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November 3, 2008EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's Mike Kafka (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) and Brendan Smith (Andover, Mass./New Hampton Prep) were honored today by the Big Ten Conference, picking up respective Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week honors. It is the first career weekly honor for both players.
Kafka earned co-offensive honors after setting a Big Ten single-game rushing record by a quarterback with 217 yards on 27 carries (8.0 ypc). One of his runs went 53 yards, which helped set up NU's second TD of the game. He also completed 12-of-16 passes for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 360 yards of total offense were the most by an NU player this year.
Playing for the injured C.J. Bacher, Kafka was making his first career start since Sept. 22, 2006. His 217 yards were four more than Purdue's Gary Danielson registered against Washington in 1972.
Kafka, who has been nominated for this week's AT&T All-America Player of the Week honor, is sharing the Big Ten player-of-the-week honor with Purdue's Justin Siller.
Smith earned his first Big Ten honor largely due to his game-winning 48-yard interception return for touchdown. It was Smith's second "pick-six" of the season. With some tremendous blocking from his teammates, Smith scored on a weaving 48-yard run with 12 seconds to go to give the Wildcats the win, 24-17.
Smith, who also played a key role along with Brad Phillips in helping slow down Minnesota's Eric Decker, finished with six tackles (five solos) and the interception.
With the win, Northwestern moved to 7-2 on the season and all but locked up a postseason bowl berth. It was the Wildcats' third road win of the season.