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Northwestern’s Drake Dunsmore, right, is tackled by Michigan’s Kenny Demens during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011, in Evanston, Ill.
Published Wednesday November 2, 2011
Dunsmore finds niche
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LINCOLN — By the time he was through with Indiana last Saturday, Northwestern senior Drake Dunsmore had caught seven passes, scored four touchdowns and became the Wildcats’ all-time leader in receiving yards by a tight end.
A super performance, no doubt, for the starting “superback” in the Northwestern offense.
Dunsmore is a 6-foot-3, 235-pounder that the Wildcats will use all over the field. The superback position has evolved under head coach Pat Fitzgerald the last six seasons, and Dunsmore fits the hybrid role in the spread attack.
“At this point,” he said, “it’s a lot of fun to come in on Monday and see what the coaches put into the game plan.”
Dunsmore will get matched with linebackers and safeties, and maybe on the rare occasion a cornerback. He mostly went against the nickel back against Indiana, which he said plays a scheme similar to what he expects from Nebraska (Hoosiers co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler was a Husker assistant the last three seasons).
Dunsmore caught seven passes for 112 yards in the 59-38 win over Indiana. His TD receptions covered 6, 9, 10 and 22 yards and helped net him Big Ten offensive player of the week honors.
“It was just a combination of getting my number called and getting kind of lucky with some long runs we broke where guys just didn’t quite find the end zone,” he said.
With or without the career-best day, Dunsmore is somebody who would have had the Huskers’ attention going into their 2:30 p.m. game Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Mackey Award candidate is second among FBS tight ends this season with six touchdown catches (one behind Coby Fleener of Stanford) and has 14 for his career. Despite some injury problems early in his career, Dunsmore has 127 total receptions for 1,373 yards.
“He can really move,” Nebraska safety Austin Cassidy said. “Luckily we’ve got a guy like Kyler Reed, where we face a tight end who can split out and play a wide receiver spot. But any time you’ve got one of those guys, who can be a deep threat at you and maybe you have to put a linebacker on, that can create mismatch issues.”
Funny Cassidy mentions Reed, because the Husker junior actually played with Dunsmore at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Lenexa, Kan. Only Dunsmore was lightly recruited coming out of the Kansas City suburb and picked Northwestern over Kansas State and Tulsa.
After an injury-plagued start, he is on pace to exceed 40 receptions for a third consecutive season.
Fitzgerald called Dunsmore “a young man that I think guys on Sunday are very intrigued by.”
His father, Pat Dunsmore, played tight end at Drake and for two years with the Chicago Bears.
“He has a big month remaining in his career,” Fitzgerald said, “and we need him to keep playing better and better each week if we’re going to be where we want to be toward the end of the season.”
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