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Northwestern practice notes: September 24

The offense looked good heading into its matchup with Penn State.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

- Crowd noise and music were blaring again. The speakers sounded out, among other things, the Penn State fight song, the classic "We Are Penn State" song and chant, and another soccer style Nittany Lions chant. However, the speakers can't come close to replicating the actual noise the Wildcats will face on Saturday.

- The first team defense was practicing against some direct snaps and wildcat formations. That's one of many features of new PSU coach James Franklin's offense, and it seems like defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz thinks that's something NU could see from Penn State on Saturday.

- Blocking on kickoff returns had a fired up Fitzgerald clapping his hands vigorously and yelling "There it is! There it is!". NU could certainly use a big play in the return game on Saturday. Solomon Vault and Miles Shuler looked to be the number one and two returners.

- Zach Oliver looked crisp, but don't go crazy with the "he should start" statements. Siemian made some very nice throws himself, including two to the back corner of the end zone (one to Miles Shuler, another to Jayme Taylor), and might actually have looked just as good or even better. And anyway, it's just one practice. Siemian is far and away the clear starter.

- Both of Siemian's ankles were heavily taped.

- Siemian kept the ball on the read option once. Clearly he's not the greatest runner, but that's something he'll have to do every once in a while just to keep the defense honest if NU wants to run a traditional read option.

- During 11-on-11 and 7-on-7, Clayton Thorson took significantly more snaps than Matt Alviti.

- The offense as a whole was moving at a brisk pace today, and for the first time in what seems like a while, might've outperformed the defense. Though it must be noted, the first teams weren't matched up with each other.

- Anthony Walker Jr. was practicing with the first team in Collin Ellis' stead. Ellis was injured Saturday against WIU, and was in a sweatshirt and shorts today.

- Ibraheim Campbell was in uniform, and was practicing with the first team.

- It looked like Cameron Dickerson was practicing, but in a red jersey, which likely means he's not 100 percent yet. Dickerson was injured on Saturday, and his status for the trip to Happy Valley is still unclear.

- Tony Jones though did look like he was a full go, or close to it. He was riding the exercise bike at times, but was on the field with the first team offense throughout practice.

Post-practice quotes

- On going into Big Ten play, Fitz said, "I think this is why you decide to go to a school like Northwestern. You get a great degree from a great school, arguably the best in power five football, and then compete at the highest level in a power five conference and play a team that's undefeated on the road. It's a great challenge to find out where we're at and handle a road trip like we do at home."

- Miles Shuler said one of his issues coming in was catching the football consistently. "Me and Kyle Prater all summer, we been working on jug machines and throwing the football to each other," he said, "It worked out, every day in the summer just bringing the work and it shows up in practice."

- Shuler said about the upcoming match-up with Penn State, "I'm ready. It's going to be my first Big Ten game. I know it's going to be different from the Big East and AAC conference, so I'm really looking forward to it, going back home to Penn State. I can't wait."