Jason Wright running toward a spot in NU's rushing shrine,
during the win over Indiana. AP Photo.
The Season Review
What follows are excerpts
from comments posted on this site, during the course of the 2002 season.
Practice: Full Speed Ahead [posted April 7]
Walker and the NU football team have begun the spring season, holding
practices the first week of April. Practices the weeks of April
and 14th will be open; sessions during the final week of the season
be closed. NU's
spring practices will continue through April 26, with the spring game
slated for Saturday, April 27. Last year the Northwestern
annual spring dinner and auction was held on the same day as the spring
This year, however, the NGN will hold the dinner and auction a
earlier, on April 20.
spring, one of the crucial questions to be answered is who will
Damien Anderson at tailback. In an article in The
, Coach Walker reinforced the fact that the running back position is
"I call it the throne," Walker said. "When you're the
on our offense, you're a special guy. Well, the throne is vacant.
. We're going to have a heck of a competition this spring."
the NU Spring Football Guide, Walker states, "The competition at this
is going to bring out the best in every one of them. I doubt if
anoint just one of them as the guy. It could be a position by
this year. We'll have to wait and see how things shake out."
How things have shaken out for running back, coming into spring
is very interesting. Kevin Lawrence is still recovering from a
injury. He will not practice this spring, and is not on the
spring depth chart. The official chart lists the remaining
backs in the following order: 1st-- Torri Stuckey; 2nd-- Jason Wright;
Jeff Backes; 4th-- Louis Ayeni. My guess is that the position
indeed, become a committee position-- the throne will become a couch,
a rather long one at that. Stuckey, Wright, and Backes
conceivably be first and second down backs, with Lawrence and Ayeni
primarily third and short downs. Look for Backes' playing time to
you are at all able, be sure to head to Ryan Field on Saturday, April
27 for the 2002 spring game. The game is free and is an excellent
to watch the 'Cats during their final chance to shine before fall.
addition to the running back spot, the quarterbacks-- led by Tony
Matt Danielson and Brett Basanez-- and several other positions will be
up fierce competitions. It will also be a great chance to see how
Wildcats' brand new offensive and defensive coordinators line up their
NGN Dinner Draws Record
NFL Takes Harris in First Round [posted April 21]
Over 430 members
of the Northwestern Gridiron Network attended the group's spring dinner
auction, held last Saturday, April 20. Among the highlights of
evening was a live auction, hosted by Randy Walker, Ted Albrecht and
Eanet, which raised thousands for the Wildcats. One item up for
singing the National Anthem at this fall's Texas Christian University
and one other game, raised $16,000. Northwestern's hero running
and former ESPN announcer Mike Adamle made an appearance as Willie the
and auctioned off-- among other things-- his spandex pants. Words
at moments like that; fortunately, the bidders did not fail.
The evening, as always, was a wonderful
success, in no small part by
efforts of Jean Yale and NGN president Neil Rowe.
When the Oakland Raiders
chose him at the #24 spot in this year's NFL draft, Napoleon
became Northwestern's first first round NFL draft pick since 1983.
joins eight other Wildcat graduates in the rookie NFL class.
NU's All-Time First
Round NFL Picks:
- Otto Graham, 1944,
- Vic Schwall, 1947,
- Ron Burton, 1960,
- Fate Echlos, 1962,
- Cas Banaszek,
- Chris Hinton,
- Napoleon Harris,
Final Spring Scrimmage
Played in Trienens Hall [posted April 28]
of foul weather, Northwestern's
spring game was moved indoors, to the Wildcats' Trienens Hall facility.
spring game, whether played indoors or out, was not to have been a
Purple-White "game," but a controlled scrimmage for 80 plays, with a
of offense (in white) rosters vs. defense (in black). With the
indoors, the field was cut in half and the scrimmage became more, well,
Unfortunately, because of the limitations of the facility
is fantastic for practices, but is not accommodating to spectators, who
restricted to one end of the field, with no seating), it was difficult
judge much of the action on the field. Being very close to the
end, indoors, truly gives one a feel for just how fast NU's players are
and how hard they can hit-- a very different perspective from the
outdoors-- but it is difficult from that level and angle to get a read
plays and true performance.
Some things stood out, however. NU's offense still appears very
despite the loss of Damien Anderson and Zak Kustok. The
all had a few "off" passes, as well as flashes of great play.
appears to be the clear starter, going 7 for 12 for 95 yards and a
He did suffer a couple of interceptions. Basanez and
showed arms as strong as Stauss, and both launched touchdown strikes.
Webb, the freshman who was a high school player just three weeks ago,
turned in one of the most impressive
displays of the afternoon. Webb managed to complete 85% of his
and scrambled for more yards. His speed is a real weapon, and his
performance sent a buzz through the audience.
The running backs also looked very good. Stuckey and Herron
great power, bulling through for extra yards. Wright showed very
hands and good speed. Again, however, it was a young player that
biggest impression. Jeff Backes looked rather small compared to
other backs, but his speed and decisions on the field were fantastic.
led all rushers with 64 yards and two touchdowns. Not discussed
much, but just as impressive, was the wicked block Backes executed
one of the touchdown drives.
Some Early Media
Predictions of NU's Big Ten Finish [posted June 16]
mid-June, and the (early) verdict is in. Most experts
are picking NU to finish 10th this fall in the Big Ten, only ahead of
Indiana. Looking at the college football trade annuals and the
Web sites that have so far expressed an opinion, one commonality (aside
the 10th place prediction) surfaces: everyone believes that losing Zak
and Damien Anderson will break the back of NU's explosive offensive
"Gone are the two players Northwestern relied on the most the
two years," mourns Athlon Sports. "The Wildcats don't have any
position stars," sniffs Fox Sports.
No skill position stars? Maybe so, but how about a whole
of excellent running backs, any of whom would likely start during any
season. Yes, Kustok, the quarterback with the iron will to win,
gone, but his replacement has experience on the field and a
arm. Stauss will have no want for targets, either: the 'Cat
stable is full, and full of thoroughbreds. The line before them
be big, experienced and at an All-America level.
Yes, but what about the defense? Didn't NU lose its stars on "D"
well? Yes it did. But the Wildcats return many skilled
at the cornerback and safety positions. And, frankly, any change
defense from last year will be an improvement. Expect improvement.
And Expect Victory. These players are hardened by tremendous
They will not be encountering three teams each coming off of a
week, as was the case last year. They will not be short a
for a half-dozen weeks, as was the case last year. And they will
win just four games, as was the case last year.
"4-7 NEVER AGAIN" the Wildcats' shirts read this Spring.
So let it be written. Now let it be done.
early season prediction: 'Cats go 7-5, 4-4 in the Big Ten,
6th place and a trip to the Music City Bowl. Book it, Dano, bank
it, and set 'em up-- drinks in Nashville are on me.
Oh, and one more thing: one of those four Big Ten wins will snap a
thirty-one year streak. You heard it here first.
Some of the other early predictions for NU:
- Athlon Sports: 10th in the
Ten, 81st in Div. IA. "The Wildcats must work out the kinks in
transition to ambitious new offensive and defensive coordinators."
Sports, by the way, yet again got the name of NU's coach wrong, calling
- Lindy's: 10th in the Big
Ten, 74th nationwide.
- The Sporting News:
10th in the Big Ten, 69th nationwide.
- Street & Smith's: 10th
in the Big Ten.
- Pigskin Post: Highest
prediction, so far-- 9th in the Big Ten. The
esteemed Peg Wolfe writes, "The pending BMOC in Evanston (the...
OL, Loren Howard) is still an unseen cipher.... Will Tony Stauss be the
model of the 2000 Zak Kustok?"
- Fox Sports /
collegefootballnews.com: 10th in the Big Ten. "Dunbar
will move away from the spread formation and no huddle and start to run
more conventional offense." If so, this is news.
Big Ten Media Day Held
Last Friday [posted July 28]
Big Ten Conference's 31st annual football kickoff media day and
was held Friday, July 26 at Chicago's McCormick Place. Representing
at the event were Coach Randy Walker and players Pat Durr and Jeff
the luncheon, Walker addressed several issues facing the Wildcats
this fall, including changes to the offense and defense (quotes pulled
the Big Ten's official site):
"We have a lot of newcomers in
our program and maybe most importantly,
we are starting with two new coordinators. The most notable difference
our team will be defense because we will take a different approach on
side of the ball. We are going to do a lot of the same things on
and stay fast-paced and attack.
". . . We have recruited
[quarterbacks] well, and that started with Tony Stauss. He has
under Zak for two years and has studied with one of the best. He will
different, but he is ready to step up and take the challenge.
". . . We return two guys (Jon
Schweighardt and Kunle Patrick) who have had
a lot of experience and that’s a good start. Maybe the most exciting
of our offense this year is we are going to have more than one tight
in the game at a time. We have a couple of young tight ends who are
to step up.
"Defensively we return more
starters but will have a new scheme. We are going
in a different direction with our defense. We have a really solid group
guys in the backfield and played a number of guys at safety last year."
Camp Kenosha XI: Strength Through Cheddar
[posted August 18]
is wrapping up its annual preseason camp, held at the University of
- Parkside, near Kenosha, Wisconsin. The 'Cats have several
all closed to the public, this week before returning to Evanston this
The team held its public scrimmage last Saturday. According to nusports.com, about 350 fans attended.
The scrimmage, held in humid, windy conditions,
was a scripted set of plays that included special teams for kickoffs
punts, and limited field goal plays. It is difficult to get a
feel from the scrimmage
as to how NU will fare this year-- much of the script for the scrimmage
used to cycle through players, giving many of the non-starters playing
And, since the practice was open to the public, one can assume
there are some formations and plays that weren't used, but will show up
the season. Even so, the team did show a few new wrinkles during
scrimmage which might prove very exciting this Fall (but will not be
Freshman wide receiver Mark Philmore made his mark at the scrimmage.
was exceptional, both on special teams and on offense, running crisp
making great catches, and tearing up for good YAC. He will be a
weapon in an already full receiver arsenal. Another standout on
was another freshman: Alexander Webb, who had practiced with the 'Cats
caused quite a sensation) in the Spring. His poise, passing, and
were all strong suits at the scrimmage. It is unclear if Webb
play this fall; Walker has the enviable decision to make either to
Mr. Webb this fall or keep him in the wings, possibly becoming NU's
future into 2006-'07
"I'm sure Tony (Stauss)
wished he had a better day, but I think we have a good situation at
Coach Walker was quoted as saying. "We have three quarterbacks who are
better and better, and that is really reassuring."
The defense looks much improved from last year, and, again, many young
stood out, including freshman linebacker McGarigle, who demonstrated
of the newly-found speed 'Cat fans have heard so much about during this
NU Prepares for Its Falcon' Opener [posted August 18]
"This is what you're getting."
--Loren Howard, in a note to the rest of the Wildcat team,
accompanied with a photo showing Howard, pumped up and primed.
NU has a lot of talent, perhaps more talented players than the team has
had at one time. Coach Walker has claimed this summer that the
team will be the fastest 'Cat team ever. And, if sheer quantity
anything, NU has that too, sending over a hundred players across the
line this month, more than ever before. Fred "The Hammer"
once mused, "[when NU played Ohio State, the Buckeyes] would have
guys on the sideline. We'd have twenty-five guys suited up.
couldn't afford to get injured." Those days are thankfully long
Scholarship parity and NU's renewed athletic commitment have seen to
However, a thousand guys suited up aren't necessarily going to help NU
they aren't the right ones to knock out wins.
And most prognosticators this summer don't think NU's 102 players are
right ones--at least not yet. Their reasons have some
NU enters its 119th season with a six game losing streak, including a
stretch that offered up some of the worst football NU has played in any
its previous 118 seasons. What players the 'Cats lost at the end
last year comprise nearly the entirety of the list of NU players that
knew: Anderson, Kustok, Simmons, Harris, Bentley.
The Wildcats are the youngest Big Ten team this fall, replacing the
starting positions. Take a look at a list of just some of the
(redshirt and true) that will be taking the field in major roles, most
Zach Strief, at right tackle; Trai Essex, at left tackle; Loren Howard,
defensive end; Barry Cofield, at defensive tackle; Brandon Horn, at
receiver; Mark Philmore, at wide receiver; Jeff Backes, at running
and Brett Basenez, at quarterback. Freshman quarterback Alexander
might also see playing time.
Throw onto this list two new coordinators, an entirely new defensive
an expanded offensive play set, and uncertainty abounds.
So, back to Howard’s boast, just what are we getting? Speed,
youth, uncertainty, and—win or lose—almost certainly the brand of
football to which fans have become addicted, though it’s bad for their
wildly entertaining, unpredictable Cardiac ‘Cat football.
First Up: Air Force
Air Force, also coming off a disappointing season, is quick to point
that 2001 was only the third non-winning season under Coach DeBerry,
his other two duds were followed by eight-win seasons. Will 2002
The Falcons’ 6-6 finish in 2001 was deceptive. Take a look
the six games Air Force won last year: (Div. I-AA) Tennessee
San Diego State, Navy, Wyoming, Army, and Utah. Not exactly an
group. What about Air Force’s losses? Understandably, they
games to Oklahoma and Colorado State, but also lost to UNLV, BYU
up 63 points), Hawaii (giving up 52 points), and New Mexico (giving up
points. To the Lobos.). To quote Richard Dreyfess,
means something.” Air Force only returns ten starters, but seven of
are on defense. Northwestern’s young and uncertain offense should
able to find scoring opportunities. Expect the Wildcat line to
trench battles most of the day, with Roehl, King, Strief, and Essex
lanes for Northwestern’s quadruple-headed running back threat.
Even with NU’s advantage on offense, and with the offensive line, I
the line’s youthfulness, especially on the outside, will result in
a few holding calls and false starts. This might be the best game
work out those problems; however, if there are too many, at inopportune
this might be a serious issue, especially later in the game.
With only three starters returning, the Falcons’ offense is even less
than NU’s. Air Force has two experienced quarterbacks, and the
passing game should be improved from last year. As with their
the biggest weakness in Air Force’s offense is the line. If NU
stage an effective pass rush, the Falcon QBs could find themselves
‘Cats more often than launching bombs.
The Wildcats should also have the edge on special teams. Air
kickers have struggled during the off season, to the point that DeBerry
joked that anyone who could kick for the Falcons would not only get a
spot, but an F-16 as well.
Despite these challenges, Air Force seems confident in its opener,
the Northwestern game as part of its “favorable schedule.” The
might not find so much favor in that schedule after August 31. Prediction:
NU breaks out with an early lead in an ugly first half, and the defense
the Wildcat lead in the second. This is what we’re getting.
NU Adds Games, Dates, Locations to its Official
History [posted August 25]
Prior to the 2002 Northwestern media guide, NU's official
history was missing many early dates and game locations. There
also over a dozen early "unofficial" games that were recorded in other
but not in NU's game list. Over the last two years I've collected
of these missing pieces of information and have posted them on this
With the 2002 media guide, NU has added a wealth of information to its
history. It has "fleshed out" the dates and locations of over 330
of Northwestern's early games, from 1888 through the late 1930s.
More significantly, however, NU has added eleven of those previously
games to its official history. With these changes, NU's season
for 1890-1902 have changed.
NU Trails Falcons 38-0 at Half; NU's Streak Hits Seven [Posted Sept. 1]
Mucho guano did litter the field at Colorado Springs, but
it wasn't coming from the Falcons.
Northwestern opened its 2002 campaign in horrific, devastating fashion,
getting destroyed by Air Force 52-3. The game went beyond just
first-game jitters: the Wildcat program showed that it is
weak, and has a very long way to go this season to improve and work
competitiveness. In particular, line work (both offensively and
and coaching seem to be in terrible need of improvement.
After the game, Pat Durr commented that one good sign coming from the
was that the Wildcats "finished the game strong." They have the
Force coaches and players to thank for that. Air Force played
absolute class and grace, putting in subs, freshmen, children, and
once the outcome was certain. The Falcons refused to kick field
that would add to their score, choosing to execute vanilla run plays on
down. Air Force's high
prevented what could easily have been a final score of 70 or more
three (or zero). This game was as lopsided as they come, and was
bad as the 1998 Duke game and the 2001 Indiana, Iowa, and Bowling Green
Here's another take on NU's finish, this coming after the game, from
Force quarterback Chance Harridge: "They really didn't want to play
by midway through the third quarter."
Another post-game comment came from Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry: "I
this proves that it's sort of hard to get ready for the option offense
a short period of time." He is correct, but five months
might have been enough for some teams. NU appeared as if they had
clue coming into the game that Air Force was an option team.
some under-the-table, insider info: it is.
NU's level of play was equally appalling on offense, defense, and
teams. Since this site chooses not to criticize individual
for game performance, little more can be said. David Wasielewski
kick a fifty-one yard field goal, and Brian Huffman looked good on
a lot of punts, except, of course, for the punt that was
blocked and immediately returned for a touchdown.
Among the nightmarish events for the 'Cats on August 31:
emerged from the Air Force game-- lack of turnovers and penalties.
weren't a major problem. NU fumbled the ball only once, on a bad
to Stauss. That resulted in a back-breaking Falcon TD, but it
obviously was not going to determine the game's outcome. NU
no interceptions. The Wildcats also only had one penalty during
game. No holding calls, no delays of game. And no late hits
cheap shots given in frustration, which we've become so accustomed to
seeing. Maybe it's hard to lather up frustration
when you "really don't want to play anymore by midway through the third
- NU's starting defensive
Thomas Derricks has left the team (and perhaps Northwestern), the team
out Thursday afternoon, and Derricks gone by Friday, the day before the
opener. NU called the reason for Derricks' departure "a personal
Walker said he is hoping Derricks "will return to the team in
for next season," which means that he is gone for this season at least.
game of lineman musical chairs continued, but now the music switched
Perry Como to Metallica.
- Pat Durr, within minutes
the start of the game, suffered a serious knee injury. He is
out for the TCU game and might be gone for (much) longer.
- Raheem Covington also
left the game with an injury (concussion) and is doubtful for TCU.
- NU never came close to
the opponent's end zone. NU's offense gained 37 yards total
rushing. NU punted eight times.
- Duke (2001 record:
Navy (2001 record: 0-10), and Houston (2001 record: 0-11) all won on
With all of last year's doughnut teams now posting 1-0 records,
current seven-game streak is close behind Tulsa's skid as the nation's
win snapped its 23-game streak and ensured that NU would retain the
Division I-A streak, set during the Wildcats' previous Dark Ages.
and Navy, of course, are on NU's schedule this year, and look to be
threats. And Duke recruits frequently against NU.
events for both teams bode poorly for the 'Cats' recruiting efforts.
This is just one game, but it is one game that follows a season that
some of the worst performances by the Wildcats since 1979-1982-- when
had another streak. This is a truly ill omen.
The path to improvement begins today. It looks to be a very long,
very painful path indeed.
NU Braces for TCU [posted Sept. 2]
There is a lot riding on Saturday's TCU game; strangely, whether
wins or loses is no longer among the most important issues at
How NU returns to the field after last Saturday's catastrophe at
Force will be very important. The unity of the team and any hope
improvement, recruiting, or respectability rest with how the 'Cats
at Ryan Field.
They will be challenged. Their defensive captain, Pat Durr,
only a few downs last Saturday before being injured. Durr damaged
ligaments and is out for six weeks. The only other senior on the
Raheem Covington, suffered a concussion during the game, but is
to play against TCU. The Wildcats' offensive and defensive lines
in tatters. As the lineup stands right now (Monday night), NU
start Derek Martinez at right tackle, Jeff Roehl at right guard, Austin
at center (backed by Matt Ulrich), Matt Ulrich at left guard, and Trai
at left tackle (backed by Jeff Roehl). Freshmen David Thompson
Loren Howard, and sophomores Luis Castillo and Colby Clark will start
the D-line. There is now virtually no room for further injury to
The starting linebackers will be a junior, a sophomore, and a freshman.
defense starts Covington and two juniors. All remaining starters
sophomores and freshmen. A win might not be critical; finding a
to force TCU to punt at least three times during the game, and holding
Frogs to under 475 total yards will be top priorities.
NU will start its second quarterback in as many games. Brett
has taken the starting job from Tony Stauss, after Basanez replaced
late in the second quarter at Air Force. Basanez will need to
Kustokian scrambling abilities to elude TCU's superb linebacker,
McDonald. This game will be a great test of Basanez, his poise,
his arm. The Wildcat receivers, who did not look great last week,
to show crisp route running and greater discipline this week.
NU faces for the second straight game a team with an effective option
Will the Wildcat coaches have NU better prepared than they did
Air Force? Will they be better able to inspire and "fire up" the
than they did for Air Force? Much is riding on the answers to
TCU is a strong team that is coming off a close,
bitter loss on the road. They looked good against Cincinnati, a
strong team, until the fourth quarter. TCU is angry, and they are
full strength. The Frogs are working with a short week, having
Cincinnati on Labor Day Monday. This should not affect them, or
performance this Saturday, significantly. TCU's coach, Gary
remarked, "It doesn't make any difference to us because we prepare like
would any other week. I don't think it bothers you as much right
at the beginning of the season as it does when you do it in the middle
Prediction: NU is overmatched against TCU, but could make this game
by showing a will to play vigorously and focused, a more creative game
some aggressiveness, and at least a few breakout performances by some
the freshmen and sophomores. If they can manage that, the
will help take a few steps toward saving what is really at stake: the
of the program.
Fall to TCU [posted Sept. 8]
the second week straight, Northwestern football suffered a blowout
loss in a gaudy, embarrassing fashion, getting humbled by Texas
48 to 24. It was the eighth straight loss for the Wildcats. However, unlike the Air Force
there were several encouraging signs from the Wildcats, and a number of
NU began the game by setting a school record. NU starting running
Jason Wright took the Horned Frogs' opening kick 100 yards for a
It was the first kickoff returned by NU for a score in ten years,
last having been scored by Lee Gissendaner against Michigan State, on a
yard runback in 1992. The previous longest kickoff return was 99
set by Curtis Duncan against Indiana in 1984.
looked fantastic, and the entire NU kicking team was impressive,
their assignments, and executing textbook blocks. In fact,
teams looked much improved, with one huge exception. NU's punt
crew helped give TCU two of its scores, and showed a lot of improvement
While turnovers were not a factor at Air Force, they certainly were
TCU, as NU notched seven, six on the ground. The 'Cats put on a
on how not to retain possession of the ball. The good news: most
these came from stupid mistakes that should be relatively easily
it's just unfortunate that the lesson needed to teach this had to prove
One encouraging sign from this game was NU's marked improvement on
Yes, the 48 point TCU tally doesn't exactly point to a steel
but seven turnovers will do that. The defensive line was
stuffing nearly everything TCU could put in the middle. The
Raheem Covington in particular, looked great, and the linebackers all
well. A few big plays got away from the Wildcats, but-- of all
platoons-- the defense made the clearest improvement from game one to
The hero on
offense skipped his High School prom this year to practice with
the 'Cats, and had a meteoric appearance on the Field Saturday.
the game slipped away from the Wildcats, Randy Walker made the decision
play true freshman Alexander Webb at quarterback. Webb was in for
brief series, but made a statement with the ball. Webb showed
poise, unbelievable speed and good accuracy. However, on his
drive, Webb was hit by two defenders and went down, apparently having
the wind knocked out of him.
It was revealed that Webb suffered a lacerated liver. The latest
from the athletic department is that Webb will not require surgery, but
be out of action for at least eight weeks. His status is now
as is whether he will take a medical redshirt for 2002. However,
thing is clear: Wildcat fans saw a glimpse of the future, and it looks
be surfing down the field on the Wildcat Wide Webb.
We wish Alexander Webb the best as he begins what is hoped to be a
vs. Duke [Posted Sept. 9]
The ESPN Gameday and other pundits
might sneer at
NU vs. Duke. However, make no mistake: Saturday's game will
among the most important NU games of the last decade. If
wins, the losing streak is snapped, the Wildcat record is 1-2 and could
brought to even against Navy, and NU could enter the conference season
enough intact to eke out a couple of Big Ten wins. Lose to the
and NU spirals, its streak hits nine, recruiting will take a body blow,
a record breaking 0-12 season (with a streak at 18) becomes a
This game is the pivot point, the switch between a merely disappointing
season and an utter, colossal disaster. The ramifications of this
game will affect not just this season, but potentially the next
Its significance simply cannot be overstated.
It is time for anger. And it is time for a heartfelt, passionate
effort by coaches, players, and fans.
How passionate can the Wildcats be right now, all things
I don't know, but I do know how much passion, how much enthusiasm, how
desire to be a part of the team and to help the team to victory is possible
, and it-- the level of heart with which a Wildcat can play-- is
For a benchmark, look to five years ago at a game the Wildcats played
Soldier Field, when Matt Hartl played while in cancer remission, with
use of one lung. He took oxygen on the sidelines after plays, but
the plays he gave his all and made plays. He would not be
That is passion. That is what is possible, and if that is
anything is possible.
The Wildcats should be angry right now. They should be angry
what has happened the last two weeks. They should be angry about
mistakes that were made against Texas Christian. They should be
that Blue Devil fans, who should have no room to talk, mock the team
expect Duke to walk over them.
Defeat ACC Refs, 26-21 [posted Sept. 15]
beat a lackluster, but determined officiating squad from the the
Coast Conference today, 26-21, winning an ugly game marked by
penalties. The win snaps an eight-game losing streak and sends
'Cats to a 1-2 record-- with a win against Navy next week, NU would
the conference season with an even record.
The game started inauspiciously, as the ACC Crew jumped out to a 7-0
NU was stymied by the ACC's penalty defense, which shocked the Wildcats
a school record-tying 16 penalties, and a school record-breaking 146
yards. Most of the penalties came from ACC Official trick plays,
no one-- not the 'Cats, not the announcers, not any of the fans-- saw
The ACC crew nearly shot itself in the foot, calling a Wildcat
when the scorer had had his knee make contact with the ground before
the goal line plane. However, the ACC Refs redeemed themselves
they shrewdly negated a brilliant NU pass play by simply declaring the
The pass play in question began with NU QB Brett Basanez handing off to
Backes. Backes handed off to Kunle Patrick on a reverse.
then surprised everyone in attendance, including the ACC Crew (who
had not practiced for such a play this week), by unloading a
bomb pass to Jon Schweighardt. Schweighardt appeared to catch the
and the catch appeared confirmed on the replay. However, the ACC
"incomplete" defense was just too much, and almost won them the
This is the second time in three years that the ACC crew has fought
at Ryan Field for a win, but come up empty-handed.
For NU, there were many mistakes, including several well-earned
There was also suspect clock management as the first half
to a close, with the 'Cats needlessly clutching onto two times out and
a field goal, rather than playing for a touchdown to take the
However, a win is a win, and this win is particularly satisfying,
that the Wildcats had to defeat two teams on the field at the same
In addition to
Basanez and Patrick, running back Jason Wright and wide receiver
Jon Schweighardt had strong performances during the game.
racked up 104 yards receiving, not including the yards ruled
Patrick had a couple of impressive catches, but will be
for stunning everyone with how well thrown the reverse flea flicker
Who knew Kunle had an arm? Jason Wright built on his
performance against TCU, breaking 100 yards rushing on Saturday, and
the ball for 25 more yards. On defense, Loren Howard is coming
his own, and was a force on the field. There were still some
with the team's performance, but those problems came in the course of a
and the improvement on offense, defense, and special teams is
from the previous week and shows that the 'Cats are on track toward
Escape Navy 49-40 [posted Sept. 22]
Wildcats survived Navy, as the Middies riddled themselves with
NU quarterback Brett Basanez threw for 260 yards. After the game,
said-- for the second straight week-- "It wasn't a work of art, that's
sure." Maybe not, but it was Northwestern Football, and
Wildcat football this year is as ugly as your Junior Prom date, but
just as just as good a punch. The team has found a way to eke out
and has momentum going into the conference slate.
According to those who were at the game, Basanez showed confidence and
mixing the Wildcat attack and using a variety of weapons. For the
time this season, NU's tight ends were an important element, as Eric
and Taylor Jones both had nice receptions. Worley caught four
and tallied 57 yards.
The running backs also had a good game, and Jason Wright is coming to
fore as the Wildcats' premier ground gainer. Wright found the end
three times and gained 186 yards on the ground, becoming NU's first
to get back-to-back 100 yard games since a year ago. Noah Herron
also a force of one. Herron also notched three touchdowns and ran
95 yards, averaging an impressive 5.9 yards per carry.
Rounding out the offensive talent on display Saturday, NU's receivers
used early and often. Basanez completed passes to nine different
during the Navy game. Jon Schweighardt picked up 64 yards on five
and Kunle Patrick caught four passes for 85 yards. Schweighardt
Patrick have the potential to be the Musso and Bates of the 2002 'Cats.
MSU Game: Q&A [posted Sept. 25]
Oh no, every time the "Q & A" format has been tried, this page
degenerated into utter stupidity. Is there any chance we could
on topic this time?
A: About as much chance as NU's defense has of holding the Spartans to
under 150 yards this Saturday.
Q: Speaking of which, how well will MSU's offense do this weekend?
A: Well, that really is the sixty-four dollar question, isn't it?
pundits think that Smoker to Rogers will smoke the 'Cats as well, and
the Spartan ground attack will burn through NU's admittedly tissue-thin
defense (currently nowhere to go but up, ranked a well-publicized 117th
Division 1-A). However, Mssrs. Smoker (Smoker? I hardly know
'er!) and Rogers came up short against
Notre Dame, an undefeated but nauseatingly overrated team. And
came up woefully short against Cal, which slapped the Spartans around
a lab assistant that just walked in with an "Abby Normal" brain.
long and short of it is that the MSU offense is capable of terrifying
and could notch ten touchdowns on us (or several other Big Ten teams,
that matter). However, they are not infallible, and are also
of a meltdown. Both the Wildcat and Spartan teams have been
this year by spotting coaching; if Bobby W. and co. have another
plan in place, it won't matter if the MSU offense is headed by John
and Jerry Rice-- they will have an uphill battle. Of course, the
side is NU's defense.
Q: Yeah. What about NU's defense?
A: You've heard the adjectives: young, inexperienced, thin, porous.
seen the stats: 678 yards handed over to Navy, which isn't going to
for a Fiesta Bowl spot this year; 532 yards per game, and 317 yards per
rushing. This last number is the one that stings. It is one yard
than Northwestern's Mike Adamle rushed against Wisconsin in 1969,
he set NU's single game individual all time rushing record.
matters, defensive tackle Luis Castillo has torn his MCL. The
need as many horses as possible at 100% on the defensive line, because
is going to be tested sorely Saturday. However, there is a bright
to NU's defense. In fact, there are three bright sides.
Q: Go on. I'm all ears.
A: That's not a question.
Q: (muttering under breath) What... are... the ...
A: Better. First, there is one stat of which NU's defense
been on the good side, and that's turnovers. The 'Cats have
to force fumbles, and they've had three interceptions so far, which is
so they got that goin' for 'em. MSU and Wunderkind Smoker have
five picks so far this year. Who's to say that the NU game won't
more return-to-senders from Smoker. Second, there have been
on D. who have shown great talent this year, even flashes of
Howard, Covington, Pickens, and others have looked solid.
they and, of course, a few others, all had a great game Saturday, we
be pleasantly surprised by this unit. And third, because of the
talent on defense, this team just may be due. So far, the
has looked to be taking one step forward and one step back. I
they might just have two (or three) steps in them for a game (steps
Q: "Rolling barrel of butcher knives?" What the hell's up with
A: Don't know, but who cares? It has a real AC/DC, Megadeath ring
Q: Any area where NU has the edge coming into this one?
A: According to The Sporting News, the 'Cats only have a clear
with special teams (try not to do too dramatic a spit take when reading
However, feel free to load up on the intangibles with this game--
was a clear fave walking into Ryan Field last year. Oh, yes, they
a clear fave when we met them last at Spartan Stadium. If there
a row titled "The Force," I'd put a check in NU's column.
Q: Will you give your sure fire cure for a hangover?
A: No. I've posted that with the last two Q & A sessions, so
time to retire it. Besides, including it for a game for which NU
a 23.5 point 'dog might seem defeatist. However, here is my
recipe for a fantastic martini:
Things you need to keep in the freezer: the gin, the glasses, ice.
Things you need to keep in the refrigerator: the vermouth, the olives.
Things you need to keep at room temp: the mixer, with strainer.
Fill the mixer with ice. It is important to have the mixer at
temp., since this will help to melt the ice just a little. Pour
a generous amount of gin. The gin should be kept in the freezer
at least three hours before pouring, and should come out of the bottle
syrupy. Add vermouth-- don't measure, but figure about an
full for every glass. Add olives to the chilled glasses, shake
vigorously, pour and enjoy immediately. Voila!
A: Eeltraps, lobsterpots, fishingrods, hatchet, steelyard, grindstone,
swatheturner, carriagesack, telescope ladder, 10 tooth rake, washing
haytedder, tumbling rake, bilihook, paintpot, brush, hoe, and so on.
Q: Womb? Weary?
A: He rests. He has traveled.
Q: OK, no more Joyce. The Lowes Line states this week that NU
go down by as many as 28 points. Is this possible?
A: Sure, anything could be printed in the Lowes Line. Seriously,
could very well be lit up with a five or six touchdown margin. NU
also very possibly win this game. Who knows? These two
have been the least predictable teams in a conference that is becoming
predictable by the week. Anything's possible, and that's one
why this is likely going to be a very fun game to watch. MSU is
tongues of fire, and they're standing at the abyss. Northwestern
already giddily leapt in, and has nothing whatsoever to lose. And
both teams have the same record. If they're ready for this game,
'Cats could come out ready to unscrew some heads and play Twister on
Spartans' new end zone sod. It's a crap shoot.
Q: No mention of NU's offense?
A: There might be a surprise in store, but the focus should probably be
how well the 'Cat defense will perform. NU's offense, make no
will be in for resistance fourfold as fierce as it has met so far this
However, with Basanez gaining confidence and control at a good
each week, NU's receivers and running backs having looked good, NU
put up points. There's just that tiny matter of the line.....
Q: Do we have to talk about the line?
A: No, we don't.
A: Just this: as is often the case with MSU, and with NU, it might come
to who has the lead after the first quarter. If NU can somehow
the lead early, MSU's last two games might just weigh a little too
and they might collapse under the weight. If MSU slaps NU around
the first two drives, turn out the lights, kiss the kids goodnight, and
the 'Cats out: it's all over.
Clarett Head to Evanston [posted October 2]
and Ohio State will tangle this Saturday in a rare night game at Ryan
If Ohio State beats NU this Saturday, it will achieve a 6-0
The last time the Buckeyes boasted a 6-0 mark was after their last trip
Ryan Field, when they earned their sixth win of the 1998 season by
the ‘Cats 36-10. Much has been written about NU’s losing streak
the Bucks, dating back to 1971. That last win was in
If NU pulls out the win Saturday, it would be the first win over OSU in
in 44 years.
For the ‘Cats to have a prayer at such a feat, NU’s offense will have
rely on air power: the Buckeyes have only allowed 73 yards rushing per
this year. Much will depend on Basanez’s rhythm and how much time
protection the Wildcat line can provide him.
Ohio State’s offense, on the other hand, very likely will not bother
a major aerial assault. Maurice Clarett, the freshman running
wonder, promises to be a one-man highlight reel. Clarett comes
this game averaging almost 6.9 yards per carry. Even in 2000,
Damien Anderson was busy shattering nearly every Wildcat record (except
the one in the sound booth, with the annoying Penn State growl), he
only a 6.5 ypc. My guess is that Ohio State will complete a few
passes, just to shake around the Wildcat defense, but will run Clarett
continuously—nearly every single play.
Why so much running? Three reasons. First, NU’s run
coming into the Michigan State game, was ranked dead last in Division
After the Michigan State game, it is not only still ranked last, it has
away 31 yards per game more than the nearest other Div. I-A school
yards rushing for NU, and Eastern Michigan has allowed 311.4.
by the way, has managed to become the most atrocious team in the
this year, while only allowing 287 yards rushing per game).
Buckeyes should be able to run at will. Second, running at will
tip the time of possession very heavily in OSU’s favor. NU’s air
will already be light on possession if they suffer a few
With the Buckeyes chewing the clock with the run, the ‘Cats’ offense
see the field very much. Third, and most importantly, this game
be Mr. Clarett’s Heisman Candidate Coming Out Party. What better
to broadcast a running back’s Heisman chances than by padding his stats
much as possible against NU’s run defense? The road to the
has an on ramp cutting right through Ryan Field.
Last week, after the Michigan State loss, many fans felt disappointed,
relieved. The ‘Cats had lost and had made some critical mistakes
the second half, but they were competitive and weren’t immediately
out of the game by the Spartans. Coach Walker said, “I'm tired of
about getting better. I'm tired of measuring success based on
because that's a copout. From this point on, I'm not going to
success in this program based on improvement. It's going to be
simply by wins and losses. I was getting [from fans and parents],
wasn't bad, that was pretty good.’ It was like they were shocked. It
like, 'You guys looked better in some things.' . . . As
as all that is, it's like a lack of respect. It's like you didn't think
Coach Walker is correct: most fans did not think NU could win.
right now many fans do not measure success the same way the coach
Improvement and strides to competitiveness will remain the benchmark
now, not wins. In an period when NU has not been competitive at all in the conference,
been outscored in its last seventeen games 463 to 644, has dropped
of those seventeen, and has been outscored in those eleven losses by an
margin of 22.5 points, the Moral Victory is back. NU could return
expecting to win, but it will take a lot of time and a lot of
For now, and against a team like Ohio State, the necessary steps are
large, but they are steps to improving communication, to building
playing technique, to playing disciplined and well-coached defense, to
the lines, and—most importantly—to eliminating thoughtless behavior,
all after-the-play penalties. These are the keys to the
If NU can successfully execute these steps against Ohio State, even if
State scores more points, the ‘Cats will come away with a victory—not
a Moral Victory, but a strategic victory as well. The team could
another step to being in a position to bag a couple of
Victories in the conference during the second half of the season, and
being on the path to Expecting Victory again.
Fights the Good Fight [posted Oct. 7]
Saturday night, the Wildcats played their best football game in over a
year, as they fell to Ohio State 27 to 16.
Last week I wrote, “Improvement and strides to competitiveness will
the benchmark… For now, and against a team like Ohio State, the
steps are to improve communication, to build fundamental playing
to play disciplined and well-coached defense, to fortify the lines,
importantly—to eliminate thoughtless behavior, especially all
penalties. These are the keys to the game. If NU can
execute these steps against Ohio State, even if Ohio State scores more
the ‘Cats will come away with a victory—not just a Moral Victory, but a
victory as well. The team could take another step to being in a
to bag a couple of Real-Honest-to-God Victories in the conference
the second half of the season, and to being on the path to Expecting
With the exception of eliminating the after-the-play penalties, the
Wildcats improved on every step, and improved more than most fans could
have imagined. In fact, no Northwestern team has made such leaps
in execution and teamwork
during a season since perhaps 1970. NU now seems back to
form and to a place where they can find a way to win.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the way against Ohio State. The
had numerous chances. What should have been Wildcat touchdowns
field goals, and what should have been field goals became opportunities
The coaching and game plan, while light years ahead of what had been
at the beginning of the year, seemed to play many drives safe, rather
going for a “kill shot.” Against the fifth ranked team in the
when one has the chance, one has to risk it and take the kill
Fourth and one wasn’t time to put special teams on the field.
Still, Coaches Walker, Dunbar, Colby, Fitzgerald, and everyone else
be congratulated for a job well done. NU went after Clarret,
OSU to throw, and made plays. The ‘Cats continued to force
Coverage was spectacular, particularly Covington, who has come into his
and had a marvelous game. Pickens also played well and was a
to be reckoned with. And the lines, both offensive and defensive,
beyond expectation. When they are focused and fired up, the
are able to carry the ‘Cats.
For the third time this year, questionable officiating has been an
with a Wildcat game. ESPN, The Magazine, went so far as to post:
“Not a good week for Big Ten officiating. With supervisor of officials
Parry in attendance, the crew working the Ohio State-Northwestern game
to botch what should have been a Wildcat touchdown. Instead, Mark
beautiful one-handed, toe-dragging catch for a score was ruled
Upstairs in the press box, Parry and another Big Ten officials
looked at the replays and said the same thing: touchdown. Instead of
a 13-7 lead, the Wildcats had to settle for a field goal and a 9-7
Even so, NU had its opportunities, and missed them. But, more
the opportunities were there, and few thought they would be.
the ‘Cats and their Heart for those chances. Walker doesn’t want
hear about a Moral Victory, but this game was just that. It is a
call that NU is now back on track, once again a team, once again ready
find a way to win, and—once again—fans should expect nothing less.
Head to the Dome [posted Oct. 7]
decision to bow to the wishes and interests of the Big Ten, Minnesota,
Illinois will come to bear when the Wildcats travel to Minnesota to
on the Gophers this Thursday night, after three days of practice.
which picked apart Illinois 31 to 10 last Thursday, is celebrating its
and is one win away from bowl eligibility. NU is an angry team,
lost a close match to Ohio State. They have very little rest, and
time to prepare for an energetic Gopher offense.
Minnesota's veteran quarterback, Abdul-Khaliq, and its running backs,
Tapeh and Terry Jackson, will present a different challenge
from the one NU faced against the Buckeyes. The Gopher attack
be balanced and precise. However, Minnesota has encountered very
resistance on its way to a five and one record. The Gophers have
the bottom of the NCAA barrel, including Division I-AA opposition.
meager firepower did confront them came from Purdue (which had just
outgunned by Wake Forest), and the Boilers beat them by nearly two
Illinois doesn't really count at this point in the season, since
Illini are struggling to find which way is up.
In many ways Thursday will be the greatest test for Minnesota this
and the Gophers come into the challenge with the worst coach and
in the Big Ten. Glen "I'm really a Buckeye at heart" Mason must
looking at tapes of the OSU-NU game and scratching his head into a
mess. His team will be more rested than the 'Cats, but will be
Vegas has NU as a 17 point underdog. That could be the most
underestimation of a team this year. Assuming the 'Cats are able
bring the level of play they displayed at Ryan Field last Saturday with
into the Humpty Dome, NU could beat Minnesota convincingly. Look
Jason Wright to run for 125 yards, Basanez to find a good rhythm and
to Schweighardt and Backes for about 210 yards, and the defense to
its improvement, with at least two sacks. NU should go to three
four, with a 35 to 24 victory.
Coasts to Win [posted October 16]
began the game Thursday night with an onside kick, recovering the ball
and driving quickly
to a touchdown. The 'Cats responded on the next drive, with Jason
scoring the tying touchdown.
Tapeh wrapped up the first quarter with an
enormous gain to put the Gophers
in scoring postion to open the second quarter. Minnesota did just
a short TD pass. Noah Herron answered for the 'Cats, punching the
to tie it.
Herron proceeded to run 34 yards with six minutes
left in the second quarter
to give NU its only lead, 21-14. It was all downhill from there.
Not wanting to spoil the tension, NU's
defense gave up a TD on Minnesota's next drive, tying the game at 21
with two minutes to go in the half.
NU's offense was unable to take advantage of a
drive with under two minutes
to go, and had to punt. The punt was blocked and run back for the
go-ahead touchdown. Minnesota held the 'Cats, then shredded the
defense to open the second half with a touchdown, widening their lead
14. Minnesota continued to control everything in the third
punctuating the game with a third unanswered touchdown to make the
42 to 21 in an atrocious third period.
The Gophers then opened the fourth quarter with a
field goal. NU answered
with three straight scores, capped by a 32 yard touchdown run by Jason
and a two-point conversion keeper by Basanez. Unfortunately, the
furious comeback and great offensive performance was just too little,
late. NU falls, 45-42.
Crushed by Penn State [posted Oct. 19]
Penn State's Homecoming proved to be exactly what
most sports pundits predicted it would be: a bye week for the Lions.
PSU got to rest a week between games with Michigan and Ohio
State, and-- in between 'Cat naps-- they absolutely hammered
Northwestern 49-0. Until today, NU had managed to avoid suffering
a shutout during the Second Dark Age. The game was NU's first
loss in three seasons and was a complete embarrassment for the
NU failed in all aspects, including the most fundamental: it
to provide an even remotely competitive challenge. Worse, NU
to commit personal fouls and uncalled cheap shots.
Fourth and two, on the Lions' 22-yard line. Four missed field
goals in a row going
into the game. Your team is down seven points, to a heavily
in their house. If you are the Wildcat coach, what do you do?
Are changes needed to this team? Just curious.
championship trophy in the last four seasons. Three last place
in the last four seasons. Just plain curious, indeed.
It's Payback Time [posted Oct. 24]
two harsh weeks on the road, the Wildcats return to friendlier ground
Saturday, as NU celebrates Homecoming and hosts Purdue. When fans
saw the team play in Evanston, the 'Cats produced a valiant effort,
both offense and defense showing strength in a very close loss to
undefeated) Ohio State. This Saturday's against the Boilermakers
be just as exciting; however, this time NU should prevail. The
NU has had some kicking woes during the last two games, but Wildcat
David Wasielewski is capable of much better kicks than we've seen
and should end his slump this week. Purdue's kicking, however,
been consistently bad: Lacevic has hit just three of ten field goals
Although Coach Walker has said that injured quarterback Brett Basanez
see time on the field Saturday-- two weeks after breaking his leg at
Tony Stauss should get the nod to start. Stauss set a
school record during last week's Penn State game for passing
He was hurried all day, sacked repeatedly, but stayed "with the
He should face similar pressure Saturday with the Boiler defense,
with one week under his belt, playing at home, and with his potentially
weapons still at the ready (arm strength, passing accuracy), Stauss
show significant improvement and succeed in moving the Wildcats down
field. NU may have had a terrible game last week, but it still
an arsenal of talented receivers and two high calibre running backs in
and Herron. Purdue has shown a good attacking defense, but also a
that can give up vast chunks of real estate (and points) at clutch
in games. If Northwestern can hang with Purdue into the fourth
(and they should), the Wildcat offense has the talent to salt the game
in the closing drives.
NU's run defense has resumed its place at the bottom of the division.
that "honor" to go away this week, and the 'Cats to shut down
Purdue's ground attack. NU's line has failed to stop gains up the
and has not gotten off blocks most of the year. However, they
up well with Purdue's O-line, and if the preparation is solid for this
they should have a breakout afternoon. Tiller may try to take to
air, but he'll be relying on true freshman Brandon Kirsch at
after benching Drew Brees' heir apparent, sophomore Kyle Orton.
should apply maximum pressure to Kirsch all day.
The Wildcat's defense has been very effective this season causing
Purdue, meanwhile, leads the league in coughing up the ball,
it 23 times. Both trends could very well continue this Saturday.
NU's defense can cause at least three turnovers, the 'Cats should be on
way to the win. If NU does win, it would snap a nine-game losing
in the conference. The last Big Ten win for the 'Cats came on
13, 2001, when NU beat Minnesota-- at the Wildcats' Homecoming.
Purdue has now lost six road games in a row. The last road win
the Boilermakers was September 29, 2001, when Purdue won... at
Of course, there's one more streak to consider: NU has not yet beaten
Tiller. That streak is well past due, and should come to a
end Saturday. The Wildcats are due to surprise, and Purdue is
the Halloween guest to shock-- they're down, yet they'll still be
past this game. Prediction: tricks AND treats-- NU in a stunner,
Purdue Slaps NU, 42-13 [posted Oct. 27]
came out from under the purple awning and promptly spotted the Purdue
twenty-one points, sending many Homecoming celebrants scurrying for the
the Rolaids, or the exits. The Wildcats again came up short on
fronts: offense, defense, special teams, and coaching (motivation?
play calling? The mind reels...) all were trumped by the
One of NU's few bright spots was the running
back play. Both Jason
Wright and Noah Herron performed well. Wright cracked 100 yards
scored a touchdown, while Herron continues to be a dependable
back. Brian Huffman also looked good, averaging 42 yards on his
including a 52 yarder and one that pinned Purdue near its five yard
And the offensive line played decently, especially center Austin
The details of the game
need not be picked apart here. The team did not seem
prepared or motivated. It has been years since a Wildcat team has
the field for Homecoming with as little visible energy, emotion, and
as did the team this Saturday. It was depressing to watch the
for much of the afternoon.
the loss, NU falls to 2-7 for the year and is now officially enduring
a losing season, the third in four years, and the 28th in the last 32
The loss to the Boilers brings NU's conference losing streak to
--Here Come the Hoosiers [posted Oct. 30]
Northwestern hosts the
Indiana Hoosiers at Ryan Field this Saturday, and when the Wildcats
take the field, they'll be about as desperate and hungry for a win as
seen in recent years. Coming off a devastating loss to Purdue,
'Cats have slid considerably since their strong showing at the
of the month, against the Buckeyes. Enter the Hoosiers,
coming off a throttling delivered by another desperate team: Illinois.
will be Gerry Dinardo's first game against Northwestern, and he will be
for a challenge. Dinardo is a good coach, but he arrived in
to find the cupboard bare-- wonder-QB Randel-El had graduated, and the
barely had five dozen players on scholarship. They have struggled
a result, and have not yet won a game on the road.
Indiana's main weapon is its quarterback. Fifth year senior
Hamdan leads the Big Ten in completion yards. Stopping Hamdan and
passing attack will be essential. What about the run, you ask?
Northwestern's rushing defense still on the ropes? Shouldn't
the run be the key? Fortunately for the Wildcats, this will
be the week that the Purple run defense steps up, and steps up with
maximum effect. The Hoosiers' ground attack is the weakest in the
averaging only 117 total rushing yards per game. No, the key
be to fix the cross hairs on Mr. Hamdan and make his day at Ryan Field
As for the NU offense, there has been much ado this week over whether
Stauss or Brett Basanez will start as the 'Cats' signal caller.
quarterback should be able to move the ball against the Hoosiers; Tony
get another crack at the start-- this might be the game in which he
a corner. However, the focus will not be on Stauss or
but on running back Jason Wright. Wright has had five games so
this year during which he has rushed for at least 100 yards. This
should make that count six. Look for Wright to run wild on
ground defense, a unit that is as troubled as NU's.
If the line can give Wright a head start, and if either Stauss or
can take advantage of the ground gains by mixing up the action with
vertical!) passes, NU should be well on its way toward getting
on track to finish the season in an exciting and hopeful fashion.
Damn Wright We Won!
Northwestern Outlasts Indiana 41-37 [posted Nov. 2 ]
streak is over: Northwestern has notched a Big Ten victory, its first
the year and the first after ten unsuccessful tries. The Wildcats
self-inflicted wounds and a fourth quarter Hoosier comeback to defeat
41 to 37 at Ryan Field. Brett Basanez reclaimed NU's offense,
weeks after breaking his leg against Minnesota. Basanez threw for
yards and 20 completions, while wearing a brace on his leg. He
in for all of the game, except for one series that featured true
Derrell Jenkins. In a (somewhat) surprising move, NU chose to
Jenkins' redshirt during the tenth game of the season. Jenkins
promising mobility as he moved the offense to a first down.
is, however, apparently the Wildcats' leader for the present and near
and-- considering his condition-- he looked very good today behind
However, the true star of today's game was Jason Wright, who-- to
a Randy Walker quote-- keeps filling his barrel with butcher knives and
it with abandon. Wright piled up 219 yards rushing and 59 yards
Wright's rushing mark ties him for ninth place for single game
for a Wildcat (tied with Damien Anderson, who rushed for 219 against
Michigan St. in 2000).
Wright also now has over 1000 yards rushing for the year,
only the eighth Wildcat in history to record that achievement.
Wright's four touchdowns
against the Hoosiers ties a school record for rushing
touchdowns during a game.
slashed and picked his way through the Hoosier defense with skill and
and was a real pleasure to watch. Walker has always demonstrated
gift for instructing and nurturing running backs, and that tradition
definitely continued with Wright.
The rest of the offense had a productive day as well, with most of the
receiver crew getting at least one catch. In addition to Wright,
Herron also mixed it up between ground attack and receiving, and had 77
for the day. Mark Philmore continues to step up as a receiver,
is well on his way to being a great and dependable weapon in the
offense. The offensive line also played quite well.
The NU defense, under so much scrutiny this year, performed near its
water mark for the year, set against Ohio State. Of Indiana's 37
12 came directly from Wildcat turnovers. The 'Cat defense had a
day, with the defensive line turning in its very best performance of
year. Freshman David Thompson played inspired ball and picked off
Hamdan, recording the game's only interception. At linebacker,
Cartaya got his first start and did not disappoint, with a sterling
The two most significantly positive takeaways from this game, however,
after the 'Cats saw two fumbles converted to Indiana touchdowns, and
after a poorly-advised attempt at a field goal was unsuccessful, NU
slacked. The Wildcats soldiered on, focused on winning the game.
showed great heart.
played four hard-fought quarters of Big Ten football, and the Wildcats
did not suffer one
personal foul, did not suffer one stupid after-the-play penalty.
discipline the team showed was vastly improved and superior to all
games this year. Very, very well done!
Iowa Juggernaut Pounds NU 62-10 [posted Nov. 9]
sixth-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes wasted no time taking a two touchdown lead
Northwestern and never looked back, as they waxed NU 62-10. Iowa
helped by the Wildcats at the beginning of the game, when NU won the
toss, deferred, and then-- surprising absolutely no one-- attempted a
onside kick. The Iowa sideline almost looked bored: "NU deferred?
Must be trying the onside kick. OK..." The message sent was
the Wildcats expected to lose, and were prepared to try anything to
the bleeding-- before the gun had even been fired.
the sloppy start, NU hung tough with the Hawkeyes
for the rest of the first quarter. Brett Basanez looked
for much of the game, and was able to throw well against the Iowa
Derrell Jenkins took over for Basanez later in the second half.
ran the ball well, but everyone knew Jenkins was going to run, since
of his plays were runs until well into the fourth quarter. When
did throw, he was intercepted. Twice. Jason Wright ran 11
for 32 yards. The offense was not spectacular, but was still the
strongest Wildcat unit on the field. Special teams gave up
another touchdown on
a punt return, although it should be mentioned that Brian Huffman did a
job earlier with his punt from the absolute, very back edge, not one
of grass left from stepping out of his own endzone punt to midfield.
And that NU defense.... The
Iowa offense proved just too much for the 'Cats, who looked overwhelmed
against a superior force.
calling was not anything to write home about (cf. the "tricky"
onside kick to start the game, going for it in the first quarter on
and three by passing the ball behind the line of scrimmage, not going
it in the second quarter on fourth and three inches, etc.), it
didn't matter this time around. NU could have had Steve Spurrier,
Willingham, another Kirk Ferentz, and the ghost of Vince Lombardi all
its sideline, and it would not have made any difference.
who showed that he alone possesses more class than every one of his
fans combined, pulled his starting quarterback, his starting running
and-- in a move rarely seen in Division I-- his entire offensive line, midway
through the third quarter. For those wondering what that
means, it is not a good sign.
Yes, the Northwestern defense is young, but youth and a few
should not excuse a defense that is solidly the worst in the country,
is now just 43 points from being the worst in Northwestern
That would be a low water mark that most thought unattainable,
it will likely happen in two weeks. The pressure is on: Randy
must, absolutely must make breathtaking improvements in his defense
the off season, or this program will slide so much further into the
Ages that it might not be recoverable. If that improvement
an entirely new approach to the defense, including all new defensive
personnel, so be it. If that improvement can be made with the
staff at hand, so be that as well.
The program is past critical. Indiana was a much-needed win and
NU's conference losing streak, but it does little for the condition of
program. The program is in meltdown, and Walker should not be
of meltdown-level decisions on November 24, if not sooner.
In many ways the 2003 season begins now. Decisions must be made
will influence this team for years to come. Let's hope those
are faced with the courage needed right now.
to Conclude Season Vs. Illinois [posted Nov. 17]
measure his heart."
Northwestern Wildcat 2002 football season will conclude this Saturday
Ryan Field, as the Wildcats write the final chapter in what has been a
disappointing year. Earlier, during the off-season, players
shirts that read, "four and seven, never again." Fans now can
hope that the shirts' declaration proves false, at least the four wins
NU needs to win its final game to avoid falling to its worst record,
overall and within the conference, since 1999.
That win will be difficult to get. For its finale, NU hosts
and the Illini have weapons that will challenge the 'Cats at every
Illinois is certainly an angry team, having lost in overtime to the top
team in the country, and having lost its bowl eligibility as
Reporters are also quick to point out that Illinois is "resurgent"
now, which must mean that Illinois is 2-2 in their last four
Sure, the Illini lost close ones to Ohio State and Penn State, and
really good doing it, but let's look further. Their last two
Those came against Indiana and Wisconsin, teams that are in veritable
fall right now. Not only has Illinois dropped seven games, they
only won once on the road so far (and that win was the one against
it's a shame NU couldn't have played the Badgers earlier this year...).
Still, Illinois is playing better ball now than at the start of the
when they looked wretched. Their defense has picked up the pace,
will strain the 'Cats' offense and quarterbacks to the breaking (no pun
please, no pun intended!) point. The Illini tallied four sacks
the Buckeyes, the third time that the team has notched at least four
in a game. Seventeen Illini have made tackles for loss so far
year, twelve of them accounting for 21 sacks total.
As to their offense, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is a Biletnikoff Award
averaging 94 yards per game. Quarterback Jon Beutjer now has a
of experience under his belt, after replacing the irreplaceable Kurt
Beutjer is averaging 309 yards per game. And the Illini line is
by fifth year senior and ironman offensive tackle Tony Pashos, a
All-American, who is starting his 47th (!) straight game.
However, the offensive player that should cause the greatest concern
Northwestern is Antoineo Harris, who has rushed for 1,152 yards so far
year, and has notched eight touchdowns. So Mr. Harris is one of
keys to the game-- if NU can shut him down and keep him to 100 yards or
it could hang with Illinois. Of course, this also means getting
blocks and not letting Tony Pashos have his way with the line.
leads to the second key to the game: NU must have one good, old
look at what we did against Ohio State back in October, defensive stop
the first quarter. If the 'Cats can pull off one great defensive stand
the opening period, they just might keep their confidence up long
to make it a contest. Finally, Northwestern must get the ball as
as possible and must score as soon as possible. If Basanez and
can find a rhythm quickly, NU should be able eventually to produce four
five good touchdown drives. Four that to happen, though, the
O-line must play with their helmets on fire.
If all these things come together, NU should not only win, they should
the Illini by a couple of touchdowns. But can it come
Can the Wildcats provide a team like the one that took the field
Ohio State last month? It's up to them. Do they want
Does a fourth win mean that much to them? Do they want to take
first step to the offseason having won their last game, something that
happened at NU in four years? The talent on the team is
but the disadvantage of NU's youth is softened by the Illini's
and their problems on the road. The most vital component now is
The Wildcats will have to will this one to come together and will have
will the win. There are only four quarters left; let's hope the
play every one of them with an iron will and write a hopeful final
to this season.
Falls to Illinois 31-24;
Wildcats Finish Season 3-9 [posted Nov. 23]
measure his heart."
found itself down by 21 points, late in its game with Illinois
The Wildcats were down, but by no means were they out, nor did
they show an ounce of quit. The 'Cats, playing with exceptional
heart and overcoming ridiculously
inept officiating and mind-numbingly bad play calling, tore back into
game to come within a touchdown before succumbing to the Illini 31 to
The game wraps up the 2002 season for NU and concludes the
careers of seniors Vince Cartaya, Raheem Covington, Brandon
Onaje Grimes, Ben Kennedy, Austin King, Kevin Lawrence, Jeff Roehl,
Wasielewski and George Woods.
" I thought our coaching staff did a good job and gave our kids a
chance to win," said NU coach Randy Walker.
"Coach Dunbar doesn't believe in it." -- Brett Basanez, referring to
the crucial and missing quarterback sneak play.
And from Jason Wright: "It's a mentality. You can have all the
talent in the world, but if you don't know how to win....."
Wright Earns Academic All-America Honors [posted Dec. 2]
NU's athletic department
announced December 2 that Jason Wright has been selected
as a first-team Academic All-American by the College Sports Information
of America. Jason is the first Wildcat since 1995 to earn this
and the fifteenth Wildcat ever to make first-team.
to Jason for this well-deserved honor!