Oct. 4, 2018

H-2 Blues

Holy Cow, Jack Brickhouse...  Fitz and his DC, Doc Hankwitz, had the Michigan Dazed & Blue Horde offense right where they wanted them.  Riding an H-1 wave of the most impressive offensive field play display of the 2018 season to date, coupled with an equally extraordinary defensive performance, the Wildcats retired to the halftime locker room sporting an unimaginable 17-7 lead against the prohibitive favorite Dazed & Blue Horde from Annie’s Treehouse.  Indeed, it was as much a thing of unexpected awe as it was of bewildering beauty.  How in the world of Pappy Waldorf could the same team that got thoroughly humiliated by an Akron Zippity Doo Dah squad in their previous game take the fight to the No. 14-ranked Meat-Chicken Horde, with their 2-deep roster populated with 4 & 5-star recruits and led by uber-flamboyant HC, Jim Hair-Ball… er, I mean… Harbaugh, and literally neutralize the visiting  team’s vast array of overpowering weaponry on either side of the LOS with what appeared to be utter disregard towards the ‘Cats’ rightfully deserved “lowly place” in the natural rankings/order of B1G Dog power programs? 

However, that euphoric feeling of superior gridiron field play glory built-up throughout H-1 died a slow, painful death in H-2 as the ‘Cats’ all-too-familiar Ghost of Post Halftime Ineptitude reared its ugly head once more in the form a “Bad CT” offense that failed to execute even the most basic of offensive plays against a swarming, not-to-be-denied Dazed & Blue D that sacked Clayton Thorson 5 times while it stoned the Purple O for a mere 56 total yards gained in H-2.  Talk about wallowing in your own fetid cesspool of playmaking failure.

This schizophrenic situation of an unstoppable H-1 offense transitioning into a completely incompetent H-2 offense of mismanaged play calling and outright assignment failures is both bewildering and confounding to coaches, players, parents and fans alike.  What else can I say? 

How the ‘Cats Succumbed to the Dazed & Blue Horde

Large Human Beings
One undeniable characteristic that anyone seated in the stands watching events unfold on the green grass of Dyche’s Ditch was the imposing physical size of the Dazed & Blue linemen.  On offense in particular, the unimaginable mass differential between the individual OL players wearing the blue helmet with the iconic yellow wing on it and the ‘Cat DL facing them was beyond daunting, it appeared freakishly intimidating.  Simply stated, these early 20-something players are enormous human beings, especially the Meat-Chicken OC, No. 51, Cesar Ruiz, and his adjacent teammates, LG, No. 74, Ben Bredeson, and RG, No. 50, Michael Onwenu.  One could thread a yardstick through the backside belt loops of the football pants of any of these three players, then stand in front of them and never see either end of the measuring stick.  Talk about wide-bodies. 

In fact, RG Onwenu is so thick and muscle bound, he can’t assume a traditional, level-back 3-point stance; but is forced to literally assume a squatting position (like he’s gonna take a power dump cathartic), with his butt a full foot lower than his shoulder pads in order to compensate for not being able to bull his neck/head far back enough to lift his face/eyes to view his blocking target properly.  Although that squat position looked downright uncomfortable and limited his initial reaction off the snap of the ball, once he got his meat-hook hands, powered by his Popeye muscled arms, under the sternum pad of his blocking target, he physically manhandled that DL like he was a rag doll.  However, despite the point that all three Dazed & Blue middle OL, the OC & his OG wingmen, controlled their Purple DL counterparts with noted regularity, that workload came with a high price tag. 

Over the course of a 60 minute game, large human beings constantly exercising physicality of that high level exacts a demanding toll in sweat equity fatigue and exhaustion by both parties: as the Meat-Chicken OL struggled to maintain their blocks against a lighter, more mobile, very reactive and highly motivated ‘Cat defensive front 7; while the Wildcat DL kept their focus towards gaining separation from these Silverback Gorilla-styled behemoths then pursuing/closing-in on the ball carrier.  When comparisons are made between linemen from these two units, the relative cost of such consistent, unrelenting physical field play is higher on the defensive front 7 because, instead of knowing the current play’s point of attack and having the associated luxury to adjust/modify your requisite energy expenditure just enough to fulfill your individual blocking assignment, as an OL routinely does, a defensive player must always react to his reads then locate, pursue and close on the ball to limit yardage gains at every moment on every down.  Any drop-off in this defensive effort at any time, and the competitive advantage shifts to the offensive squad in an eye-blink.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Wildcat DC Doc Hankwitz’ defensive front 7. 

Worn Down & Out
Having exhausted most of their collective energy reserves throughout H-1in what this writer felt was their most commendable field play performance of the 2018 season, Doc’s defensive front 7 was THE major contributing factor responsible for building the Wildcats’ surprising 17-7 halftime lead against a prolific Dazed & Blue offense that had made minced meat of a Nebraska BugEater defense the previous Saturday.  Ignoring the white noise wisdom from collegiate football pundits who predicted that the Big Bad Meat-Chicken O would steamroll the “Mildcat” D into virtual roadkill 7 days later, Doc’s troops rose to meet the challenge and prevailed for the first 30 minutes of the game.  However, that laudable H-1 effort would become moot if, over the course of the contest’s final 30 minutes, OC Mick McCall’s O couldn’t deliver time-consuming scoring drives of their own which would have provided valuable recovery time to their defensive teammates and relieved the pressure on them to compete against and/or neutralize those huge human beings populating the Dazed & Blue OL and limit the visiting team’s yardage production and scoring potential. 

However, as had been the case in each of NU’s previous 3 games, the Clayton Thorson-led Wildcat O literally got punched in their collective chicklets by the opponent’s D and knocked flat on their behinds early & often in H-2.  When the Dazed & Blue defense stoned Thorson & Co. on NU’s first possession of the 2nd half, game momentum clearly had shifted to the visiting team.  HC Jim Harbaugh capitalized on this momentum shift and rolled-out his ground-n-pound attack, directing his Very Big Uglies to beat-up on the Purple defensive front 7 over an 11-play offensive series that featured 7 rushes augmented by a 36-yard explosion pass completion that re-positioned the LOS at the NU 10 for a 1st-&-goal scoring opportunity.  Despite the fact that Doc’s defense regained their composure to limit this red zone possession to a FG, the chinks in the Wildcat’s defensive armor began to show. 

As the Wildcat O never proffered anything approaching appreciable respite to the ‘Cat D from their Herculean effort to stem the rising tide of continuous yardage gains by the Meat-Chicken offense in H-2, Doc’s troops plainly transitioned into a squad that truly had been “ridden hard and hung-up wet” by mid Q4.  When the Dazed & Blue offense finally scored that go-ahead TD at the 4:06 mark of Q4, the game’s outcome was nothing less than a fait accompli because the Thorson & Co. offense remained a total “no show” in the 2nd half. 

The Wildcat defense deserved better – Much Better!

Playmaking Delta
Anything I might say or write regarding the reason(s) why Clayton & Co. failed miserably once more to execute their effective H-1 offensive game plan into and through H-2 would be pure speculation.  As a Purple dyed-in-the-wool Northwestern University football fan, I cannot, for the life of me, come close to identifying the causes that contribute to the increasing playmaking delta of the Wildcat offense between H-1 and H-2.  Whatever the causes, something is clearly very wrong with NU’s offensive brain trust and its ability to lead, to instruct, to develop a comprehensive, effective game plan and make appropriate halftime adjustments to improve that game plan in real time H-2.  It’s an ongoing plague that, if not addressed sooner than later, eventually will cut the competitive heart out of this team.  The exact same scenario was endured by the Moo U (Michigan State) football program in 2016, when the Green Meanies stumbled and bumbled their way to a woeful 3-9 record with notable losses to the Indy WhoZits (L 21-24 OT); to the Maryland Twerps (L 17-28) and, in their most damnable failure of that forgettable season, to the Ill-Annoy Ill-Whine-I (L 27-31).

If the Fitz-and-McCall-led ‘Cat offense doesn’t pull their collective noggins out from their moons and get their “merde” together, this team most certainly will duplicate Moo U’s 2016 season of utter failure in 2018. 

You have been warned!  ‘Nuf said…


Despite all the doom & gloom above, I’m not quite ready to press the panic button… yet; but I definitely have flipped its safety cover up & off and exposed it.  The Dazed & Blue Horde was positioned for their own great letdown against the upstart 15-point dog Wildcats; yet when it came to crunch time, Big Blue took complete control of the proceedings and sealed the deal with minimal trepidation in mid Q4.  Good teams do that to mediocre teams on a regular basis. 

So this week leading up to next Saturday’s impending grapple with Moo U, I’m still carrying a torch that this 2018 version of the football ‘Cats can prove themselves to be much more than a mediocre, also-ran team in the grand scheme of things, especially given that the B1G West Division isn’t populated with dominant B1G Dog football programs that perennially seem to exist in the B1G East Division.  Hell, even the Perdue Broiler Chickens handed the Nebraska BugEaters and their newly installed “Second Coming of JC” HC, Scott Frost, an embarrassing 42-28 “L” in Lincoln, NE, no less.  However, the gild most definitely is off Clayton Thorson’s lily, so to speak, and there is a program imperative for OC Mick McCall’s prized pig Senior QB to rise like a Phoenix from the ash heap of his numerous H-2 failures and confirm that he possesses the offensive playmaking leadership chops to take the Wildcats to the next level of gridiron competitiveness.  If “Good CT” can come out from the shadows of NU’s halftime locker room skull sessions and stand front and center on the H-2 stage under the glaring spotlight of critical evaluation and perform like he often has demonstrated in H-1, this season is his redeem and recoup. 

The potential to do so is there.  Just reach-out and grab that damn brass ring of gridiron respectability and bring home the “W” flag from East Lansing.   

The Waterboy
“Win with Grace, Lose with Dignity”

The Waterboy is a former football player and a Northwestern alumnus.  Aside from these facts, he has no affiliation with Northwestern University.  The commentary he posts here is his own, and does not necessarily reflect the views of HailToPurple.com.

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