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Northwestern’s secondary credits improved communication for their 8 INTs

Northwestern's Ibraheim Campbell runs with an interceptisecond half an NCAA college football game against Syracuse EvanstIll. Saturday Sept. 7 2013.

Northwestern's Ibraheim Campbell runs with an interception in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

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Updated: October 20, 2013 7:45AM



Northwestern’s Ibraheim Campbell is in the midst of an impressive streak. The junior safety has recorded an interception in five consecutive games and knows the impact they have made on the team.

But he also knows that the five interceptions directly have affected only five defensive plays. The secondary’s goal this offseason was to become more consistent on a play-by-play basis.

Players on the secondary have given themselves mixed reviews through the first three games. While the team struggled in the opener against Cal and gave up 460 yards passing, the Wildcats’ most recent performance against Western Michigan indicates the secondary will be better than last year’s unit, which ranked last in the conference in pass defense.

Last Saturday against the Broncos, Northwestern allowed only 202 yards passing on 41 attempts. Campbell attributes that stat to a trust he has developed with other members of the secondary.

“Basically knowing where they’re going to be, because it’s crucial to communicate, especially when there’s motion and things like that,” Campbell said. “Essentially knowing that they’re going to be in the right coverage, maybe if you don’t have time to look at them right after the play.”

Last season, the Wildcats’ secondary was vulnerable to giving up big plays. But they’ve limited them this season because they are more adept at reading the offense prior to the snap. Against Western Michigan, Northwestern allowed one big play in the passing game — a 75-yard touchdown pass from Tyler van Tubbergen to Corey Davis.

“If you watched a lot of Wildcat football in the past, there were a lot of coverage breakdowns,” sophomore safety Traveon Henry said. “That’s one thing that we’ve really tried to focus on and limit just by communicating, getting our hand signals.”

That communication has put the Wildcats in better position to make plays on the ball, resulting in their eight interceptions.

The players also are picking their spots better, which has led to fewer big plays for opponents.

“It’s just knowing you have the opportunity to [intercept a pass],” Henry said. “Sometimes you have to make the sure tackle, sometimes you see somebody’s wrapping him up and that’s when you come in and try to punch. When the ball is in the air, all the DBs have the mind-set to go pick it off.”

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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