The GoUPurple Review
the 2000 Season
The 2000 season was among
the most exciting in Wildcat history. We witnessed NU beating two
ranked opponents on the road (for the first time in at least 40 years),
Wildcat scores of 52, 54, and 61 points, and the greatest comeback in
history. What follows are excerpts from comments posted
the course of this thrilling season. Except where cited, the
were written by the Senior Editorial Staff of the GoUPurple Site (i.e.,
Six Weeks Until 'Cat2K [posted July 20]
Camp Kenosha is just a few
weeks away, and Big Ten football isn't be far behind. Most of the
national college football gurus are expecting modest results from NU
year. The 'Cats might not be playing for a conference title this
fall, but look for them to surprise a lot of people very early into the
Nears... [posted August 6]
With 'Cat2k almost here,
it seems that many fans are concerned about the rollover to the new
season, and the possibility of the meddlesome "'Cat2k Bug."
point to prophesies of doom and to last season's 3-8 record and predict
the worst. Gullible fans, in typical knee-jerk, run with the
group-think fashion, are stocking their basement survival shelters with
canned goods, ammunition, bottled water, bottled beer, DSS hookups, and
copies of Athlon and Street and Smith's. Some even think that the
lights won't work the night of the season opener-- the 'Cats will be
in the dark, and returning to the Dark Ages.
This, of course, will not
come to pass. NU will do just fine, and everyone will breathe a
sigh of relief (and regret that they spent $500.00 on 300 cans of Chef
Boyardee Chili-Mac and $4.99 on Lindy's Big Ten/Notre D*me
Sure, the Big Ten season will be tough, but there is no
to expect that NU won't be a tough team as well. Walker has had a
year and a half to settle in, and the players also have had time to
The offensive line should be much improved, the receivers are all Big
and should be healthy, Damien Anderson is poised to carry on the
NU's running backs have had for much of the last decade, and Zak
well, we shall see, but I expect Kustok to be a conference
Kustok could very well repeat what Kurt Kittner achieved Downstate last
The defense was ready last
year, and it (and its potential) remains ready this season. Once
NU's time of possession improves (as it undoubtedly will), the
potential will be realized. Aside from its time on the field last
year and the problems this caused the defense, are there other
for improvement? Of course, but the needed improvements are a
not a major overhaul. Fans complained about the number of blown,
near interceptions. What hasn't been as widely discussed is that
NU shattered its season record for passes broken up (60 PBU's last
breaking the record of 44). Blackmon now already holds NU's career
record for PBU's. All it will take is a little less time on the
a few more errant balls caught, a few more turnover battles won, and--
The experts believe 'Cat2k
will bring mediocrity; they ask, "why believe otherwise?" There
a mountain of reasons to believe otherwise. The bigger question
do the players believe otherwise? Do the coaches believe in the
Do the players have the will and attitude of a Winner? They have
the tools; do they have the will and belief? That is the true
on the eve of 'Cat2k. My prediction is that the team won't be in
a bunker this fall-- they'll be on the field as champions, and the
experts, consultants, and pundits will be wrong.
It won't be the first time.
in Kenosha [posted August 13]
The NU football team left
last week for The University of Wisconsin at Parkside's campus near
for pre-season practice. This is the ninth season that the
have sweat it out at "Camp Keno-where," one of the many improvements to
the program that came during the Barnett era (NU was the first
Ten team to institute an off-campus training program). Some fans
who wonder if Randy Walker's training style might be too rigorous
keep in mind what Barnett said about the Kenosha program:
"The day we leave Kenosha
is total jubilation for the players. . . . We don't
our team pictures until after Kenosha, because I don't want anybody who
didn't survive Kenosha in that picture."
About The Coming Season [posted August 13]
"Our number one goal is to
make a bowl game. We're going to be a lot more focused this year,
a lot more disciplined, and at the end of the year we'll be playing
warm." --Kevin Bentley, preseason All-American
"By experience alone, the
Wildcats should be better this season. Randy Walker did an amazing job
in his first season considering the low talent level and injuries that
decimated units of his team. They worked hard to get stronger in the
but every program does
that. The key
is to get
solid play at quarterback as the running game and defense are good
to keep them in most games.... Don't be surprised if they pull off an
at home against Illinois or Purdue. A five win season is within reach
they have to stay healthy." --College Football News
"...Another concern is that
I hope there is enough room on the bandwagon to accompany... all
the naysayers when they jump on board for the ride as we head into the
Big Ten with a 3-0 record." --A Purple Reign poster
"Uh, are you gonna eat that
last bear claw?" --Barry Alvarez
"Northwestern will finish
86th in the nation." --Sports Illustrated, which also ranked our
schedule the seventh toughest.
"We've made great strides
with our conditioning program. The guys are taking it all to
We've improved physically. We're stronger, bigger and faster than we
last year. Now we get the fun part. I love playing football. And
we get to start playing football now. We've spent the last nine months
preparing for the 11 weeks of the season. We're at that point now where
we get to play the game we love." --Randy Walker
"Why can't we go to a bowl
game? The sky's the limit for us." --Damien Anderson
Concludes [posted August 20]
The ninth annual NU football
practice at The University of Wisconsin at Parkside's campus near
concludes this Tuesday, August 22. The team held its pre-season
on August 19 and, while early reports from camp were very positive,
from Saturday's scrimmage described a less than glorious performance by
the NU offense. Zak Kustok went 3 of 9 and gained just 18 yards.
Kustok (and others) pointed
out that the defense performed as most expected: "I'm not going
say the defense had an advantage, but they had a good idea of what we
going to do," Kustok said afterwards.
Tony Stauss fared better
(and played for one series with the first team offense) with 50% of his
passes complete and 55 yards. He was, however, picked off by
Martin for the day's lone interception.
According to Kenosha County's
sports reporter, Walker has liked Stauss's recent
"I think Tony's had a very good camp and he's moved himself into
to compete. We wanted to give him a go (in practice) with the
and he's earned that."
Damien Anderson was on the
sidelines with a minor injury, as was a host of other Wildcats.
Schweighardt, although not 100% healthy, did participate.
caught 5 passes for 40 yards, including the one TD pass of the day,
not by Kustok or Stauss, but by Matt Danielson. However, the
assault we have been told to expect this Fall was not, by most
present Saturday. Has the 4 WR set slipped from the top of
playbook? Were the wide receivers simply not healthy enough
to execute it? Or are our offensive weapons now "in hiding," at
until next Thursday? We'll find out in a matter of days.
Illinois Preview [posted August 20]
The Wildcats lead this series
four wins to none, with one tie. NIU has had some rough luck
the off-season: two of their best running backs, William Andrews and
Bryant, are gone because of academic problems. . . .
Pre-season mags predicted
(before Andrews and Bryant departed) NIU 65th or higher, and 2nd in the
MAC west. They might still be correct-- NIU could very well
with a winning season. Their last winning season was 1990.
This is also the last year that the 'Cats played NIU.
Will the Wildcats prevail
this time? The more important question heading to Saturday is:
the United T-Shirt Gun finally have the thrust it needs to
into the cheap seats?
Last year, NIU coach Joe
Novak said, " The time is now. It is time. You can't
forever. Hey, I'm not predicting a championship caliber football
team. I will say this: we can be competitive. We have a
chance every Saturday."
They will be competitive.
However, we play 'em on a Thursday. . . No chance.
Prediction: NU 35, NIU 10.
NIU goes on to a 7-4 record.
Defeat Huskies 35-17 [posted August 31]
Northwestern got the season
underway with an auspicious start, beating Northern Illinois 35-17
night at Ryan Field. The NU score was the highest so far for the
Walker era, and it was also the largest margin of victory for the
The Wildcats had a few problem areas (pass coverage, kickoffs, and
lapses in focus which resulted in penalties and problems at the end of
the game), but they were eclipsed by the team's strengths-- there were
plenty of strengths on display!
Zak Kustok seemed comfortable
and in control. His passes were accurate, and his underthrow
from last year seems eliminated. His deep passes looked
Kustok had no interceptions, and went 16 out of 27 for 176 yards,
with two touchdown passes. He did, however, cough up the
twice. He recovered the first fumble. The second went to
Huskies, who scored on the resulting drive at the end of the
Zak can run, and had several great rushing plays, gaining
33 yards on the ground. The wide receivers looked good,
Schweighardt and Foster. Simmons was simply fantastic. He
All-World on several punt returns, with Musso-like speed and
All of the running backs were solid, including true freshman Torri
who really gutted it out to get some tough yards.
The defense was spotty, with
occasional bursts of truly inspired play. Particularly
was the third quarter goal line stand, when the 'Cat D denied NIU a
after what seemed like 30 downs from within the NU 5. Missouri and
looked possessed. Blackmon had a great game as well
Walker's game plan was varied,
yet methodical. Randy also showed that he can play as aggressive
a game as anyone out there, going for it on 4th and 6 at mid-field
a deep pass!). The Wildcats are now 5-0-1 all-time against
Northern Illinois, and will meet them again (scheduled
Preview [posted August 31]
Duke leads this series 7-3.
NU lost at home to the Devils in 1998 in one of the most miserable
in Wildcat history, then won last year in (NU’s first ever) overtime,
at Wallace Wade Stadium. Duke has a second-year coach who went
last year, is depending heavily on the performance of its quarterback,
is picked to finish near the bottom of its conference, and has the
to improve to a surprising degree (sound familiar?).
Duke is young. There
are at least 19 red-shirt and true freshman listed as either backups or
On offense, while
Duke finished 36th in the nation in passing, the Blue Devils finished
in rushing. . . .
On defense: a unit
that returns only three starters is already hurting. 6-8,
tackle Nate Krill has yet to return to practice following offseason
on both shoulders. . .
Franks will get the job done
at Duke, and the Airborne Assault will prevail, but it will take at
the first half of the season to ramp up. Results might not be
Prediction: NU 17,
Duke 10. The game won’t be as close as the score might imply.
Preview [posted Sept. 3]
11-0. 10-1. TCU
fans are predicting nothing short of a BCS bowl for the Frogs this
Anyone daring to forecast 9-2 or less is considered a heretic.
is TCU's final year in the WAC, before they bolt for Conference
Even if TCU runs the table this year, chances are that their WAC
(and the Sister-Catherine's-School-for-the-Blind-easy schedule that
with being in the WAC) will send the Frogs back to the Mo-Bile Bowl
rather than to the BCS.
Last year's meeting was the
first between Northwestern and Texas Christian, and the 'Cats upset TCU
17-7. Sam "Damn!" Simmons torched the Ryan Field sod with an 87
punt return for a touchdown, and Nick Kreinbrink turned in what was
quite a good performance: 11 completions for 220 yards and no
More importantly, NU shut down TCU's starting QB (Batteaux) and held
LaDainian Tomlinson under 100 yards.
Tomlinson, a 2000 Heisman
contender, will be back, and he and his amphibious playmates won't have
forgotten what happened in Evanston. Also returning from last
no fewer than nine starters from the Frog defense. Whether or not
this is a good thing has yet to be seen (the defense gave up an average
18 points per game last year). We'll know more when the Frogs
on-- and likely wax-- Nevada on Sept. 9.
The Wildcats will face a
ranked opponent, tons of revenge-minded frogs, and a sun-drenched
Stadium. Whether or not they face these triumphantly will depend
on one thing: NU's pass defense. Our offense will prevail, we will
stop Tomlinson again, but what about QB Casey
the objective prediction is TCU, 24-21. However, what the hell
is a fan Web page if you're going to be objective? NU rallies
the heat of the fourth and pulls out that last-minute Kustok to
It's NU over TCU, 28-24.
Overcomes Yellow Flags, Blue Devils [posted Sept. 10]
Northwestern beat Duke last
Saturday, 38-5, a convincing and impressive win that told us a lot
this team and its character. One thing is certain: as advertised,
this team is improved from last year.
Positives from the Duke game
include a fantastic performance by Damien Anderson (187 yards in 21
and touchdown runs of 56 and 66 yards). Kustok also looked good,
going 16-of-27 for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Zak has yet to
an interception this season. Wide receivers were also very
good, especially freshman Roger Jordan, who played mission-focused ball
and has potential to be a real star. As for the defense, what
do you need to know than four interceptions and six sacks?
once again showed why he is a pre-season All American.
Another positive can be seen
in how the team responded to the penalties in the first half (and there
were a lot of penalties in the first half. By the end of
day, NU had lost 135 yards in penalties). Walker, apparently not
the kind of guy to get all weepy and "Win one for the Gipper" at
did something he had never done in 11 years as a head coach: he
the entire team at the half. "I felt we needed to make a
and it needed to come from me," Walker said, referring to his
to the troops regarding their focus. It worked.
Negatives from the game?
Sure, there were some-- NU's play in the first quarter was surprisingly
sloppy and kickoff coverage remains an issue (despite Brian
outstanding debut-- he has incredible leg strength!). However,
four biggest disappointments for me from this game did not even involve
the team. They were, in order:
#4: The Chicago Tribune.
Just a suggestion: when your local Big Ten team plays at home and routs
a team, try to at least mention it on the front page teaser,
#3: The PA system.
Just so I have it straight: NU is a Big Ten team, and one that
spent umpteen million dollars to renovate its stadium, and it can't get
a decent set of speakers? This is the third season straight that
the PA has screwed up during a game. Benny's World of Wedding
DJs tests its speaker systems more extensively than does
#2: The officiating.
Yes, NU was very undisciplined for a surprising amount of the game and
suffered many legitimate penalties, but the crew for this game was just
gawd-awful. An ACC crew Duke brought with them, they didn't even
try to behave like they weren't homers; that is, when they weren't
confused and trying to find out where in the game they were. And
you have to love them picking up non-call flags, thrown in order to
NU's no-huddle offense ("Oops! Sorry! hee-hee....").
and the #1 disappointment:
23,209 last Saturday (and just over 23,000 the week
There is no excuse. None.
Fall to TCU, 41-14 [posted Sept. 17]
first the good news: NU did not suffer 135 yards in penalties again
Saturday. The bad news: just about everything else. TCU
the better team and deserving of its #20 ranking as they waxed the
41-14 in front of a surprisingly small crowd in Ft. Worth. I say
surprisingly small because of the draw of TCU tailback LaDainian
a Heisman Trophy candidate who showed more than enough power to back up
the hype. Tomlinson scorched the Texas earth and NU's D. for 243
yards. Just a thought: 243 yards would place a Wildcat runner
all-time, in NU's record book.
were some 'Cats who had good performances Saturday, despite the
Napoleon Harris and Billy Silva looked very good. Brian Huffman
his end zone assaults on kickoffs. And on offense, wide receivers
Kunle Patrick, Sam "Damn!" Simmons, and Roger Jordan were all solid.
Wildcats must work hard this week to ready for Wisconsin. For the
third week straight, kickoff coverage was weak. The team and the
coaches seemed to lack focus and did not seem prepared for TCU. . . .
what does one make of the Wildcats and their chances for 2000 after the
TCU game? Is TCU that good, is NU that bad, or was it just a day
when nothing went right? One quote to keep in mind:
just didn't seem possible that this could happen. After all we'd
been through... to get where we were, this was shattering. It was
so humiliating to lose that way. I guess the best way to describe
my feeling was 'traumatized.'"
Walker? No, of course, the quote is from Barnett after the loss
Miami. Is the TCU loss akin to our loss to Miami in '95 or Wake
in '96? Or, is it more foreboding, like the '98 Duke game?
I believe it is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, but
to the former. It is a game from which (assuming Walker is the
we think he is) much can be learned. More than any game in
last three years, lessons can come from this loss that will help the
through the rest of the season.
Preview [posted Sept. 17]
Ron "If you can beat 'em,
eat 'em" Dayne is gone, and 26 players have been temporarily sidelined
by the great shoe scandal of 2000 (they received unadvertised discounts
at a shoe store), but Wisconsin is still a force to be reckoned
QB Brooks Bollinger is better than most people think, and Michael
is taking his place as Dayne's successor as running back deluxe. . . .
Also spectacular in Wisconsin's
27-23 win was star cornerback Jamar Fletcher, with three
However, fear not, 'Cat faithful: Fletcher will be riding pine and
regulation street shoes when the Badgers play NU. . . .
Keep this in mind, NU players:
Fletcher got to choose which games to sit out (the NCAA never
to amaze!), and he chose to play Oregon and skip Cincinnati and
"I just felt that Oregon was a tough team, especially on
We'll see how wise that choice was very soon.
Suspensions or not, Wisconsin
has looked very flat so far. They will play a game soon that will
fire this team up; if NU happens to be that game, the 'Cats are in real
trouble, and could be blown out. However, if Wisconsin comes out
flat again, and if NU is sufficiently angered over its performance last
Saturday, there is an upset in the making. Prediction: upset in
making-- NU 17, Wisc. 14.
Wisconsin Preview is
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CHEESE! NU StunsBadgers 47-44 [ posted Sept. 23]
wait is over, the secret is out, and the shot has been heard around the
country. On Saturday Northwestern played with the attitude of
Wildcats, the hearts of warriors, and the savvy of a big-time football
program, as the team shocked Wisconsin, edging them 47-44 in double
ESPN named Zak Kustok the player of the game before the game was
in fact, it appeared Wisconsin would pull the game out. Kustok
the accolade-- his performance was a defining moment of the last three
years of NU football.
Look Good Early
struck first, when Kustok kept the ball and ran 28 yards for a
One would have thought that the Camp Randall announcer had just
the reinstatement of prohibition-- 75,000 hostile screaming voices went
wonderfully still. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked and a
began burning to a cinder on an unwatched grill.
claimed the next three scores, and the 'Cats trailed 16-7 at the
However, NU blew two additional scoring chances: after Michael Bennett
ran 16 yards for a TD, the point after kick was blocked and was run
for what appeared to be a Wildcat two point conversion.
the 'Cats were called for a block in the back on the run-back, and the
play was declared dead. Tim Long also missed a field goal that
wide right. Even though it was a nine point game rather than just
a four point deficit, there was definitely an electricity at halftime,
a feeling that the other shoe was about to drop (as it were...) for the
Long: The Kick of His Career
appeared to have itself back on track at the start of the third
and then Dwayne Missouri introduced himself to Brooks Bollinger and
explained to him that the track went the other direction.
smacked Bollinger from the side, sending the ball into the eager and
arms of Kevin Bentley. NU was poised, two points from the lead.
a Badger TD strike and a 22 yard FG by Long, NU entered the fourth
down 23-17. Damien Anderson ran 69 yards into the endzone, and NU
enjoyed a 24-23 lead. The Anderson run was simply a perfect
The Wildcat O-line was textbook in its execution. Just over
a minute later, Bennett ran wild on our secondary, Wisconsin converted
yet another third down, and-- a two point conversion later-- Wisconsin
was up 31-24.
answered with one of the most spectacular touchdown passes in recent
Kustok found Derrick Thompson wide open in the endzone and connected
28 yards. The game became knotted at 31 each, and the Camp
faithful became uglier than Barry Alvarez after an eight-day doughnut
With 51 seconds left, Wisconsin kicked what seemed to be a game winning
47 yard field goal.
Kustok proceeded to show what a championship quarterback looks
Kustok remained calm and poised as he guided the 'Cats to two first
and put them into field goal range with two seconds and no time outs
As the clock dribbled down, Tim Long kicked the ball from 46 yards.
Long had never hit from 46 yards. Never. He has been the
of relentless abuse from NU fans, who expected him to lose most of his
kicking duties to the spectacular freshman Huffman.
Long hit from 46 yards. Northwestern swapped TD's with Wisconsin
in the first overtime and found itself a field goal down in the second
overtime. Damien Anderson then gave NU its biggest win in over
years, running 13 yards into a barely guarded Badger endzone.
the Fifth Quarter begin!
Incredible Game! [posted Sept. 24]
the superlatives of the Wisconsin game: the last time NU scored 47
against a Big Ten opponent was the 48-0 pounding of Illinois in
NU had never before scored so high against Wisconsin.
17 point explosion in the fourth quarter was the best output by the
in a fourth quarter since the 1997 Penn State game.
game snapped Wisconsin's 11 game winning streak and effectively ended
dreams of a Rose Bowl three-peat.
was NU's first double overtime game, and its second overtime game
NU is now 2-0 in games that move past regulation.
in this game go to just about every single player, and to the entire
staff. Anderson was truly special, and had 174 yards. Roger
Jordan, Sam Simmons, and Teddy Johnson got the job done. Bentley,
Harris, Silva, Missouri, Covington, Huffman and Long were
Zak Kustok had 76 yards... rushing. Kustok had 278 yards
and no picks.
what can you say about Randy Walker and his staff? His game plan
was brilliant, an incredible feat considering the previous week's plan
and execution. Walker, Wilson, and Brown were cool, collected,
methodical all day. Walker is on his way to taking his place
Thistlethwaite, Waldorf, Voigts, Parseghian, and Barnett. . . .
State Preview [posted Sept. 24]
Michigan State might just
be as hard to fathom as NU is for its Big Ten opponents. The
are undefeated, but did not look terribly impressive in their first
of the season, against Marshall and Missouri. They made several
errors against Notre Dame, but managed a last minute victory. . . .
. . . [Bobby Williams] is
4-0 as head coach, and Michigan State has won nine consecutive games at
home. Prediction: MSU should extend that streak to 10 games
in a very close match. MSU 34, NU 31. However, I'm less
of predicting this game than any other this season. MSU could
well come into this game riding high from the Notre Dame win and
past NU. A quick NU lead might completely deflate the
If the first quarter ends with NU having even a one point lead, then my
prediction is moot, and NU will win
Wildcats Dominate the Spartans [posted Oct. 2]
what are the excuses now? What, no cries of "fluke" in
No suspensions to hold up the lion's share of blame and
No "their gimmicky offense took us by surprise"? What are the
for not believing NU is for real?
the secret is out, and the excuses are wilting like roses in Madison.
showed Saturday that they can now play anytime, with anyone. That
includes playing on the road for the third straight week. That
playing in the middle of the Big Ten season. And that includes
another ranked, undefeated opponent. In a display of
the Wildcats took Spartan freshman QB Smoker and near-freshman coach
and hazed them brutally into the Big Ten as NU cruised to a 37-17
For Smoker, it was a long day that would not end. His one
status as BMOC and Irish killer ended quickly, however. For
4-0 coming into the game, it was a nasty Big Ten debut.
looked good from the beginning, with Kustok scrambling for first downs
and Anderson moving the 'Cats into field goal range. NU and
swapped field goals and touchdowns in the first quarter. With the
score at the end of the first quarter knotted at 10 each, the same
that charged the air at halftime in Madison fired up the air again
there was a feeling that NU would win, again. The
appeared confident and businesslike, while the Spartans spent much of
rest of the day frustrated and shaking off disbelief.
feeling began to blossom into outright celebration in the second
as Anderson raced into the endzone for a 33 yard touchdown run, and the
NU offense began piling on first downs. Anderson went into the
zone again in the third quarter, after a spectacular 41 yard run.
Damien had a great day, racking up a career high 224 yards.
also had another fantastic weekend and tore through the air for 160
He missed some long passes, but he hit them when it counted.
the NU offense piled up 504 yards, its second straight game gaining
are some clear opportunities for improvement. Yet again, NU's
coverage was poor. This area is actually getting worse. The
only silver lining on the kick coverage is that it is at least coming
an NU score! The Wildcat pass defense also has had some bumps in
problems are minuscule, however, compared to the stellar performances
almost everyone on the team. While Anderson took breathers from
the Spartans into next Tuesday, Kevin Lawrence showed that he is a
rusher who can make plays. The wide receivers and the offensive
were great, and the defensive line looked much better. Missouri
another blinding hit that resulted in a fumble. The linebacking
were also very impressive. . . . How great is it that Salem Simon
is back at 100%? Simon was dependable and gritty, and his fumble
recovery helped to seal the deal versus M.S.U.
I wrote last week:
34, NU 31. However, I'm less confident of predicting this
game than any other this season. MSU could very well come into
game riding high from the Notre Dame win and looking past NU. A
NU lead might completely deflate the Spartans. If the first
quarter ends with NU having even a one point lead, then my prediction
moot, and NU will win."
Thank God my prognostication
ability is awful. This was the first week
predicted the 'Cats to lose, and it just might be the last. . . .
Ranked #22 in A.P. Poll;
Claim #24 Spot in Coaches' Poll [posted Oct. 2]Northwestern
had lost a heartbreaking game to Wake Forest on September 6,
For the second season in a row, the 'Cats were upended by the upstart,
underdog Deacons. NU had lost more than the game, however: it
lost its #21 ranking, which it had built with a shutout versus Oklahoma
two weeks earlier. Northwestern remained unranked for over three
seasons. . . until last Sunday. For the fourth season in the
Victory" era, NU has cracked the national polls. . . .
Preview [posted Oct. 2]
what Dyche Stadium
looks like? It will have been four weeks since the Wildcats last
took to their home field, and much has happened since then.
comes into this game looking at the very real possibility of marching
a bowl game for the first time in four seasons. For Indiana, the
2000 season has had a rocky start, with heartbreaking losses to
and NC State. . . .
Hoosiers believe that
they have turned the corner. Their defense, mocked throughout
of last year, shut the Bearcats out in the second half and came up with
the necessary stops against the Hawkeyes last Saturday. However,
the I.U. Defense allowed Iowa's QB, Beutjer, to post 380 yards in the
The Indiana D. will have fits when it confronts the balanced NU pass
Randle El rushed
for 187 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the sixth player in major
history to run for at least 2,000 yards and pass for 4,000. El
hit his stride and will be a force to be reckoned with Saturday.
Hoosiers have, in fact,
turned the corner. Unfortunately, they've turned it smack into a
fired-up Wildcat team that will feast on the Cream and Crimson.
Anderson is uncontained, Kustok is unstoppable, Bentley is unforgiving,
and NU's Big Ten record remains unblemished: NU 42, Indiana 31.
in Black: 'Cats Poised to Pounce [posted Oct. 5]
week, for the first time, the bandwagon has crossed paths with
Pickle Boat. Everyone, from the national media to (gasp!)
press, have taken notice of NU's team. Among the quotes from
the country in the last few days:
Wildcats, the country's only team with two road wins over ranked teams
[!], look to continue their sudden success at home. . . . The
Wildcats might be surprising everyone else, but they're not surprising
themselves. 'It's all about expectations, and when I looked at that
I expected us to be sitting 2-0 in the conference right now,'
Zak Kustok said. 'If you look at those first games and think we're
to be lucky to win either of them, then you will be lucky to
either of them.'"
The Sporting News:
all due respect to the people in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Columbus, Ohio,
the best team in the Big Ten might just reside in Evanston, Ill., where
the Hoosiers will play Northwestern on Saturday. The Wildcats are
off upsets at Wisconsin and at Michigan State and, for the first time
facing Duke on Sept. 9, they are playing a game they should win.
. . . This team is the real deal. The Wildcats proved that
the victory over Wisconsin wasn't a fluke by dismantling Michigan
37-17. It was the second straight week the Wildcats went into a
team's home territory and pulled an upset. The Wildcats are
with incredible confidence on both sides of the ball."
[Our] coach of the week: Northwestern's Randy Walker. Gary
who? Walker's team is 4-1, including two consecutive Big Ten road
victories against ranked teams, which is only slightly harder to do
splitting the atom. The Wildcats stuck then-No. 6 Wisconsin with 47
and hung 37 on late, great No. 15 Michigan State. Walker's attitude and
his spread offense is transforming Northwestern into a bowl team."
Wildcats have walked into Wisconsin and Michigan State each of the past
two weeks and ruined unbeaten seasons. They are believed to be the only
I-A school in the country to beat two ranked teams on the road this
That hasn't been done at Northwestern in at least 35 years, which is
far the program's records go back. Walker has taken those players
and molded them into the surprise of the Big Ten and the country.
with a national ranking after a stunning start to conference play,
tries to sustain its momentum at Dyche Stadium [MSNBC's wording, not
in a Big Ten clash against Indiana. [The] Wildcats have used
spread offense to perfection."
NU sustain the momentum? There's no reason to think that they
As long as they remain focused and driven, they should continue to
a trail of destruction through the conference and a path of honor in
national spotlight. They've shown, to us and to themselves, that
they have the strength, talent, and vision to defeat anyone.
is going to be incredibly difficult to maintain that focus and drive,
NU isn't exactly used to this position, 1995 and 1996
There is a possibility of a letdown. One thing that might help
this is to make sure that the team has as much visible support as
at all times-- especially at home games. Now is the time for
Wildcat fan who is capable, to come to Dyche and support the
The last four home games of 'Cat2K should be played with every seat
on Top of the Big Ten After Routing Indiana [posted Oct 8]
week, the numbers (almost) speak for themselves:
NU's place in the Big Ten:
It has been reported widely since the end of the Indiana game that
Anderson's back-to-back 200 yard games are the first consecutive 200
games by any NU player. What has not yet been mentioned is that
is the first time an NU player has ever rushed for 200+ yards twice at
all in a season. Up until now, the record has only been once, held
by seven players, most recently (until 2000) by Darnell Autry
Until now, Autry held the NU career record for 200 yard games--
Football players on ESPN's Heisman watch list. Anderson is now on
Damien Anderson's season yards per carry so far. The season
is held by (who else) Darnell Autry, with 5.2. Anderson's
A school record number of penalties suffered during the IU game.
The 99 yards penalized, however, doesn't come close to the 144 yards NU
lost in penalties vs. Iowa St. in 1953.
NU's spot this week on the AP Poll, ahead of Michigan, and up five
NU is #18 on the CNN/Coaches' Poll, up six slots. NU has now been
ranked in both polls for two weeks.
Yards Damien Anderson was shy of NU's single game rushing record, vs.
Anderson was removed from play early in the fourth quarter, when the
outcome was certain. Walker, when told during the game that
was this close, is quoted to have said, "Well, he'll have to get it
week. . . You don't get records in the sixth game. . . We need him
Adamle, '69 vs. Wisc.
Sanders, '87 vs. Minn.
Anderson, '00 vs. IU
Autry, '95 vs. Purdue
Christian, '90 vs. Wisc.
Indiana's points Saturday, but the total is deceptive: 13 of those
came long after garbage time began. NU's defense did exactly what
it needed to: it contained Randle El enough to render him
Randle El still passed for 165 yards, but he rushed for only 80,
and threw a pick (which Bentley played beautifully).
Most points scored by NU in a game since 1958. So far, NU has
up 223 points, an average of 37 points per game. At this rate, NU
could finish the regular season with 409 points. Compare
to the existing season record: 336 in 1996-- this includes the Citrus
Yards, total NU offense last Saturday. Simply incredible.
Preview [posted Oct. 8]
their shocking loss
to Penn State last Saturday, the Boilermakers are struggling to
and regroup." Well, it appears that Purdue has regrouped quite
After their last-minute victory over Michigan, they and Ohio State are
the only two Big Ten teams that control their own Rose Bowl
Does Purdue still face problems? They certainly do: their coach
booed for a questionable decision Saturday, their rushing game is
(but seems to be improving), and their special teams are brutal (and
seem to be improving-- but how could they not?).
problems, as usual,
are swept away by the Brees. Brees swept Saturday to the tune of
286 yards, and will give NU's secondary nightmares for weeks to
However, Brees might just face three nightmares of his own: Missouri,
and Harris know that their superior performance in this game will make
noise throughout the football world. NU's offense not only has
during the first half of the season; it has gelled. As long as
up for the game, they will be a force. Prediction: NU 37,
Purdue 35. Purdue came from 18 points down against
This Saturday's game will not be over until the moment the Homecoming
storm the Ryan Field sod.
on Hold; Wildcats Fall to Purdue 41-28; NU Still atop Big Ten Standings
weather forecast, for the second week in a row, was wrong.
Friday called for rain showers; instead fans at the NU-Purdue match
treated to sunny, beautiful skies. Unfortunately, that was all
were treated to, as predictions for a close game also proved miserably
wrong. Northwestern faced a superior team and stunk up the field
in the process, receiving a 41-28 butt whipping from the red-hot
every NU unit was off their game last Saturday, especially the
troops. . . . Anticipated half-time adjustments never
in fact, the third quarter all but doomed NU.
perhaps the greatest disappointment in the game (besides the outcome)
NU's susceptibility to penalties. For the past two weeks,
Stadium has been refitted with artificial turf, made of yellow rayon. .
Wildcats did show some strengths Saturday. The wide receiving
was fantastic, making circus catches and getting a lot of tough second
effort yards. Johnson, Patrick, Foster, Schweighardt, and
all had a nice game. Kustok went 18 for 28 and racked up 260
Matt Danielson, who played QB later in the fourth quarter after NU's
had been sealed, continues to improve and impress. And J.J.
and the NU punting unit did a great job.
other game notes: even though it was Homecoming and not a sellout, the
stadium looked wonderful and the crowd was large and boisterous. . .
The Purdue fans, usually a gracious bunch, were especially cordial and
even with the loss, NU remains atop the conference in a strange logjam
with three other teams. We have our next opponent, Minnesota, to
thank for that...
Prepare for Home Stretch [posted Oct. 22]
a week away from the gridiron, Northwestern is getting ready for the
third of the 'Cat2K season. Speculation is rife regarding the Big
Ten's bowl destinies, the conference championship(s) and ranking, but
thing seems clear: we ain't seen nothin' yet. The last four
of the season promise to be some of the most entertaining football
by NU in the last four years. With Ayeni back, Simmons
(soon), the national media still keeping one eye on the Wildcats, and
offense playing great guns, NU has the makings of an engrossing
Damien Anderson might have dropped off the media's radar screen, but
style of play defensively of all four of our final opponents ensures
DA2 will have quite a few additional highlights and broken records this
year. NU is also poised to break the team's record for points in
a season. The games vs. Michigan and Illinois, if not sellouts,
Preview [posted Oct. 22]
surprising that Minnesota
would knock off sixth ranked Ohio State in Columbus at OSU's
only to give up 51 points the next week in a flaming loss to lowly
Well, it shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed the down-is-up,
Big Ten this year. Sure, I could ramble on about NU's defense
ready to step up, I could jabber about Minnesota's Tellis Redmon, who
648 yards and five TDs coming into the Indiana game and who is a
that might leave Wildcat defenders in the dust (assuming they haven't
the Metrodome field), but why bother? Why make an effort to
this game? After all, it's going to come down to the coin toss,
to the exchange rate of the German Mark, or to which team has the
grasp of chaos theory (a hurricane triggered by butterfly wings, and a
BCS berth triggered God knows what).
will be angry,
will be at home, and will have a large homecoming crowd behind
They'll have Travis Cole at quarterback, who has thrown seven TDs and
interceptions so far. As with NU's games against Indiana and
this game will come down to how productive our offense can be.
defense, notorious for allowing big plays, twice held Minnesota to
goals from inside the Hoosiers' 10 as the Hoosiers took a 17-6 lead in
the second quarter. Indiana, remember, has the worst defense in
conference. If the 'Cats D. can do what's expected of them and
give away too many big plays, it will be up to Zak, Damien, and company
to shred up the Gophers and send NU to a bowl. Prediction:
could be Minnesota over NU 2-0. Could be NU over Minnesota
I'll pull a guess out of a hat and say NU over Minnesota, 41-28.
RIGHT! NU STUNS MINNESOTA; Greatest Comeback in NU History [posted
theory continued to
wreak all kinds of havoc on the college football world Saturday, and
"Chaos 'Cats" managed to wreck Minnesota's Homecoming, defeating the
41-35 in a game that redefined heart and determination. NU went
the locker room at halftime down by 14, they continued their plunge in
the third quarter, and then engineered a four-score mega drive sequence
that climaxed on the last play of the game with "Victory Right," the
name for the 45 yard pass play that Kustok delivered (to Patrick, and
Wildcats had real problems
for three quarters, culminating with Minnesota's Abdul- Khaliq running
the ball seven yards in for a touchdown that gave the rodents a 35-14
pass from Kustok
run (Long kick)
Kustok 12 run
pass from Kustok
about five fourth down conversions, out of five attempts? How
four of those attempts resulting in touchdowns?
The win is
the greatest comeback
in NU history, edging the 20 point comeback the 'Cats staged at
in 1992. Gone are any remaining doubts that a Walker-coached team
can take any amount of pressure. Several times this game reminded
me of the infamous 1995 Miami game. Fortunately, this time Walker
was the coach in purple!
Hero of the
Kustok. There are few Wildcats who have ever played with the
of poise, drive, leadership, and will that Zak showed in the fourth
Hero of the
mention): the rest of the team. Offense, defense, special teams,
and coaches all attacked the final quarter with a refusal to die.
Stupefying. . . .
Preview [posted Oct. 29]
will come into Ryan
Field at Dyche Stadium pumped from scoring back-to-back shutouts of
and Michigan State, and rested from a bye week. The Wolverines
be in the thick of a conference championship hunt and looking for a BCS
bid. Anthony Thomas has been red hot lately. He rolled up
yards and two touchdowns against MSU, accounting for virtually all of
offensive effort for the day.
last two games
seem impressive, but let's take a closer look. Sure, they scored
58 points against Indiana and shut the Hoosiers out, but that tells us
little. Naperville North High School could roll up over 40 points
against Indiana at this stage, and if Randel El has a bad game, the
do not score, period.
held Michigan State
scoreless, but did not look all that impressive in the process.
Spartans had their chances. Michigan gave up 355 yards, and MSU
to Michigan's 2, 28, 9 and 30 yard lines in the second half alone, but
still couldn't score. This says less about Michigan's steely
than it does about MSU's ball management and coaching.
on the road, where they have been downed by UCLA and Purdue.
road trip to Illinois also nearly ended in a loss, but the Wolverines
a little help from the ol' "twelfth man," as it were. Look for
to have more misery on the road and for their conference title and BCS
bid hopes to evaporate.
FOR THE AGES
54-51; Kustok, Anderson, Simmons Provide Heroics [posted
for 105 points. There were 1,189 yards on 171 plays. It's hard to
believe there were just four quarters and not forty. NU accounted
for 654 of those yards, the most a team from the University of Michigan
has ever given up in its 427 years of playing football (sure, there's
fuzzy math there, but this was a game of exaggerations.).
thank you. The 2000 Wildcats have now broken the record for
scored in a single season (346 points, with two games to go in the
season!). NU is currently averaging over 38 points per
well on pace to take down the current record (31.2 points, set in
The 'Cats set a new record for yards of total offense in a game (the
record was 649 vs. Northern Illinois). When the smoke clears from
the chaos of the 2000 season, the Wildcats might not have broken as
records as the 1995 team (which matched or broke an almost comical 79
records), but the books will have a lot of fresh ink, nonetheless.
did Michigan give
up the most yards in its history, it came very close to giving up the
points as well. The last time Michigan saw an opponent put up 54
or more points was 1958, when the Wolverines gave up 55 to...
The record, by the way, remains with Cornell, which scored 58 points
Michigan in '91. That's 1891.
was a spectacle
of offensive power. Zak Kustok continues to defy
His poise was granite and cool, and his pass/run mix left all in
numbed. Zak passed for 322 yards and had no interceptions.
Billy DeCorrevont, Otto Graham, Tom Myers, Maurie Daigneau, Len
Steve Schnur-- meet Zak Kustok. He's joining you shortly on NU's
all-time great quarterbacks list.
really did come
down to which team wanted it more. Even after the refs called a
illegal man down field on NU, which nullified a fourth down touchdown
dragged NU farther from the endzone, there was a presence in the crowd
and on the field, an electric manifestation of the Wildcat players'
to die. That presence alone made this the most exciting game I
from the game?
Asking that is like taking a magnifying glass to a Rembrandt to hunt
errant strokes. One must admit though that if Anthony Thomas
fumble with a minute and change left, if Michigan held on at the last
Northwestern's defense would be under heavy scrutiny. That may
be fair, however, considering the offense it was trying to
Henson, Terrell, Walker, and "A-Train" will all be playing on
And there were heroes on NU's D as well, to be sure. Blackmon's
up the Michigan two point conversion attempt was critical. Sean
stripped the ball from Thomas and Raheem Covington pulled it in and
to it like it was one of his vital organs-- which, of course from our
of view, it was.
the game (other than the performance of the officiating crew, which
leave for others to pick apart) was the season ticket holders who sold
their tickets to Wolverine fans. Their absence from this epic is,
to my mind, a fitting punishment for what they did. One wonders
the price they exacted for their ticket was worth it to them. I'm
guessing there are more than a few remorseful 'Cat fans out there.
game, Walker said
"you'll have to kill us to beat us." These 'Cats still live, and
so do their very high hopes.
Fails to Slow Rolling Hawkeyes [posted Nov. 12]
problems on defense were overshadowed by the spectacular performance by
its offense. On Saturday against Iowa, NU's defensive woes had
to help mask them, as the 'Cat offense sputtered and the defense was
naked and shredded. Iowa, reverberating from a wonderful and
win over Penn St., rolled into Kinnick Stadium and kept on rolling,
NU 27-17. . . .
. . . [NU]
off of the dramatic victory over Michigan . . . but the season is
not over yet. This game is history, just as over as that Michigan
game. The slate is clear, and this Saturday the uniforms will be
clean and black, and the opponent will be our most important of the
Last, Good Shot [posted Nov. 12]
handed NU a gift.
It should be over, NU should be getting ready to head to Texas (to San
Antonio or El Paso), Purdue should be headed to Pasadena as the sole
Ten Champion. Last Saturday's loss to Iowa should have sealed the
the Purple's fate
is wonderfully unclear, the drama remains, and Purdue's gift will allow
Northwestern one last, clear shot at a share of the Big Ten
Should NU beat Illinois-- no small feat, considering all we've seen
week-- the 'Cats will lock their eighth conference title, and they will
share it with the winner of the Ohio State / Michigan game.
also share it with Purdue, if the Boilers beat Indiana.
time for the Wildcats
to fill with fury. Now is the time to take up the mantle of the
a uniform that has served the Wildcats well earlier this season.
Most importantly, it is time for the Wildcats to play like wildcats--
on the attack, with no fear. It is time to play to win,
to avoid losing. It is time to put everything on the field: the
of Michigan, the sting of Iowa, the memories of Illini celebrations two
years ago, everything.
Destroys Illinois 61-23; Share Title with Michigan and Purdue [posted
offensive guns after its mistake in Iowa City, and Saturday the 'Cats
all barrels at Illinois, pasting the Illini 61-23. The score was
the most points in a game by NU in the post-war era. The previous
record was 55 points, scored against Michigan in 1958. It is the
highest point tally since NU edged DePauw 62-0 in 1944 (the all-time
is 97 points, set in 1904).
win, NU has taken
its eighth conference title, and its third in six seasons!
this game: everyone.
The coaching staff successfully brought the team back from the depths
Iowa to a focused precision. The offensive line played
Kustok started slow, then roared to life and probably could have taken
Illinois into overtime single-handedly (although, I fear we might have
lost in OT if we had only "mini-Zak" on the field). Damien
was his usual extraordinary self, but Kevin Lawrence and Torri Stuckey
also ran magnificently. NU's wideouts were great, and Jon
and Roger Jordan had some spectacular moments. The special teams
got the job done, and JJ Standring's decision to bat the ball out of
endzone after a bad snap was a heads-up play that kept the Illini from
a certain touchdown. NU's defense also stepped up. Seniors
Dwayne Missouri and Conrad Emmerich had fantastic games.
THE ALAMO [posted Nov. 20]
received a bid
to its fourth-ever bowl game on Monday and will play in the eighth
Alamo Bowl on December 30. The Tribune, in classic "Dewey Defeats
Truman" style, "officially" declared that NU was heading to the Outback
Bowl, but jumped the gun. While others sort out the Big Ten Bowl
pieces, the central fact remains: the Wildcats are preparing to play a
game with monumental importance to the history of the program, and
arrived at this position by stunning the pre-season pundits, defying
ney-sayers, and playing their asses off.
'Cat team play
in a great bowl against a worthy opponent in San Antonio should have
ready to party until dawn. This is a fantastic achievement for this
and we should get ready for an incredible game!
his team prior
to the Illinois game to FINISH. Now it's time for
to finish: both the players and the fans. For the players, if they
it all for this game, they will have done what NO OTHER team in
history has so far accomplished: they will have won a conference
championship and a bowl championship. The 1948, 1995, and 1996
fans, this is a defining
moment. If we swarm San Antonio and cheer NU to victory, we set
the stage for 2001 and the local fan base. How do you think the casual
Chicago fan will react to seeing a local team, on prime time, in a
bowl, beating a quality opponent's ass, with THOUSANDS of Wildcat fans
going nuts in a sea of purple?
The pump is
ready to be primed.
If we prime the pump, 2001 will see a fountain of local support, and NU
will take one more step to truly expecting victory.
and Gentlemen, Your Big Ten Coach of the Year: Randy Walker [posted
the Big Ten named
NU's Randy Walker its Coach of the Year. Walker came back
to NU during what seemed to be one of its bleaker moments: its
hero and boy wonder had squandered two seasons while flirting with
programs and had just abandoned the program, 48 hours after telling his
players a lie that still hangs over the Roscoe Miller Campus.
hacks were quick to declare the NU football awakening over--
was no Barnett, and the 'Cats were to be relegated again to the dark
of the Big Ten basement. Players transferred. Season ticket
holders left. Walker's first year produced only three wins.
But the experts were again wrong: Walker had a plan. He had
of courage few expected. He could adapt, evolve, and motivate.
now he, and the players who had the faith to believe and trust, have
rings. We have Walker to thank that our "awakening" is proving
to be a rebirth and an enduring renaissance. Congratulations to
and his staff!