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Once clueless, NU's Kafka looking forward to Miami
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/6/2009 12:01 AM

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Senior quarterback Mike Kafka gets another chance to face Miami (Ohio) as Northwestern welcomes the winless RedHawks to Ryan Field on Saturday.

Thinking about his first game against Miami makes Kafka laugh.

"I was clueless," Kafka said. "Yeah, I was totally clueless."

His numbers from that 2006 season opener don't betray his mindless state.

In the debut for the then-redshirt freshman - as well as the first game for coach Pat Fitzgerald after the death of Randy Walker - Kafka threw for 106 yards and rushed for 89 to lead the Wildcats to a 21-3 victory.

"That was the bad part," Kafka said. "I didn't know (I was clueless). As a freshman, and I know (running back) Arby (Fields) is going through this right now, you're out there playing and you're trying to do your job.

"I was just trying to find myself and do my job the best I could. Guys were demanding a lot out of me. And to figure all those things out and to lead a team and do all these different things, my head was just spinning."

Kafka started his first four games in 2006, but an injury and some ineffectiveness helped Andrew Brewer take over by Week 5.

Brewer, now a starting receiver, started three games before C.J. Bacher took over for the final five games of the 2006 season.

Kafka didn't regain the quarterback job - save a Bacher injury for two games last fall - until this season.

Now he ranks second in the Big Ten in total offense (263.8 yards per game) and boasts a passer efficiency rating of 136.4.

If Kafka maintains that rating for the rest of the season, he'll edge the Northwestern single-season record of 136.3 set by Len Williams in 1991.

'Cats tales: Junior kicker Stefan Demos shared the Big Ten's special teams player of the week honor with Penn State punter Jeremy Boone.

Demos converted 4 field-goal attempts in the 27-21 win at Purdue. He's 8-for-8 on the year.

Converted safety David Arnold has ascended to the starting job at strong-side linebacker. The oft-injured Arnold, who replaces Ben Johnson, earned his first start after earning his first career sack and forcing a fumble on kick coverage at Purdue.

Running back Stephen Simmons is unofficially listed as "questionable" by coach Pat Fitzgerald. Simmons has missed the last three games with an ankle injury. The Wildcats have averaged 67.7 rushing yards per game in Simmons' absence.

Coffman honored: Northern Illinois is in the midst of a bye week, which means defensive end Jake Coffman gets to enjoy his MAC West defensive player of the week honor for a little longer.

Coffman, a Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq before walking on at NIU, returned an interception 79 yards for a score during the 38-3 win over Western Michigan on Saturday.

Coffman also recovered a fumble and registered a tackle for loss.