The Season Review
What follows are excerpts
from comments posted on this site, during the course of the 2001
Except where cited, the posts were written by the Senior Editorial
of the GoUPurple Site (i.e., GoUPurple).
Begins [posted March 29]
NU began spring practice
Thursday, March 29 in Evanston. Local media had the opportunity
interview Damien Anderson (who reiterated that the Nebraska fiasco was
a primary reason he chose to return to NU), Zak Kustok, and Kevin
Practice will continue for the next few weeks and will conclude with
annual Spring Game, which will be held at noon, Saturday April
The game will be played on Ryan Field at Dyche Stadium and will be open
to the public. The practices, however, will not be open. In
fact, the staff is going to be rather circumspect regarding the
in order to keep as much of its game plan as close to the chest as
One detail that did come
out as the beginning of practice neared was that the main defensive
will remain a 4-3; there has been much speculation that NU would take
of its arsenal of linebackers and move to a 3-4 for the first time in
According to the Sun-Times, Randy Walker denied this, saying "They're
going to change their defensive scheme because there's nothing wrong
their defensive scheme."
Walker also commented to
the Sun-Times about the offense, and-- particularly-- quarterback Tony
Stauss' chances of successfully challenging NU wunderkind Zak Kustok:
not placing him ahead of anybody, but . . . yeah, I am... I told Tony,
if he doesn't plan on beating Zak out, I don't know why he's coming
But quite frankly, Zak will have to let him do it, and I don't know if
that's going to happen."
Saturday [posted April 18]
Northwestern will hold its
annual public scrimmage this Saturday, April 21, at noon. This is
Randy Walker's second open Spring Game event-- 1999's scrimmage was
to the public and the media. So far, NU has had two working
during this spring's practice. Neither has been open to the
but the Northwestern official site reports indicate that NU's offense
firing on all cylinders. Defense and special teams are
in the dearth of information concerning them. We should know more
about them, and much more, after this Saturday. . . .
The Spring Game:
White Beats Purple 21-9 [posted April 23]
No, make that 28 to 3.
Hold on, the Chicago tribune reports the score 30-0. The game
have set a record for possible final scores. One thing that's
the score did not matter. NU's gridiron trust came out Saturday
performed for the last time until Camp Kenosha '01, this August. . .
We did not expect to see
Damien Anderson practice, and were not surprised to see Anderson ride
for the whole game. Anderson did, however, keep his helmet on for
almost the entirety of the game, which was a little amusing (I could
hear, "Just in case they need me. If Purple threatens too much,
might have to burn my 'Spring Practice' redshirt!"). Kevin
performance made up for Anderson's absence. Lawrence showed speed
and surprising strength, and bulled through the defense
Sam "Damn!" Simmons was also
very impressive. Simmons was a powerful presence and made a
of circus catches. If anyone is going to step up to take Teddy
place as NU's wide receiver long threat, Simmons is the one. Of
Witherspoon's potential is still not quite known, since he was
this Spring with a broken foot. Hopefully 'Spoon will be able to
make the impact this fall that everyone hopes he will.
All of the quarterbacks looked
good. Tony Stauss' accuracy was a little off, but that will
improve. More importantly, Stauss showed that he has tremendous
he launched several bombs that were marvelously thrown. He and
Kustok could be the greatest one-two quarterback combination NU has
The defense, as promised,
had some new looks, going to multiple 4-3 / 3-4 formations. Randy
Walker has commented that NU will feature as many as five linebackers
the field. The D. performed well in general. Napoleon
in his new line role, was effective, and Pat Durr is going to be a
His interception was one of the day's most exciting moments.
The NGN auction and dinner
after the spring game was a great time, and provided an opportunity to
meet with coaches and many rabid, die-hard fans. Of
interest were comments Coach Walker made after the dinner. Walker
was asked why he decided to come to NU, considering that NU was 0-8 in
the Big Ten the prior year. Walker said that he attended the game
that decided the 1998 national championship and thought to himself,
is my goal. I want to coach in this game." He knew that he
could never achieve that goal at Miami. Could he at
Walker wasn't sure that NU was truly committed to building and
a winning program, back-to-back conference titles
He expressed this to NU and Rick Taylor. Taylor convinced him by
showing him the contract for the renovations to Dyche Stadium.
contract was signed in 1994-- the year before the Dream Season.
fact that the administration had committed such resources to the
before it showed signs of success persuaded Walker that the program
business, and that he could win at Northwestern and NU would allow him
to win, and both would do so while maintaining incredibly high
The coach has a drive and a passion for the sport that is
Favor NU [posted June 8]
Preseason college polls aren't
typically worth the paper they are printed on (especially if they are
the internet....). However, it is telling that nearly all polls
so far have the Wildcats ranked nationally and have them at or near the
top of the Big Ten. The consensus of the polls and NU's place on
them is something most 'Cat fans haven't seen in their lifetimes-- even
most preseason rankings in 1996 and '97 did not favor NU to this
Here is a sampling of polls from this Spring:
Sporting News ranks NU 13th.
15th. CBS also projects
NU into the Orange Bowl as conference champs.
Ranks NU 4th in the Big Ten. However, how much credence can you
a sports source that also claims, "The season will be a success if [NU]
wins the Big Ten. After coming so close last season, they're shooting
the title with Wisconsin and Michigan off the schedule."
- CNN /
Sports Illustrated: 17th
and Big Ten champs.
Steel's magazine predicts
NU will finish 9th in the conference. Phil Steel's magazine is
for wrapping fish, or to use as kindling, assuming you don't mind the
that it would surely produce.
Big Ten Championship.
Ribbon College Football
note-- as difficult as it is to admit, I obviously owe Phil Steel an
to NU [posted July 10]
Northwestern has reported
that Brad Bollinger is leaving NU, and Pat Fitzgerald will replace him
as the Wildcat defensive backs coach. Fitzgerald was to
as a defensive backs coach at Idaho this fall. NU is bringing
to Central Street not only a very popular player, but another link
the current staff and NU's legendary 1995 awakening. Fitzgerald
a key motivator on the '95 and '96 teams, and his enthusiasm, energy,
dedication will be a valuable strength for an already-strong staff and
Fitz is a two-time All-American
and the only player in NCAA history to win the Bronko Nagurski Award in
back-to-back seasons. According to NU sports, Fitzgerald recorded
299 tackles with the 'Cats (20 for loss), forced five fumbles and
Welcome back Pat!
1979 - 2001
The Northwestern athletic
no strangers to recent tragedy and grief, mourn again. Asthma has
apparently claimed the life of the Wildcats' starting safety, Rashidi
Friday, August 3. He was 22 years old. Wheeler died after
part in preseason conditioning drills on a practice field east of Ryan
Northwestern athletic director
Rick Taylor said the initial medical report "makes it apparent the
was not heat-related.''
Our prayers and thoughts
go out to the Wheeler family and to the Northwestern staff and football
NU to Retire Wheeler's
Number [posted August 19]
The Trivia Question of the
Week which I had slated to post today had to be replaced with a
question. I had originally intended to post, "How many numbers
the NU football team retired?" The answer is zero-- at least,
will be the answer until September 15. Prior to the NU home
against Navy, Northwestern will retire Rashidi Wheeler's number
The ceremony will be the first such retirement ever for the team.
Rashidi died August 3 after taking part in preseason conditioning
on a practice field east of Ryan Field. He was 22 years old
Camp Kenosha Heads
toward Scrimmage [posted August 23]
The Wildcat team is now halfway
through Camp Kenosha, and it sounds like so far, so good.
started on August 17 with a two hour session. Accounts are that
players show little rust and have hit the field running. Napoleon
Harris said, "It felt great to be back out there, kidding, competing …
I love to compete. That's the biggest thing I enjoyed about being out
today. Just competing. It seemed like an eternity for this day to come.
I'm glad it finally did."
All indications are that
the team is 100% behind Coach Walker. ''I respect coach Walker a
lot,'' Damien Anderson is quoted as saying. ''He treats us as
and he wants us to act as men. He doesn't treat us as children, where
a surprise. So we're ready to perform in adverse situations. He tries
prepare us in every aspect of the game-- physically, mentally. That's
we've had a lot of success.'' Anyone who knows Walker knows that
he is about as straightforward as they come-- what he says is from the
gut and players know this.
Among those who appear strong
so far are Tony Stauss, who is reported to have fired off some
passes; Harris, in his new position as defensive end and "rover"; and
Kustok and Damien Anderson.
2001 Wildcat Odyssey
Begins in the Desert [posted September 2]
"Oh yet we trust that somehow
Will be the
final goal of
Reporter: "Why do you like
the Desert, Major Lawrence?"
The desert may, in fact,
be clean, but the plot lines leading to Northwestern's desert debut are
anything but clean. They are tangled, complicated and
The Wildcats travel to a sun-baked field, but they are already tanned
media lights after the most highly covered and scrutinized preseason in
NU history. UNLV will host from behind a wall of riddles-- is
an over-hyped team stuck in the desert with a solid gold John Robinson
canteen that's full of dust, or is it a very good, well-coached squad
has made a tactical blunder and has now retreated into the desert to
regroup, and wait to take its vengeance on the unexpecting?
From Northwestern's standpoint,
there's bound to be a great deal of relief just through the act of
a game. Still reeling from tragedy, a sandstorm of publicity and
distraction, the 'Cats must be clawing their insides out waiting to
the field. And what can we expect to see when they do?
For one thing, we should
see some indicators as to how the team may react to all that they've
through in one month. Expect to see passion, mission-focus, and
Expect emotion, but tempered with discipline. Expect anger and
hits, but focused through a lens of maturity that has been ground and
with pain and compassion.
And, yes, Expect Victory.
Sports columnists and analysts
have said that the Wildcat offense is anything from the best in the
down to a gimmick that will not work the second time around. Here
is where there is one desert-clean line to be drawn: NU's offense is
loaded and will surpass last year's performance. Expect school
records to be broken this year often, and by large margins. With
veteran and dominating linemen, a smart and versatile starting
and two rifle-armed backup QBs, and a back field with more weapons than
a Quentin Terrantino movie, there is no soft spot. Damien Anderson and
Zak Kustok have received much of the press, but Sam Simmons, Jon
and Kunle Patrick will be electric this fall. Austin King should
finish the season as the center for the All-Big Ten team and will have
a great shot to be an All-American, and I expect David Farman to
a position that has been almost overlooked for the last two
Look for Farman to be a third and short go to guy in an effort to
even more on all the attention that has been put on Anderson.
Are there questions and doubts
concerning the NU defense? Of course, but there were just as many
doubts last year about the offense. When fans heard about the
to the offense last year, many were skeptical. There will be
with the defensive changes now as well. The 'Cats lose Missouri
Emmerich. The line has been questioned. However with
Konopka, Chapman, Simon, and Grimes starting and with Harris filling
ominous and dreaded new rover role, the defensive front should fare
well. Reports indicate that the defense has abandoned its
"bend-don't-break" philosophy and is more of an attacking unit.
Durr, Silva, and Bentley racing to the line, this is really good
Success might very well hinge
this year, more than ever, on special teams. Any improvement over
last year's kick coverage will be a colossal step forward, and could be
the difference in as many as two games. Walker has said that he
very happy with the job new special teams coach Mike Dunbar has done so
far-- will Dunbar's new direction for special teams be enough to put
play quality over the top and take it to the next level?
We'll start to find answers
in the desert, this Friday. And we'll find them against a team
many fans are starting to write off, given its disastrous performance
Arkansas last Saturday. UNLV's offense was horrid. The
own Heisman candidate, QB Jason Thomas, completed only four of sixteen
passes. He threw three interceptions, including one that was
for Arkansas' winning touchdown. UNLV chalked up only two first
in the first half. They missed two field goals from 29
"We died in our own mistakes,'' UNLV coach John Robinson said. "We
won the football game if we would've just done the things that you
think a team should do, and we just didn't do them."
Robinson is absolutely right,
and don't think for a second that UNLV won't do the things a team
do, two weeks in a row. Thomas played much better ball last year;
last week is a fluke, and Friday he'll be a genuine threat. NU's
cornerbacks are in for a very grueling evening. The Rebel
the only UNLV unit that looked good against Arkansas, will give our
O-line as much as they can handle. Zak Kustok will have a very
time of protection. And, needless to say, their defense will be
for Anderson all night.
Robinson is right, but if
NU does not make similar mistakes Friday to what UNLV did last
the 'Cats have the talent to break the game open. But will we
a Wildcat desert storm, a first salvo toward accomplishing the first NU
non-conference sweep since 1963, or is it a mirage-- are the 'Cats
into another TCU, another Iowa? Did the Alamo Bowl stem for good
any overconfidence? This week, we'll all know.
"A desert is a place without
-Victory in Vegas-
'Cats Pull out 37-28 Win [posted September 7]
Northwestern returns to Evanston
with a hard-fought victory against John Robinson's UNLV Rebels.
Wildcats beat Vegas Friday night 37-28 for their fifth opening game win
in the last seven seasons, and their second against the Rebels.
match was a critical opener for NU, which has been under tremendous
and which now faces two non-conference opponents who should provide
matchups than UNLV.
The game was an absolute
showcase for Zak Kustok and Sam Simmons. Zak threw two touchdowns
and ran for three more. His five scores and 30 points breaks Otto
Graham's greatest remaining school record, for individual points in a
(Graham had 27 vs. Wisconsin in 1943). Sam made NFL catches and
Sam Boyd's field. His performance was on par with the very best
saw from NU last year. Kustok and the rest of the offense
hesitant (and at times confused) during the first half, but exploded
to give NU the win. Damien Anderson was completely shut down in
first half. UNLV's surprisingly fast defense keyed up on
the Wildcat O-line failed to create holes, and Anderson had just over a
dozen yards after two quarters. Once Zak and Sam opened things up
in the third, Damien began to find some ground. He finished with
113 yards and broke Darnell Autry's record to become Northwestern's
The first quarter started
haltingly, with the teams swapping punts. The Wildcat line had
trouble blocking, and DA found nothing. An enormous clutch catch
by Simmons allowed NU to threaten, and Zak punched the ball in by
the line like a madman. Kustok showed no fear in his execution;
made gutsy play after gutsy play. With 20 seconds to go in the
Simmons had another incredible catch and set up a 45 yard field goal by
David Wasielewski. The second half saw Zak simply run wild,
perfect bullet passes to Sam and scrambling for great chunks of real
The blocking also improved, especially Mike Souza's, who looked
The defense also had its
share of strengths Friday. Pat Durr had several tackles for loss
that were monstrous. Harris was fantastic. His interception
came at a point when the D. looked like it was going to gift wrap a
touchdown. With his new rover role, he truly seemed to be all
the field at once. Bentley's fumble recovery and 46 yard run was
a back-breaker for UNLV and gave Zak & Co. wonderful field
As expected, though, the
defense did show some soft spots. The line continuously popped
and coverage was really spotty, although there was an occasional flash
of brilliance. The Wildcats seemed to have forgotten how to
opponents: basic tackling was not accomplished with any success.
One lucky break for the 'Cats was that, even though UNLV quarterback
Thomas had a better game than he had against Arkansas, his receivers
one big exception) did not.
Special teams have been a
concern, and showed a few first-game flaws. NU's kickoff return
allowed an 87 yard scamper near the end of the game (during which
NU players were juked practically off the field), and Wasielewski
his first kick, a P.A.T. However, Wasielewski looked good on the
45 yarder, and J.J Standring was excellent both on punts and
Standring boomed at least one punt over 60 yards and was very
reminding me of Paul Burton.
NU's penalty problem is perhaps
the area of greatest concern from the game. The 'Cats lost well
100 yards in penalties, including the usual cheap shot, late hit
that occasionally plagued last season. How much better would this
team be if they dropped the trash talk and the late hits? There
actually several cheap shots that NU delivered that, while clear on TV
coverage, were not called. The team can do much better here.
Overall the game was a quality
win-- against a respected opponent, on the road. It also has
the staff a wealth of information to use for adjustments as the
head toward their conference title defense.
For this week's preview,
Wreck of the Navy
[To the tune
of "The Wreck
of the Edmond Fitzgerald"]
lives on from
Annapolis on down
Of a ball team
never give up the lead
When the skies
With its worst
and its defense still lame
Here the Navy
That good team
was a bone to be chewed
And the 'Cats
was dreck against
the Ramblin' Wreck,
seventy to seven.
As the big
it was bigger than most,
At the half it
and their defense collapsed
A week after
they got trounced
The Owls beat
plain and simple.
offense can roll,
and Ed Malinowski
rifle-armed fast and
are bound to have passed
the Wildcats' D-Backs.
is fair, but
with no defense there
can't win this.
and Zak will
unleash an attack,
be worn out.
and the wires made
a tattle-tale sound:
Wildcats now over-rated?
And every man
knew, as Rock
Walker did too,
Middies would try
for the upset.
But the 'Cats
in, a-ready to win,
are ready for slashin'
And later this
the headlines will shriek:
Wreck of the Navy
UPDATE - September
12, 7:00 pm CDT:
[posted September 12]
Northwestern University announced
Wednesday afternoon that the school and the U.S. Naval Academy have
to cancel their game, which was to be held at Ryan Field Saturday at
CDT. It is apparently the first time that NU has canceled a
football game since the Purdue train disaster that claimed several
Boilermaker players' lives in 1903.
Regardless of whom NU was
to play, the decision is the appropriate one; considering that the
were to play a service academy, there is no question.
"As we go to press, the
is sorely troubled, the horizon darkened with the clouds of war.
It is a good time to pause and remember that sport has kept the flag of
idealism high on the masthead, flying as Galsworthy said, 'With its
of rules kept; and regard for adversity, whether the fight is going for
or against.' The love of sport has been woven into the very
of our national life in the sure knowledge that the boys of today may
stronger physically, nobler spiritually because they learned to play
game. In every hour of crisis the men who learned to play hard in
a free land have fought hard to preserve that freedom."
-- James C.
University Chaplain, 1951
Duke Preview [posted
The Blue Devils' losing streak
is at 14. It would be 15 now, but Duke's game with Clemson was
because of the events of last week. Duke last tasted victory in
1999 when they smacked Wake Forest around en route to a 48-35
It's been a tailspin since, and last week's universal bye week is a
chance for Duke to catch its breath, regroup, and focus on getting win
#1 of the new century.
Enter the Wildcats.
A surreal, brutal, bewildering,
and grievous year for NU's football team keeps getting less
Fresh from the win in Vegas, Northwestern appeared back on track.
Now the team is as shocked as everyone else, and they are facing a
with only two non-conference games and only four chances to play at
They've shifted their game focus from what would have been a light
scrimmage against Navy and an opportunity to give nearly everyone some
playing time, to a real challenge against a cornered and starving team,
on its own turf. Many fans were afraid of an ambush by UNLV--
is a greater chance for an ambush when the Wildcats go into Wallace
True, Duke was demolished
in their opener by Florida State, 55-13. However, the Blue Devil
defense successfully confused FSU and threw its offense out of whack
much of the first quarter. The Blue Devils' defensive backs,
Ronnie Hamilton, will offer some very difficult challenges for the 'Cat
receivers. Hamilton also returns punts, and ran one back 68 yards
for a touchdown against FSU.
The Blue Devils dropped their
second game this year 15-13 to a not-too-bad Rice team. Duke had
a chance to tie the game, but the two point conversion failed due to a
fumbled snap. Earlier, Duke's quarterback D. Bryant (nicknamed,
Bryant") completed a 33-yard pass to Calen Powell. Bryant and
are a competent pair, and stand to test NU's secondary again.
As much of a threat as Duke
is, especially because they will certainly have red-circled this game
time ago, it should be noted that Duke has lost 16 straight games to
teams dating to 1994 and is 3-62 in its last 65. Northwestern
Wallace Wade Stadium, they know this team, and they've had time to make
the adjustments suggested by the UNLV game. Look for NU's defense
to be aggressive. D. Bryant is a good quarterback, but he isn't
scrambler we saw at UNLV. D. will take a few sacks Saturday.
losing streak will come to an end, but not until the Devils host Wake
October 13 [or, maybe not....].
NU 28, Duke 20.
NU Thumps Duke 44-7 [posted September 23]
NU re-started its 2001 season
by rolling into Durham and rolling the Duke Blue Devils, 44-7, in a
that showcased the Wildcat's Heisman front-runner, Damien
Anderson, the focus of the Duke defense the entire game, ripped off 189
yards rushing and 61 yards receiving-- just three yards short of Kunle
Patrick's receivers-leading total. Damien found the endzone four
times. ESPN and other sources have said that this ties the NU
record, so it isn't known whether Zak Kustok's five touchdowns vs. UNLV
will be an official school record. Anderson's performance was on
par with what fans have come to expect: a fumble-free (surprisingly,
wasn't a single fumble by either team), work horse, smart, punishing
Anderson's backup, Kevin
Lawrence, also had a solid evening, grinding out short yardage and
occasionally, including a 45 yard kickoff return. Kustok gave his
usual, spectacular performance, hanging 318 yards on Duke and suffering
no interceptions. Kunle Patrick stepped up to expectations and
them by pulling in several clutch, fantastic catches and piling on
after the catch. Sam Simmons, NU's regular go-to receiver,
a concussion and a broken finger in the game. Anderson said after
the game, "We came out great . . . but Sam went down. Hopefully
get him back. That's what I'm worried about right now. He's an
part of our offense, he really makes things click, especially for
Losing Sam, even for the next few games, would be a tremendous blow for
this strong offense.
The offense was expected
to perform (as it always is), especially against the Blue Devils'
defense. However, the special teams and defense were expected to
be at least somewhat tested during this game. They passed,
real improvement since UNLV, and great strides since last year.
Among the standouts on D.
was Billy Silva, who recorded two interceptions and is distinguishing
as one of the all-time great 'Cat linebackers. On special teams,
David Wasielewski made all his field goals (28, 36 and 47 yards) and,
at UNLV, was consistent on PATs, which is nice considering how many
were in the Duke game. Waz is now demonstrating just why he is
Wildcats' number one kicker.
If there is one weakness
with NU football that still shows a desperate need for improvement, it
is the 'Cats' susceptibility to penalties. NU suffered seven
and lost 75 yards. NU was set back 113 yards due to penalties at
UNLV. The Wildcats almost certainly stand to lose at least one
this year, if only due to all the yellow thrown onto the field.
After the game, the Durham,
NC, Herald-Sun announced, "Maybe history can debate this, but Duke’s
program never had such a miserable day. By the time the data had been
for and the scores were all in, it was difficult to tell which was the
lowest moment for the Blue Devils: Was it Northwestern’s well-balanced
offense embarrassing Duke’s defense with 638 total yards offense (just
26 shy of the school record 654 set last year against Michigan) in a
blowout Saturday night at Wallace Wade Stadium? How about the Wildcats
converting 8-of-16 third downs and their marquee players, running back
Damien Anderson and quarterback Zak Kustok, looking more like master
pieces on a board of doom for Duke? Could it be the fact that
is becoming an all too familiar scene for those in royal blue?"
some NU fans, the Herald-Sun opinion will be somewhat ironic, since
feel that one of NU's worst ever performances came in 1998, at Ryan
against the Blue Devils.
The Duke University Athletics
Association announced that it will donate a percentage of proceeds from
ticket sales for the Duke-Northwestern football game to relief efforts
in New York, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.
that isn't likely to be much: barely over 18,400 fans showed for the
with the bulk of those in attendance consisting of NU fans, announcers,
concession workers, security guards, and passers by.
Michigan St. Preview
[posted September 23]
Remember what Ryan Field
looks like? Well, neither do I, but we'll find out this Saturday,
when the Wildcats hit their home field for the first time this
There will be some noticeable differences, of course: the new video
should definitely be up and running by now, Wildcat Seatbacks will dot
the arenascape, and there may well be more red, white, and blue in the
stands than purple or green. What will be familiar is this 'Cat
with its inconsistent defense and special teams (which appear to be on
the rise) and an offense that is the most entertaining in all of
Also familiar will be the
Michigan State Spartans. When we last met MSU, they were a ranked
team that had just knocked off Notre Dame and were shifting around
on offense. This Saturday the Spartans will come to Evanston
(for the first time since the 'Cats demolished them in 2000),
and swinging around more Irish loot, after pillaging Notre Dame yet
Michigan State played well, but it's difficult to gauge, since they
a clearly inferior opponent. Notre Dame and Duke might have been
the better matchup last weekend.
The Spartans have two quarterbacks
who each are capable and show flashes of greatness, but neither is
Smoker completed half of his passes and picked up 59 yards against the
Irish. VanDyke wasn't much better, going 9 for 15, but he did end
up with 149 yards. Their receivers, however, are great--
Rogers and Flowers. NU's secondary simply does not match well
them. Duckett, MSU's own running back Heisman candidate, should
much improved over his performance last year. He might rack up
- 135 yards on the 'Cats, and if he does, watch out. This game is
likely to be an "Instant Classic" style shootout as NU focuses on
and MSU takes to the air.
Two achilles' heels that
plague the Spartans (yes, I know that Achilles wasn't Spartan, but the
metaphors are mixed freely on this page) so far are familiar to
fans: special teams and penalties. During the Notre Dame game MSU
was called for 14 penalties for 101 yards, including 10 for 71 yards in
the first half. This game could get rather sloppy. During
first game, against Central Michigan, the Fighting Wombats (or whatever
the lovable scamps at Central Michigan are calling themselves these
scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Both scores came
blocked Spartan punts run back. If the Wildcat D. can force at
a few fourth and long situations, we could have some fireworks.
Prediction: Will depend
on penalties. If both teams are fairly even with flags received,
it's NU 38, MSU 31. If NU pulls in more infractions, MSU takes
34, NU 28.
Michigan State 27-26 [posted September 30]
It was like Michigan 1996.
A tendril of hope as NU trailed 16-0 in the fourth quarter. The
ended with NU winning 17-16 after Brian Gowins successfully kicked the
clutch field goal twice. A fourth down conversion kept NU alive,
It was like Michigan 2000.
A tendril of hope as NU watches the game winning touchdown slip through
the fingers of its star on a brilliant fourth down play. The game
ends in pandemonium and a flood of purple.
It was like Minnesota 2000.
A tendril of hope as NU puts its fate on the arm of Zak Kustok, and
watch in disbelief as college sports dwarfs Hollywood for emotion and
It was like all of these
and many more, and it was like none of these and nothing else.
was no tendril of hope. There was NU, apparent game winner,
a Spartan streak, a white flash run with a ball he received as a result
of one of the most bone-headed calls in recent Wildcat history.
was NU, would-be game winner, letting the streak go by, letting him
fools of an already weak 'Cat kickoff coverage team, letting him dazzle
highlight reels everywhere. There was NU, and dejection, and 18
You can't even say, "Holy living yak crap, what was that? Did you
see that? What were we thinking?" In 18 seconds.
And the game ends in madness,
Wildcat glory, and another feature length ESPN Instant Classic.
Don't ask how. What's
the point when you are watching, and rooting for, and praying for the
exciting team in college football? You just enjoy it.
Ceremonies, Silence, and
The pre-game agenda Saturday
was obviously unlike anything before seen at Dyche / Ryan. As
marching band looked on, the Great Lakes Naval Station band played The
Star Spangled Banner, and a procession of uniformed fire fighters and
solemnly took the field carrying a large American flag.
a moment of silence honoring Rashidi Wheeler and the victims of the
11 terror attacks, the public address system played Ray Charles'
of "America the Beautiful." During the song a montage of images
New York and Washington were shown on Northwestern's new video
As Ray Charles' singing came
to a close, the muffled sound of a jet engine could be heard swelling
the distance. At first those in attendance thought it might be a
military fly-by. Looking overhead, they were overwhelmed at what
they saw: a single commercial jetliner, the first in sight over
that day, soaring from O'Hare and bounding its way toward skies over
Michigan. It carried itself directly over Ryan Field just as the
music came to an end and stunned fans look on, and up, in silence
A clear message from the
game itself is that, while NU's special teams still have serious
the defense continues its improvement, and can now actually help win
for the Wildcats. The defensive unit gutted it out the whole
MSU's 31 minute time of possession does not tell the whole story of the
challenge the D. faced for much of this game. There were several
grinding MSU drives that punished the Wildcats, yet they stuck it out,
and yielded only 111 rushing yards to a team that has star-calibre
More telling were the seven
sacks NU recorded on the day. It is not yet known how close this
might be to a school record; NU does not release an official record for
sacks in a game. The linebacking corps, particularly Bentley and Silva,
was stellar. Raheem "The Glove" Covington was the bright spot in
NU's defensive backfield, and Napoleon Harris ran rampant all
There were several times that, from the stands, it appeared that
players were afraid of Harris, and hesitated a little in their play
they were unsure just where Harris was.
Victory Right Redux
The game was a defensive
match until five minutes before the end of the fourth quarter.
all Hell cut loose, and NU's special teams allowed two critical
With four minutes forty-two seconds left Northwestern led MSU by the
at halftime, 17-14. NU's offense ground to a halt. The
had been effective all day in shutting down NU's running backs, and
successful in powering past the 'Cat offensive line. J.J.
was having a great day, booming punts for a nearly 46 yard
His last punt, however, was returned by Charles Rogers 64 yards for a
The point after, however, was not good, surprising not one soul in Ryan
Field: MSU's kicking game was perhaps the most brutal I've ever seen by
a Big Ten team (with the possible exception of Iowa's hilarious
at Ryan Field in 1997).
MSU 20, NU 17.
It was time for Zak Kustok
to slip out of the huddle and into his own on-field phone booth, to
his pads and put on his cape, to take the "10" off his chest and put on
his "S" (or is it a "Z"?). It was time for Kustok to become once
again this team's super hero and save the day.
Zak led the charge across
the field, climaxed by a gutsy 24-yard run. Then time and hearts
stopped. NU confronted a fourth down near the Spartan 20 yard
Michigan 2000, Michigan 1996, Minnesota 2000. Michigan State
with just over a minute left.
For Walker, there was no
choice, and the tendril of hope wrapped itself, clung to Kustok.
Zak got the first down, of
course, and then unloaded to Kunle Patrick in the end zone with 29
left. For Patrick, it was the best play of a very strong
With Sam Simmons recovering from his injuries sustained during the Duke
game, some one had to step up to make the Sam "Damn!" catches.
eagerly did just that.
NU 24, MSU 20. An apparent
final. Appearances and assumptions have never been as deceiving
they were in this game, which was like so many games, and like no
From here on out, appearances were not to be trusted, and lessons were
to be taught. The first lesson was about hubris and tragic flaws;
the second lesson was about will.
Northwestern's hubris, its
tragic flaw, is its attitude toward personal fouls. Fans have
a distressing increase in the number of late hits and personal fouls
NU over the last three years, and the Wildcat staff don't seem too
It is as if the 'Cats are too important to worry about trivial matters,
like clean play. They really should be worried. Besides
more fundamental reasons, it nearly (and should have) cost them the
After yet another personal foul after the extra point, NU was forced to
kick off from its own 20, with under 29 seconds to go. Without
penalty, the Wildcats could have considered kicking the ball out of
and starting the final MSU drive on the 35 yard line. With this
longer an option, the 'Cats could either squib kick or give a standard
and very returnable kick. They could only choose the squib with
degree of safety.
So they went for the standard
kick and nearly broke every Wildcat fan's heart. Walker, to his
credit, nostrificated the blame for the call. He wanted the
his players wanted a standard kick, and Walker changed his mind and
the kick. That kick, and that white streak, flew backward (via
Haygood) 84 yards with 18 seconds to go. Any tendril of hope that
might have been near the field was well-hidden within the players and
MSU 26, NU 24. The
lesson about hubris was far from over, though. The MSU players,
on the field and on the sidelines, went ape, celebrating their
Players leaped. Players piled on each other. Players raced
from the sidelines like they were going to be interviewed by Keith
Players did everything except prepare for the point after, and flags
The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty threw the Spartan's miserable
team back 15 feet. When they missed yet again, the tendril edged
back, then faded when Kevin Lawrence's knee hit the grass at the NU 15
yard line on the last kickoff.
The final lesson was about
will. Kustok said after the game, "I go into every game thinking
it's going to come down to me having to win the game and having
in myself to do that."
"I didn't know how we were
going to get it," Kustok said. "But I knew we were going to get
I was sitting near Kustok's
parents at the game. After the game, I looked at Zak's father and
said, "your son is absolutely incredible!" Al Kustok laughed and
shook his head and said, "This TEAM is incredible." What a
statement, and what class.
"I didn't know I could throw
the ball that far," Zak Kustok said. "That's what [teammates] were
me. I tell them I save it up in practice. As far as I had to throw it,
I was going to get it there."
Kustok unleashed Victory
Right, the same weapon of mass destruction we saw last year in
Fifty-six yards down the field Kunle Patrick tipped the ball, and Jon
made as heroic a catch as any Wildcat receiver ever has.
With three ticks left on
the clock, NU's David Wasielewski kicked the field goal of his
Forty-seven yards of glory.
Northwestern might have had
the retirement ceremony for #30's jersey before the game, but that
was still on the field and a part of this game long after the moment of
silence. It was there for every second, in a game like no
Three and Oh, My Gosh!
With the win, Northwestern
is now 3-0 for the first time since 1962, when the Wildcats eventually
crested at first place in the Associated Press poll. Even during
its three recent Championship seasons, NU has stumbled at least once
of the gate:
1995: NU blows 21 point lead,
loses 30-28 vs. Miami in game two;
stunned by Wake
Forest, 28-27 in game one;
whacks NU 41-14
in game three.
Overwhelm Hapless 'Cats [posted October 6]
For thirty years Ohio State
has owned Northwestern. Saturday night OSU showed that they've
their mortgage payments current by knocking around a stunned, confused
NU team 38-20. There were few bright spots in a game which
- An even
more porous NU defense
than fans are accustomed to watching. Silva and Durr looked
and Martin did have a nice interception, but that was it. Ohio
bulled its way through the 'Cat defensive line at will. The
full and running backs had their way with the 'Cats, dragging them
like they were dolls. NU's defense could never adjust.
worst offensive performance
by Northwestern since 1999. Everyone on offense had a horrible
Everyone looked like they'd rather be somewhere else, from the very
of the game. NU did muster
a few good plays in the fourth quarter, however.
The very start of the game was
also the end of the game, as Ohio State needed just two plays and
seconds to sprint into the Wildcats' unguarded end zone. NU
fumbles, turnovers, and explosion plays, and folded like a Japanese
Was it really such a bad night for the 'Cats, or is OSU really
OSU also made many mistakes, and Steve Bellisari did not impress.
It really was such a bad night for NU. The coaching for the game
seemed off. It's typical to see the Wildcat defense start out of
sorts and remain so after the half. It is disappointing to watch
Wilson's plan fail and have no successful adjustment.
Hey, it could be worse: we
could have watched the Hurryin' Hoosiers hang 63 points on our team,
the Badgers suffered Saturday. [Ed. note--
this Karma? I really, really should not have mentioned the
- Wilconsin game. Little did fans know just how similar our game
with Indy would be.] The Ohio State game was
to sit through, and it was a particularly bitter loss because of the
NU has with the Buckeyes. However, it was one game.
has lost one game in every season it has ever played football.
single one. This was one game, and NU has one loss. It had
one loss in 1936, it had two in 1948, it had one in 1995, it had two in
1996, it had three in 2000, and it has one now. The Wildcats have
a week to prepare for Minnesota, and when they beat the Gophers in
at Homecoming, they will be right back in the conference race.
But of all the single games
to lose, why did it have to be this one?
NU Holds 4-1 Record
after Beating Minnesota 23-17 [posted October 15]
Sure, fans are saying that
the game was ugly, that Northwestern still wasn't playing at 100% and
Minnesota remain in the game long after they should have been given
tickets to Garbage Time. Two points, however, must be made:
1. NU's play, for the most
part, was actually quite good when reconsidered, and when
2. ...the game
as ugly as the weather, which was horrific.
The rain was relentless during
the Wildcat's 23-17 victory over Minnesota. In fact, sitting
this might actually have been worse than the great monsoon of the
1998 game, since at least the rain let up for a few minutes in
Saturday it was constant. I'm still not fully dry.
Anderson rushed for
one touchdown, the 36th rushing touchdown of his career. This
Darnell Autry's career record, felling one of the last standing rushing
records from the Pre-Damien Era of NU football. Unfortunately,
still did not have the spectacular ground game that he so often
last year. He was held to 86 yards, and the 'Cats often employed
Kevin Lawrence, who was again effective running the ball.
The two best players on offense
Saturday, however, were Sam Simmons, and Jon Schweighardt. Zak
was his usual unbelievable self as well, mixing crisp short passes with
typically bold rushing plays. Schweighart simply has the ability
to catch anything thrown near him. He runs routes like they've
burned into his brain. Jon has the potential to be among the best
receivers ever at NU. Sam "Damn!" Simmons provided the
Simmons found the endzone twice, once after a 71-yard punt return,
time after a 29-yard pass.
Simmons' punt return capped
the best day for NU's special teams this year. Kickoffs were
well, Minnesota's on-side kick never had a chance of succeeding, and
Standring was consistent and outstanding.
The Wildcat defense had a
better day than the offense, with the secondary, linebackers, and line
looking solid. In the backfield, Marvin Ward had a fantastic game
and Covington had a good game as well, until giving up the final Gopher
Billy Silva and Kevin Bentley
continued to roll, and Salem Simon and Napoleon Harris won most of
battles on the line. While it might seem that Minnesota's offense
had the edge and was able to move (they racked up 257 rushing yards),
just were not able to convert those gains to points. Part of this
was the defense's effectiveness, but the Gopher play calling also
a role. Minnesota's coaches squandered their rushing gains,
inexplicably to a weak passing game at the worst moments.
Penn State Preview
[posted October 15]
Maybe more than any other
this year, this Saturday's game is going to be a battle of tangibles
intangibles. There are aspects of football that can be
measured, analyzed, processed, and predicted-- the "tangibles."
every single one of these items points to a Wildcat victory over Penn
Northwestern is right now (Monday) an eleven point favorite over the
and not without reason. Statistically, Penn State (0-4) is
horrendously on both sides of the ball. Their turnover margin is
currently ranked 97th in the nation (out of 115 Division IA
This is the bright spot for PSU.
The Lions' rushing defense
is 100th. If Damien Anderson needs a team on which to take out
existing frustrations, the team in Blue and White is the one.
total defense ranks 103rd. Expect a more balanced attack by the
Saturday. The Lion's linebacking corps is unusually thin, and
be out of its league trying to handle Zak, Damien, and the rest of the
weapons flying out of the Purple backfield. The Wildcat O-line
had two off games in a row; assuming they are "up" for the game
they should completely blow the Lions off the ball.
Penn State's quarterback,
Matt Senneca, has not had a world-class season so far, having been
abused in every game. Suffering a shoulder sprain, he sat out
the Wolverines, and redshirt freshman Zack Mills took over, and
performed better than Senneca had so far. After the Lions'
loss against Michigan, PSU's passing efficiency ranked 101st
Again, this is a highlight. The Lion's rushing offense is so bad
(dead last in Division IA) that it drags Penn State's total offense
to last in Division IA. Reflect on this for a second-- dead
115th, in a division that includes Duke, Navy, Louisiana - Monroe, and
Troy State. On average this season, Penn State has gained more
through opponents' penalties than by its ground attack-- in fact, over
twice as many yards. If NU's defense can't smell blood in the
here, they have no noses.
While every tangible factor
points toward a Northwestern win, every intangible favors the Lions--
least the main four intangibles: the officials, the schedule, Penn
current record, and Joe Paterno himself.
'Cat fans are concerned that,
with JoePa still looking to tie Bear Bryant's major college record of
victories, the officials will want to be a part of the feel good story
by (at least subconsciously) giving an edge to PSU. To be honest,
there is little reason to fear such a conspiracy. For the past
seasons Big Ten officials have had enough trouble just calling a good
let alone steering one. It can be said that Penn State is
the third least penalized team in the conference. And it can
be said that they have no wins so far to show for it.
The Lions have had a week
to think over their season, and to make a new start of it. They
the first of three teams on NU's schedule that play the 'Cats after a
off, and it could really hurt NU this time. Penn State will have
had two weeks to focus entirely on NU, study them, and build up the
of this game. The Wildcats are probably still waterlogged from
naval battle against the Gophers. Fortunately, the team did not
to be too banged up during the Minnesota game, with no significant
Penn State's 0-4 start is
the worst start in the school's history, and one cannot imagine that
growing much longer. The Lions will not, cannot go winless, even
considering their abysmal stats. You can safely bet that, after
weeks to mull things over, every single Penn State player will be set
beat the Wildcats by any means available. Seventy-four year-old
is under fire, and the players see this as the Battle for JoePa.
They will not come into Ryan Field as a broken team but as a very angry
and hungry team, and Paterno will not come into Ryan Field without the
best game plan the Wildcats have faced so far (including in Columbus)--
he is, after all, still Paterno, and he will have some surprises for
End the end, though, intangibles
can only sway an outcome; they cannot be the basis for a team or a
As long as the Wildcats are prepared and Walker has done his job this
Northwestern should prevail. Prediction: NU 35, Penn State 20.
'Cats Bow to Penn
State, 38-35; Paterno Earns Career Win Record [posted October 20]
The good news from Saturday
night's game was that Penn State's Joe Paterno has tied Bear Bryant's
IA career win record, with 323. If any working coach deserves this
it is Paterno. The Grand Old Man of the Big Ten is to be
congratulated. And he is to be congratulated not just for the
but for his coaching versus Northwestern. Yes, the PSU offense
confused at times, with neither Matt Senneca or Zack Mills all that
at quarterback, but they were "up" for this game, and they stayed in it
until they found victory.
For NU, this is a game without
much merit. The offense played fine, and their 35 points
have been sufficient. Jon Schweighardt performed well, and Zak
ground attack was typically sparkling. He compiled 115 yards and
three touchdowns rushing, and passed for 298 yards. Kustok now
the Big Ten in total offense. Sam "Damn!" Simmons caught seven passes
The running backs continue
to have problems shaking the attention placed on them by the
The special teams were more spotty than last week. Several
were pooched with somewhat poor results, and the onside kick that NU
to begin the second half made me think that Gary Barnett circa 1998 had
somehow returned to Ryan Field.
As for the defense, what
is there to say? The only thing anyone connected to the defense
be practicing now is tackling. That is all. Nothing
Tackling. Tackling. Tackling. There were countless times
this game that the defense did a fantastic time getting past blocks and
getting to the ball carrier, only to wave him through.
were so many plays in which a Penn State player found himself
by purple and black, and then found himself scott free. Tackling
was all that was missing, but Saturday it was everything.
With the loss, NU is 4-2,
but has the talent to win out. It showed that talent this year in
flashes and drives and quarters at a time, and if the Wildcats turn
after their Penn State game and use the experience as a building and
process, and face the second half of the season determined, that talent
will convert to victory.
[posted October 23]
This is it, 'Catfans: the
most talented team Northwestern has faced so far, and will face until
Purdue has not overly impressed with its performance so far. Its
four wins were lackluster, and its loss to Michigan was not
But make no mistake, they have played below their potential, and
coming off their heartbreaking loss to the previously winless Lions--
in a world of trouble. This is Week Two of NU's Bye Week
Tour (Northwestern faces three opponents in a row that all enjoy a week
off before playing the 'Cats), and Purdue will be relatively
rested, and focused.
It is also Purdue's Homecoming.
Since Joe "I AM WILFORD BRIMLEY! I AM WILFORD BRIMLEY!" Tiller
over in 1997, Purdue has not lost:
Homecoming game, nor
As some thought would have been
the case with Ohio State, this match up should pit strength (NU's
versus strength (the Boiler defense). Purdue's defensive line is
very good, especially Matt Mitrione, who promises to pick the Wildcats'
pocket all day. NU's offensive line performed very well against
State, and they will need to play at that level or better Saturday, or
Zak Kustok will spend much of the game on his back. Get used to
Schweigert's name after a lot of plays-- that's Stuart Schweigert (not
Jon Schweighardt, the 'Cats' talented receiver), Purdue's safety and
hitman. Kustok will need to be very careful throwing the ball to
the same side of the field that contains Schweigert. He will make
a pick given any opportunity.
With the departure of Drew
"Barrymore" Brees, Purdue's offense was a question mark coming into
season, and it remains so. Brandon Hance appears to be a worthy
to Brees, but he has a very young offensive line to step up to.
showed against Michigan, when Hance was molested continuously, and
seven times. Purdue had fifteen penalties against the Wolverines,
and to date have suffered more penalty yards than the Wildcats, which
saying a great deal.
Purdue likely will storm
out of the gate in this game and shut our offense down early. If
the Boiler offense can hold up their end and throw a couple of scores
on the board in the first quarter or by the middle of the second
the Wildcats will be done by halftime. If, however, the NU
can attack Purdue's green line and-- at the least-- hold the Boilers,
best case-- get an opportunistic turnover, NU should be able to adjust
the offense at the half to stay in the game, and perhaps pull it
Prediction: objectively, a Boilermaker win. However, that's
the beauty of having a personal page: I answer to NO ONE. NU 28,
Purdue Bolts Past
NU 32-27 [posted October 29]
As Randy Walker described
it, the Wildcats have been dancing around fire lately. For the
week straight, they were burned. This time the team holding the
were the Purdue Boilermakers. Did the defense cost NU the
Did the offense just not have enough to pull it out? Maybe, but
more to the point that the 'Cats just haven't caught the right breaks
They've stumbled into the fire, and they've fumbled into losing three
their last four games-- quite literally. Every loss so far for
Wildcats has involved a key turnover that resulted in an opponent
Handing the Boilers a bonus
touchdown within seconds of the game's beginning was very similar to
start with OSU, except that NU hung in the game in West Lafayette, and
did not quit. This is an important distinction to make, because
has more talent than OSU or Penn State, and the Wildcat loss Saturday
cannot be blamed on the players or the coaches primarily, but on the
that they faced a stronger team with a very good plan. However,
the breaks gone their way, the Wildcats very well could have taken the
game. The coaching did not cost NU the game, but it wasn't going
to help them take it either. NU's decisions and play calling
the final two minutes of the first half, and the decision to attempt an
onside kick (at a point when NU really should have tried to gut it out
on defense and taken the ball back) didn't show a killer instinct, but
an attempt just not to fall into the fire.
Still, the players did not
let up, and two players stood out. On defense Herschel Henderson
was great, and delivered a glancing tackle for loss. Henderson is
a true freshman, who played with Roger Jordan in high school. On
offense Kunle Patrick flawlessly executed the new, modified "fumble
play, scurrying 11 yards into the endzone, undetected. He also
six completions, several of them wild circus catches that were very
Unfortunately, the 'Cats
suffered a devastating injury when Gilles Lezi left the game with a
leg. The Canadian fullback will miss the rest of the season.
"We have no reason to hang
our heads. The team played hard, but obviously we made mistakes. Purdue
is a well-coached team, and we didn't make the plays we needed to.
we gave up some big plays. The turnover in the beginning was big. Our
was to come out and play fast. And that play hurt us."
56-21 by Mediocre Hoosiers; Indy Led 42-0 at Half [posted November 4]
This one was a spectacle,
and there is no point in analyzing and picking through the painfully
It should simply be written that Northwestern's abused defense gave the
(now 2-5) Hoosiers 562 yards, and that NU's opponents are now averaging
420 yards in offense. To compete next year, the defense will need
to make major adjustments. The unit has some great
returning, including Henderson and Clark. There is potential for
the defense to improve, but the unit's style of preparation,
game plan, and execution must all change.
The offense was also woeful,
and incredibly frustrating when one considers three drives NU made
the Indiana five yard line, which resulted in:
Even with those three
put hypothetically into NU's scoring column, that only gives the 'Cats
42 points (and the third turnover came with seconds left in the game,
into garbage time, a.k.a. the second half), which would not have been
to confront 562 yards being burned the other direction. NU's
did record three touchdowns in the third quarter, but those scores were
against an overachieving team still in the clouds after waxing the
Big Ten Champions by scoring twice as many touchdowns the first
After the game, Coach Walker
said, "It was almost hard to believe while it was happening. The
sideline was in a state of shock. . . It got out of hand quickly. . . .
I saw no sign of the guys going in the wrong direction this week.
In fact, I had as good a feeling about this game as I've had. I felt
about our week, the practices we had. I didn't see one (indication) of
it going the wrong way." Walker is a fantastic coach, but this
is deeply concerning.
Considering that NU was favored
in this game and considering Indiana's lack of talent, both on the
and on the coaching staff, the game must be judged Northwestern's worst
since at least 1989, the midst of the Peay era. Therefore, the
this week is to forget it. Move on. Move on to Iowa, now
most important game of the year, since it will likely determine if 2001
will be a winning season for the Northwestern Wildcat football
On to Iowa, the most important
game of the year, pitting a 4-4 and desperate NU team against another
4-4 team. On to Iowa, the team that slugged the Purple around
year, ruining the 'Cat's Rose Bowl hopes. If there is one game
should anger the Wildcats, this is the one.
On to Iowa, also coming off
a road loss (the Hawkeyes have not won on the road yet this season) to
the cryptic Badgers. Brad Banks might start at quarterback, but
will more likely be Kyle McCann. Almost every time he takes the
the beleaguered McCann is booed -- by Hawkeye fans. Forgetting
they aren't watching WCW Wrestling, but student-athletes, the fans make
their feelings for McCann known. And that is really too
Because (besides the sheer classlessness of it) McCann isn't that
In fact, his passing appears to be incredibly accurate. If McCann
holds onto the ball, doesn't make ridiculous mental errors, and if his
receivers hold up their end of the deal, McCann is top-tier, and he may
well slice up the Wildcat secondary just as badly as did Indiana.
If the NU secondary plays this Saturday like they did last Saturday, a
42 point half might be in order again.
Ladell Betts will be the
main ground threat, and he won't need to do anything remarkably fancy
get the job done, just run it up the gut. Betts will not be
and should easily get 150 yards Saturday. If NU keys on Betts,
secondary will have to have the game of their careers.
Like nearly every game this
year, NU's chances will hinge on its offense. Iowa will score at
least 35, and the Wildcat offense will have to have everything going
way. Damien Anderson might not play, due to a separated shoulder
he suffered during the Indiana game. Kevin Lawrence has been
running the ball, and should start for the 'Cats. Simply avoiding
red zone turnovers will help incredibly, and keeping penalties down to
a minimum will also bode really well. What Northwestern truly
boils down to:
offensive line to come out
pissed off, fired up, and playing to win;
Lawrence to step up as
a starter and perform to his level;
and NU's core receivers
to have an average (for them) performance, at the least
If these needs are met, NU
goes to 5-4, and is in a place to salvage its season and-- perhaps--
capture a bowl berth. Prediction: the Wildcats realize that
this game is their season, and the needs are met: NU 45, Iowa 42.
November 10: "Saint
Leo's Day" [posted November 7]
Saturday November 10th, besides
being the date of the Iowa game, is also the Feast Day of Saint Leo the
Great. Leo reigned as pope in the fifth century, and led a
recently defeated troop to meet Attila the Hun at the gates of
Leo repelled Attila from the gates, and later prevented the Vandals
Hawkeyes) from pillaging the city.
Almost exactly one thousand
years later, King Henry V led a maligned, recently defeated English
into battle against a seemingly overwhelming French army. The
aware of Henry's soldiers' weakening condition because of previous
and the attacks of Dysentery that had plagued the dwindling band, moved
between King Henry and Calais, the port he needed to reach in order to
return to England. The troops followed Henry's band along the rivers,
their crossing and daring them to a battle they thought they could not
Henry's "St. Crispin Day"
speech, rallying his men before the battle of Agincourt, was crafted
immortalized by Shakespeare. That speech might be a fitting
cry for our Wildcats, with a few liberties to the text, including
St. Crispin with November 10th's Leo the Great (and apologies to the
The scene is (now) the morning
of the battle of Iowa. The Wildcat forces are badly outnumbered and,
are tired, wounded, and hungry, coming from three defeats. Their
greatest knight has fallen to injury. The Hawkeyes are well
armed, and confident. One of Randy's lieutenants complains, "Oh that we
now had here but one ten thousand of those men in the Midwest who do no
work today." The young coach responds:
fewer men, the greater share of honour.
will! I pray thee, wish not one Wildcat more.
Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
care I who doth feed upon my cost;
yearns me not if men my jerseys wear;
outward things dwell not in my desires:
if it be a sin to covet honour,
am the most offending soul alive.
faith, my coz, wish not a man from Chicago;
peace! I would not lose so great an honour
one man more, methinks, would share from me,
the best hope I have. O! do not wish one more:
proclaim it, Tribune, through my host,
he which hath no stomach to this fight,
him depart; his passport shall be made,
crowns for convoy put into his purse:
would not lose in that man's company
fears his fellowship to lose with us.
day is called the feast of Saint Leo:
that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
rouse him at the singing of the Alma Mater.
that shall live this day, and see old age,
yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
say 'To-morrow is Saint Leo':
will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
say 'These wounds I had on Leo's day.'
men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
he'll remember with advantages
feats he did this day. Then shall our names,
in his mouth as household words,
the coach, Harris and Covington,
and Silva, Durr and Henderson,
and Roehl, Schweighardt and Simmons,
and Waz, King and Patrick,
in their flowing Bowls freshly remember'd.
story shall the good man teach his son;
Leo Leopold shall ne'er go by,
this day to the ending of the world,
we in it shall be remembered;
few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
he to-day that sheds his blood with me
be my brother; be he ne'er so vile
day shall gentle his condition:
gentleman in Evanston now a-bed
think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
fought with us upon Saint Leo's day."
A Retrospective [posted November 7]
It is now apparent that NU's
star running back, Damien Anderson, is lost for the season with a
shoulder. Much has been made of Anderson's struggles this
However, we should be reminded why Damien got so much press this
he annihilated most of Northwestern's rushing records in 2000, and he
every single accolade he received.
Here is a look back at last
year, and Damien Anderson's wonderful run(s) as a Northwestern
At the close of the 2000
season, Damien was named NU's 2000 MVP, was given All Big Ten honors,
became NU's 36th consensus All American. Damien was named a 2000
First Team All American by:
Writers Association of America
Walter Camp Foundation
He was one of three finalists
for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running
And, of course, he was considered for the 2000 Heisman Trophy.
received six first place Heisman votes, 20 second place votes and 43
place votes for 101 points.
Conference Records Crumbled
Anderson tore up the season
rushing records. Including the Nebraska game (NU and the Big Ten
both count bowl game stats when determining records; the NCAA does
Anderson rushed for 2,063 yards last season. Northwestern's
best season was 1,895, set by Darnell Autry in 1995 (and the 1996 Rose
Bowl). Anderson racked up 171.9 yards per game, also
beating out Autry's 1995 record (of 148.8). If regular
games only are considered, Anderson's yard per game average increases
Darnell Autry also set the
previous mark for touchdowns in a season in 1995, when he ran into the
endzone 17 times. Anderson blew past the record with 23
in 2000 (22, regular season). Autry holds the career record for
touchdowns with 35 (37 total touchdowns). Anderson's Alamo Bowl
brought his career total to 30, well on course to break this record as
well. Anderson broke that record in the Purdue game, with his
career touchdown. Anderson was just 65 yards shy of Autry's
rushing yards record (3,793) after 2000. If the 2001 Indiana game
is, indeed, his finale, Anderson ends with an astounding 4,485 yards
The record is truly his.
In 2000 Anderson broke Lorenzo
White's 1985 Big Ten records for rushing yards (1,549) and rushing
(193.6) in conference games. Even Heisman winner Ron
failed to break White's marks.
Damien also erased the NU
record for yards per carry in a season. Autry's 1996 record was
yards per carry; Anderson posted over 6.5 yards per carry, which
rushed for 200+
yards in four games last year:
St. 219 yds.
...which shattered the previous
career record for the number of 200+ yard
games (two, by
Autry, 1994-'96) and decimated the season record (one game, set seven
most recently by Autry vs. Iowa, 1996).
During his 293 carries in
2000, Damien Anderson did not fumble once.
Other school records tied
or broken by Anderson in 2000:
points scored in a season
(incl. bowls): 138
points scored in a season:
132 (previous mark: 108, Autry 1995 and 1996)
scored per game: 12.0
(previous best: 9.0, Autry 1995 and 1996)
in a game: 4 (twice!
vs. Indiana and vs. Illinois) (record also by Autry vs. Iowa 1996, R.
vs. NIU 1982, M. Adamle vs. Minnesota 1970, O. Graham vs. Wisconsin
in 2 consecutive
games: 6 (vs. Mich. St. and Indiana) (record also by Autry vs. Iowa and
in 3 consecutive
games: 8 (vs. Wisc., Mich. St. and Ind.) (record also by Autry vs.
Purdue and Tenn., 1996)
games scoring a
touchdown, season: 9 (previous: 6 by Mike Adamle, 1970)
games scoring a
touchdown, career: 9 (previous: 6 by R. Buchanan 1987-'90, M. Adamle
games scoring a touchdown,
regular season: 10 (previous: 9, Autry 1995 and 1996)
games scoring 2 or more
touchdowns, reg. season: 8 (previous: 6, Autry 1995 and 1996)
seasons gaining 1,000 yards
or more: 2, 1999 and 2000 (record also by Autry 1995 and 1996)
yards gained in 2 consecutive
games: 511, vs. Mich. St. and Ind. (previous: 352 by Autry 1995 vs. Air
Force and Ind.)
yards gained in 3 consecutive
games: 685, vs. Wisc., Mich. St. and Ind. (previous: 504 by Autry 1995
vs. Notre Dame, Miami (OH) and Air Force)
yards gained in 4 consecutive
games: 845, vs. Ind. Purdue, Minn. and Michigan (previous: 664 by Autry
1995 vs. Notre Dame, Miami (OH), Air Force and Ind.)
gained in 5 consecutive
games: 1,064 vs. Mich. St., Ind., Purdue, Minn. and Michigan (previous:
802 by Mike Adamle 1970 vs. Wisc., Purdue, Ohio St., Minn. and Ind.)
Preview [posted Nobember 12]
Saturday is Senior Day, the
final game for many of Gary Barnett's final NU recruits. It is
Redemption Day, a final chance to take to Central Street's playing
as a team, to put on purple and black and play football like
For two weeks straight bad breaks and frustrations have snowballed into
catastrophe. Here is a chance-- one last chance-- to unite as a
claw and will to victory. It is a chance, but it will be a very,
very difficult one. Northwestern is now a wounded, ragged
Its defensive line relies on freshmen and is paper-thin. Its
of running backs-- fierce and bountiful before the season-- lies in
Damien Anderson is gone, victim of a dislocated shoulder. Kevin
is gone, victim of a knee injury. Noah Herron is gone, victim of
a stress fracture to his foot. NU's last running back is Torri
Zak Kustok might be gone at quarterback, at least for the BGSU
NU's awesome yet troubled offense could be helmed by Tony Stauss.
The 'Cats will face an underrated,
unknown, good team in the Falcons (6-3). BGSU has had six
losing seasons; this year will break the streak. First-year coach
Urban Meyer has already guided his team to a winning season. Now
he will focus on a new goal, a goal he did not have at the start of the
season: besting a Big Ten school, breaking into the Big Time. The
Falcon's offense also employs a form of the spread, and Bowling Green's
sophomore quarterback Josh Harris has proven effective with it.
week, against Ohio, Harris racked up 304 yards of offense, including
yards rushing the ball. One bright spot for the 'Cats is that at
least the NU defense will be familiar with this type of attack.
As if the Wildcat rushing
game hasn't had enough bad luck due to injuries, it now faces in the
the third best team in the country in terms of rushing defense.
Jason Wright, or whoever else might end up running the ball for NU,
face very stiff resistance. Key to this game will be how well the
Wildcat passing game will compensate. What's left of the wide
corps will have to step up to handle the deep ball if NU is to have a
The Wildcats have not quit.
They have played some exasperating ball, and they must be questioning
They are capable of rallying-- we saw that after the Ohio State game,
only for one week. They are capable of playing as a team.
there are just too many missing pieces now. With no defensive
with Zak out, with the headlining running backs sidelined, with a
receiver squad, with freshmen starting in the defensive secondary,
just doesn't have the manpower. There might still be a will; I'm
not sure I see a way. Prediction: NU 20, BGSU 28.
[posted November 19]
An assessment from Illinois'
tactful Brandon Lloyd: "I feel Northwestern has a gimmick
They call the signals for those spread formations after the huddle
because they don't want to line up and play." Exactly. Just
as NU cowered from play, while dismantling the Illini 61-23 last season.
Meanwhile, from Wildcat Jeff
Roehl: "For me, and pretty much for everybody on the team, it comes
to pride. They're on their home field, defending their turf, and we
to go down there and make a statement about who we are and what we are
as a program.
"It has been a battle for
us to try and stay positive and trust in who we are and what we do. But
as far as this game, we're going in as confident as we've ever been.
is our bowl game. This is what we have left for the seniors, and it
be a disappointment to them if we didn't give it everything we have and
play really well. We're going to get ready to play Illinois like we
10-0 going into this game.
"But the seniors have given
their hearts and their souls to this program, and I think we owe the
our best effort on Thursday. There'd be no better way to send them out
than with a victory down in Champaign."
Regardless of the outcome
Thursday, the seniors and the team deserve congratulations for the
of last season, and what they did accomplish this season: the first 3-0
start for a Wildcat team since 1962, the Michigan State finish (one of
the most thrilling moments in 'Cat history), and-- most importantly--
through the loss of a teammate and staying at NU and with the program,
through feast and famine.
Trivial Trends for the
With the NU-Illinois game
moved to Thanksgiving Day, I started looking at some of the prior games
that were held on Thanksgiving. This led to reviewing several
factors considering the game this Thursday. What follows are some
pretty useless but interesting facts about Northwestern's historic
Northwestern's win - loss
record, when playing...:
Thanksgiving Day: 2 wins,
8 losses, 2 ties*
- On a
Thursday (other than Thanksgiving):
5 wins, 1 loss, no ties
(all time): 40-49-5
the last game of the
regular season: 18-22-1
the season immediately
after NU had beaten Illinois by more than ten points: 8-9-2
November 22nd: 5-7-0 (the
last time the 'Cats played on November 22 was 1986, and NU beat...
final game of a head coach's
third season at NU: 4-11-0
following a one-point
final Big Ten game of the
season (last 15 years): 7-8-0
final game of the season,
while holding a 4-6 record: 1-0-0 (!)
*Based on a partial list of
all NU Thanksgiving Day games:
- 1888 W
DIVISION HS (W)
GREAT LAKES (L)
4-7; End Season with Good Showing Vs. Ilinois, Lose 34-28 [posted
Northwestern came close on
Thanksgiving to surviving the #8 BCS-Ranked Illini and their masterful
third quarter. Kurt Kittner coordinated an assault that scored
touchdowns and appeared to give Illinois an insurmountable 34-13
NU stormed back in the fourth to come within six points, but fell
The game dropped the Wildcats to 4-7 for the season and gave Randy
his sixth straight loss, the longest losing streak of his coaching
However, if there can still be moral victories at NU, this was
The offense fought heroically in the fourth quarter to try to take the
game, and the defense never quit. Even faced with Kittner and an
Illini offense that was hell-bent for election to take the Big Ten
the defense played up to their full potential and did not break.