Last Saturday night, Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka began the game against Syracuse with a school-record 16 straight completions, and set a single-game completion record by hitting 83.3 percent of his passes?35-of-42 for a career-best 390 yards. Current Chicago Bears practice squad QB Brett Basanez held NU?s previous single game mark of 80.6 percent. Kafka, who tossed a career-best three TD passes, also rushed for a score and was on the receiving end of a 24 yard TD pass, making him the first Big Ten player since 2004 to accomplish that rare trifecta. (Penn State?s Zack Mills). For his record-setting performance, Mike Kafka was named the Big Ten?s Co-Offensive Player of the Week Sunday night, sharing the honor with Michigan running back Carlos Brown. It was the second Big Ten weekly honor of Kafka?s career.
?All Mike Kafka did last year with his opportunity was run for a Big Ten single-game record (for a quarterback) 217 yards,? Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said describing the award Kafka won in '08. Because of his performance in that single game, a 24-17 win at nationally ranked Minnesota (the rematch is this Saturday at Ryan Field), Kafka was named an AT&T All-America Player of the Week candidate and earned an ESPN College Gameday ?Helmet Sticker.?
Because of that publicity, Kafka?s earned a reputation as a Randall Cunningham type, run-first style quarterback. I asked him what he thinks of that designation. ?It?s a nice little label, but?everyone?s going to have opinions on you, and I can throw the ball too,? he responded.
Coach Fitz vouched for Kafka?s passing ability, as a complement to the scrambling that he?s known for. ?We?re going to ask Mike to run our offense and if that involves running then that?s what we?re going to do. But as I?ve said, he completed more passes than anyone wants to give him credit for last year, right around 70 percent. Mike can throw it well, we?ll spread it out and I think he?s a true definition of a dual-threat quarterback.?
But that credit is slowly trickling in for Kafka, as he?s just one of 20 quarterbacks nationally, three from the Big Ten, named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list. And his passing accuracy is reflected by the fact that he?s completed 62 percent of his career pass attempts. With Kafka under center, Northwestern currently leads the Big Ten and ranks 12th nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 164.9. The Wildcats also rank second in the Big Ten and 17th nationally in passing offense (278.7 ypg). Kafka?s QB role model is a player who was certainly known for passing more than scrambling.
?One of the guys I look up to is Brett Favre, I love the way he plays the game and I try to model my game around his.? Aside from the "running quarterback" label, I asked him if there was anything else he had read or heard about himself in the mainstream media which he found grossly inaccurate.
?I leave that up to my parents, a lot of parents like reading that kind of stuff, but I really don?t read into it. I?m pretty confident in my abilities, I know I what I need to do. I know my teammates got my back, and I got their back, so that?s all that matters to me,? he responded.
Of course, in this age and day of web 2.0 and social media; opinions, facts, rumors, hints, allegations and things left unsaid, but implied get around more rapidly than ever. I asked the NU QB if he gets involved with things like Facebook, Twitter and the like.
?In the past I?ve had one. I still have a Facebook page, but I don?t check it that often, I?m thinking about just erasing it because it?s kind of a waste of time?I don?t care about it that much and it would kind of be a distraction throughout the season,? he replied.