime."

Whatever Fitzgerald said apparently worked, as Northwestern outscored the Commodores 20-3 in the second half, including 17 fourth-quarter points. Siemian finished 10-of-16 for 91 yards while Mark racked up 158 all-purpose yards, including 123 rushing.

Rodgers finished with 217 yards, but only 86 came in the second half and 55 of those came on one big play during Vanderbilt's lone scoring drive after halftime.

The Wildcats held the Commodores to just three yards per carry on the night and forced the only two turnovers of the game.

"The defense played outstanding," Mark said. "They kept getting stops and the offense struggled, but once again, the defense stopped them. We finally got it clicking on all cylinders."

Fitzgerald agreed.

"I thought our defense gave us a chance to stay in the ballgame," Fitzgerald said. "I thought we played very well, very sound...We got good pressure on the quarterback and we affected him. There's no question about that."

The Wildcats will be home for the rest of September and head into next week's matchup with Boston College undefeated, no matter how close -- or flawed -- the victories were.

"The Wildcat Way is the way we play," Mark said. "Coach always harps on playing with passion and because we represent the Big Ten, we don't take any opponent lightly. We're going to come every week ready to play the game."

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

Kyle Fuller heads to injured reserve as Bears make other roster moves

The upheaval that has afflicted the 2016 Bears roster ratcheted up a notch late Tuesday when the Bears placed cornerback Kyle Fuller on injured reserve due to a knee injury and shuffled the depth chart elsewhere.

The Bears waived tight end Greg Scruggs, who was making the switch to offense from the defensive line, and linebacker Jonathan Anderson, while moving linebacker John Timu from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. To fortify the defensive line, where nose tackle Eddie Goldman is down indefinitely with an ankle injury, the Bears signed CJ Wilson, a 2010 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers who has played for the Packers, Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions, starting 19 of 78 career games played.

Fuller, the 14th-overall pick of the 2014 draft and once identified as a building block of the Bears defense, underwent knee surgery Aug. 15 while the team went to New England for practices and a preseason game with the Patriots. He had been making significant strides in recovery as far as straight-ahead running but was still hampered with change-of-direction.

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Coach John Fox on Monday said simply that Fuller “has a sore knee. It has some medical things that kind of restrict you. When we get that healed up, he’ll go.”

The IR designation does not necessarily end Fuller’s season. Beginning in 2013, under an agreement between the NFL and Players Association, one player per team may be placed on injured reserve and later be brought back to the active roster. That player must sit out six weeks and cannot be activated for an additional two weeks.

With inside linebacker Danny Trevathan out following surgery on his thumb, Anderson had been expected to see additional playing time, possibly with the No. 1 unit. But rookie Nick Kwiatkoski started Sunday at Dallas in the base 3-4 and Christian Jones cycled in with sub packages.

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs aim to stay hot vs. Pirates Wednesday on CSN

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs aim to stay hot vs. Pirates Wednesday on CSN

Jake Arrieta takes the hill as the Cubs continue their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN at 6 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Jake Arrieta (18-7, 2.85 ERA) vs. Jameson Taillon (4-4, 3.49 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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