EVANSTON, Ill. -- There is at least one big question hanging over Northwestern coming off a rebound season.Can the Wildcats sustain it?Northwestern used a dominant defense to carry a struggling offense on the way to a 10-3 record last season.While the Wildcats re-established themselves as a threat in the Big Ten after going 5-7 each of the previous two years, there was certainly room for improvement. After all, the offense finished last in the conference in scoring and yards per game. Good thing for Northwestern, the defense came up big -- particularly linebacker Anthony Walker Jr.Hes back, and the Wildcats want to show that they are, too.They come into their 11th season under coach Pat Fitzgerald eyeing another big run like the one that led to bowl games five straight years before the recent struggles.Here are some things to look for this season:ITS A BIRD! ... ITS A PLANE!Its The Franchise, Anthony Walker Jr.The star linebacker coming off a breakout sophomore season is at the center of a promotional blitz the likes of which Northwestern has not launched since touting quarterback Dan Persa as a Heisman Trophy candidate five years ago.The Franchise campaign plays off the nickname teammates gave Walker. It also adds in a superhero twist complete with a logo, comic strip and lunch box as well as videos -- one featuring coach Pat Fitzgerald in a so-called news report about his powers.It all comes on the heels of a season that saw Walker lead the Wildcats in tackles (122) by more than 30, finish fourth in the nation with 20 1/2 tackles for loss and earn third-team, All-America honors.You definitely have to be humble with it and know what got you there, Walker said. Its a blessing. Everything happens for a reason. I love it.CLOSE LOOKNorthwestern went 5-0 in games decided by seven points or less, including a 30-28 victory at Nebraska and a 13-7 win at Wisconsin.Credit the Wildcats for pulling out tight victories. The narrow margin also underscores just how thin that line between 10 wins and a .500 record or even a losing mark was for them. And when then they lost, did they ever do it in grand style.They got blasted at Michigan 38-0 and dominated at home by Iowa 40-10 the following week. And they wrapped up the season by getting pounded 45-6 by Tennessee in the Outback Bowl.When you talk about motivation in the offseason you dont have to look any further than those three games and a lot of specifics that well talk about internally in areas that we need to improve on in all three phases for us to win those games, Fitzgerald said.ARMED AND READY?Whether Northwestern builds on a big season could hinge on its ability to score more points, and that begins with the man behind center.Quarterback Clayton Thorson did not have to carry a heavy load last year. But now that he has a season behind him, things could change. His development could go a long way toward determining how successful the Wildcats are this season.GROUND GAINSAnother big key for the Wildcats will be Justin Jackson. He comes into his junior season as the Big Tens top returning rusher after finishing second to Ohio States Ezekiel Elliott last season with 1,418 yards. As impressive as that sounds, there was plenty of room for improvement.He shouldered a huge load with 312 attempts but averaged 4.5 yards per carry and ran for five touchdowns. In the losses to Michigan and Iowa, Jackson combined to run for 55 yards.I feel like when were able to run the ball, our team is successful, Jackson said. It takes some pressure off the passing game, some pressure off our defense -- it gives them a rest. In those games, that didnt happen.ABOUT THAT `DWhile Walker returns, the defense will be missing four starters from last season. Defensive ends Deonte Gibson and Dean Lowry, cornerback Nick VanHoose and safety Traveon Henry all played important roles. The Wildcats are counting on Ifeadi Odenigbo (15 career sacks) and Xavier Washington to take over for Gibson and Lowry.SEASON OPENERThe Wildcats open at home against Western Michigan on Sept. 3. 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It took three playoff holes, but the top-ranked South Korean star persevered by draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th to outlast Catriona Matthew and claim the rain-delayed major. Park won her fourth title of the season and second of two majors in what became an extended golf marathon at the 6,500-yard, water-logged Locust Hill Country Club outside of Rochester. The two-round final day was forced after torrential rains postponed the start of the first round Thursday. By 8 p.m. on Sunday -- about 12 hours after Park teed off to open the third round -- a winner was finally decided. "Its almost a miracle that I won today," Park said. "I think I got lucky there, too. And I really tried to fight off and tried not to give up. That really paid off." Park closed with a 3-over 75 to match Matthew at 5-under 383. The 42-year-old Matthew, from Scotland, got to the playoff in an altogether different fashion. She finished with a bogey-free 68 before anxiously waiting to see whether that was enough to give her a shot. "When I started the last round, I probably didnt realize I could win," Matthew said, noting she was seven shots back when the final round began. "So to play well, and get into the playoffs was obviously pretty good. Obviously, when you get into it, its pretty disappointing. But overall, a pretty good week." After both made par on the first two playoff holes, Matthew struggled off the 18th tee on the third. After having difficulty advancing the ball out of the rough just below the green on her third shot, Matthew missed a 50-foot par chip. The 24-year-old Park also won the Kraft Nabisco in California in early April and has four victories this year. With the victory, Asian players have won nine straight majors. Also the 2008 U.S. Womens Open winner, Park became only the seventh player to win the LPGAs first two majors in a season, and the first since Annika Sorenstam won the same two events in 2005. Park has seven careeer LPGA Tour victories, six in her last 22 starts.dddddddddddd In claiming the $337,500 first prize, Park increased her season winnings to $1.22 million, and moved into 25th on the LPGA Tours career list at just under $6.5 million. Suzann Pettersen and Morgan Pressel tied for third, a shot behind the leaders. Pettersen had the low round for the tournament, closing with a 65. Pressel collapsed after she opened the day with a two-stroke lead through two rounds at 6-under 138. "Im definitely disappointed, but its the first time in a long time Ive contended," said Pressel, winless since 2008. "Im happy with the way that I played this week as a whole. I had chances. Nothing went in. And that happens." Trailing Pressel by five shots midway through the third round, Park surged into a one-shot lead with birdies on four of her final six holes for a 68. Despite her struggles, it was a lead she wouldnt relinquish. Park spent the final two rounds playing in the final threesome with Pressel and Chella Choi. Tied with Pressel at 7 under with nine holes left, Park appeared to take control in building a three-shot lead after the 12th hole. Pressel bogeyed Nos. 10 and 12, while Park drained a 3-foot putt for a birdie on No. 11. Park, however, couldnt close, and had to scramble to make a bogey on the 18th. She flew her tee shot into the left rough, and barely advanced the ball with her second shot. Park carried the green with her third shot, which landed in the rough about 25 feet above the hole. Park putted to within 16 inches on her par attempt, before sinking it for a bogey. "I pretty much played against Morgan all 36 holes. I was just trying to play better than her today," Park said, before noting she was surprised there was another contender. "I didnt know she was up there until I was I was on No. 18." It was the eighth playoff in LPGA Championships 59-year history, and first since 2008, when Yani Tseng needed four holes to defeat Maria Hjorth. At least the weather finally co-operated after persistent rain spent much of the past three days. Though several fairways and greens were still soggy, the players at least had the benefit of playing under mostly sunny skies and with temperatures pushing 80. "I felt like I ran a marathon today," Park said. "Im just happy we got it done. A major championship should have this kind of challenge, not the 36 holes every time, but this golf course." ' ' '