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September 11, 1980 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-09-11

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The Michigan Daily-Thursday, September 11, 1980-Page 1 1



Weak defense heads Wildcat woes

Sixth in a nine-part series
Editor's note: This is the sixth in
a series of nine articles examining
the 1980 Big Ten football season.
The series was written by Daily
Sports Editor Alan Fanger and
Executive Sports Editor Mark Mi-
In this, his third year as North-
western0s head football coach, Rick
Venturi has thrust into several other
roles-that of guru, faith healer,
minister, and any other position that
might entail the maintenance of a
positive outlook on life.

He speaks of the "new attitude" that
has enveloped his perennial conference
doormat team, the process by which his
players have "learned to cope" with
"It's difficult right now for us to set
realistic goals (for the season)," Ven-
turi said at the Big Ten Kickoff Lun-
cheon last month. "You've got to keep
that attitudinal base."
Fpom all indications, the base is stpr-
dy;, Venturi's players are just as en-
thusiastic as their counterparts on the
nine other conference teams. What he
now needs is talent. In massive quan-
The Wildcats sport only one player of
noticeable quality on their roster.
That's split end Todd Sheets, a sure-
handed receiver who last year ranked
second in the league in receptions with
34 (in nine Big Ten contests).
The rest of the squad is composed of
inexperienced players-mostly fresh-
men and sophomores-who Venturi
feels can brighten Northwestern's
future considerably. Sheets explained
that Venturi is especially adept at
motivting his younger players.
"He's so good at doing that kind of
thing," he said. "I've never seen him
down. And it's going to rub off."
What may rub off on the Wildcats'
opponents is their penchant for putting
the pigskin in the air. Venturi likes a
wide-open style of play, and he was true
to his word last year-Northwestern
threw an average of 33 passes per
To Venturi's dismay, the completion

percentage wasn't exactly inflated, like
the number of attempts. Kevin
Strasser, Chris Capstram, and Mike
Kerrigan were successful on a collec-
tive average of 44 percent of their
tosses. The latter two signal-callers are
likely to split time in their duties this
season, but Venturi added that his team
will spend more time establishing a
ground game.
The running attack will be built
around tailback Jeff Cohn, a 5-10, 175-
pound tailback who is recognized as an
explosive speedster. Venturi calls him

progress. For instance, I think we have
a much better secondary now than we
did two years ago."
Among those defensive backs who
have improved significantly, says Ven-
turi, is sophomore free safety Bobby
Anderson. He describes the Rockford,-
Ill. product as "a fine football player
week-in-and-week out." Along with
Kern, they provide the Wildcats with
their only legitimate strength.
Northwestern opened its season
Saturday on a sour note, losing to
Illinois in Champaign, 35-9. The defeat

I Duran-LeonardllI
PANAMA CITY (AP)-World Boxing Council welterweight champion Roberto
Duran says he will give former titleholder Sugar Ray Leonard a rematch Novem-
ber 25. But Leonard's attorney, Ike Trainer, said yesterday final agreement on
another Duran-Leonard fight was "not firm. It is not extremely close."
And in Washington, another figure in the Leonard camp, long-time trainer
Dave Jacobs, said yesterday he is terminating his relationship with the fighter
because he disagrees with a decision that Leonard's next fight should be againsi
In a television interview from Panama City Tuesday, Duran confirmed
rumors that he again would fight Leonard, whom he defeated in a unanimouj
decision June 20 in Montreal. The champion did not say where the fight would bo
Trainer said Duran's demands had been met and the bout was virtually set for
November 25 in the Astrodome in Houston. However, he said promoter Don King
entered the negotiations and confused everything by convincing Duran's manager;
Carlos Eleta, not to sign.
"The fight is kind of stalled right now," said Trainer.
Leonard said he wants "to fight Duran as soon as possible."
Duran said he would recieve $10 million for the Leonard fight, for which he
already has begun training. +
Duran does not intend to retire after fighting Leonard, said he was lookin4
forward to a bout with Tommy Hearns, the World Boxing Association champion
for a $15 million purse.
Jacobs has been Leonard's trainer of 10 years. "My idea is that he shoulk
have a tuneup fight before he fights with Roberto again," said Jacobs.
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"a rising star." But Cohn is the only
bona fide performer in the backfield.
The interior line is severely inex-
perienced, as guard Bill Draznik and
tackle Jim Ford are the only returning
starters. Both are considered good pass
When speaking about his defense,
Venturi tempers his optimism with a
heavy dose of realism, although he's
naturally pleased to have nine starters,
including all-conference linebacker
Chuck Kern, back for the 1980 cam-
"I feel we're improving (defen-
sively)," he said. "I think we're still a 1
ways away at a couple of key positions.
But I think there's been a lot of'

tasted especially bitter, since the Wild-
cats had built up a 9-0 halftime lead.
"We played an aggressive first half,"
said Venturi. "I think it was our inbility
to capitalize that certainly made a big
impact on the game.
"I have to give them (Illinois) credit
for being 9-0 and having the staying
power to play the tough football they
did, he continued. "We're very
frustrated after this one. Our pride is
hurt a little bit.
"I think if we can hang in there, the
second half of the season will turn out
okay. We can't dwell on it. There are 10
games left and they're all just 4s im-
portant. We just have to live one week
at a time."
TOMORROW: Ohio State

... star receiver

Wildcats struggling

,..to shed loi
R atience. That's been the battlecry
for Northwestern gridiron fans for the
greater part of the decade of the 1970's,
as they have suffered through losing
,Wildcat season after losing season.
Some even cried for the team to drop
out of the Big Ten conference, but Nor-
thwestern is determined to not only
remain in the conference, but to erase
memories of its recent futility, as well.
newest attempt to rebuild, under third-
year head coach Rick Venturi prove
successful, it will break up a decade-old
trend of failure. During the 70's, the
Wildcats have compiled these
unenviable statistics:
" five last-place finishes in the Big Ten
" third-worst winning percentage
among Division I schools
" winless in homecoming games since
e n o All-American players since 1971
f no Big Ten titles
Despite playing well against powerful
teams such as Purdue (in a 20-16 loss)
and Ohio State (a 16-7 loss), the Wild-
cats once again displayed their inep-
titude throughout the 1979 season. When
the campaign came to an end, North-
western found itself last in the Big Ten
in six of the eight team statistics. They
were outscored 386-115 and outgained
by 2,212 yards last season.
As is the case with any team that
bears a losing tradition, the Wildcats
draw fans in embarrassingly low num-
bers. In five home games,. North-
western drew a paltry 101,100 fans.
Take note: the Wildcats played in front
of 100,790 people in a single game at
losing, Northwestern shows no signs of
panicking. Whereas most coaches with
a two-year record of 1-20-1 would be
O orried about their jobs, Rick Venturi
enjoys relative security. Unlike that of
Illinois, which backed out of a five-year
commitment given to Gary Moeller, the

sing image,
Wildcat athletic department is ex-
tremely supportive of Venturi. North-
western Assistant Sports Information
Director Don MacLachlan stated, "The
athletic department will honor its con-
tract with Coach Venturi. We know it
takes time to build a team into a con-
tender. We've made a commitment,
and we're willing to wait."
Associate Athletic Director Ken
Kraft is optimistic, as -well. "I was a
student at Northwestern in 1955, and we
didn't win a game. Following this, there
wap a cry for Northwestern to leave the
Big Ten. However, we stayed, and four
years later we were rated number one
for six straight weeks. Things move in
trends and cycles, both up and down.,
We can be competitive."
"We very strongly want to stay,"
Kraft emphasized. "It is very impor-
tant to us to be associated with the Big
One aspect of Northwestern football
that the Wildcats can brag about is the
performance of the athletes in the
classroom. Over the last five years, the
Wildcats have had more players named
to the All-Big Ten Academic Team than
any other conference school. On this
subject, Kraft boasts, "We are one
team that is competing with true
parallel level of performance on the
gridiron, and is relying on a strong
freshman class to achieve it. Venturi's
attempts to recruit players that can
turn the program around have proven
to be extremely successful, as 13 of the
incoming freshmen were all-state
during their respective high school
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Friends wish you luck
on a big exam. Good friends stick
around to see how you did.


JUuuig UK;- : 1

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