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Wildcats Defeat Illinois/Look Ahead to “Some Place Warm On New Year’s Day”|Fan Talk

My Take on the Northwestern-Illinois Game: The Wildcats definitely rate a 60 minute effort on this one. Needless to say, they beat the point spread (Illinois was favored by 3) with a convincing 27 - 10 win over a high-powered Illini attack. I’m not going to claim it was an easy victory (see last week’s column), but it was a very strong win. Both the offense and defense played extremely well; special kudos to both. Illinois could run up and down the field, but couldn’t complete the deal - and it’s the final score that is the most important stat. Juice Williams must have wondered why the Illinois backfield seemed to always have a few extra purple jerseys around. Yes, UI’s Williams played well, gaining over 300 yards general purpose yards and could be headed for the pros at the end of his career. But it takes a bunch of other guys to score points and win games. NU was balanced on both sides of the ball and won the game as a team. And the ‘Cats get to keep the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk forever.
(Question for the fans: What should the new rivalry trophy be? The Big Ten has things like a wooden turtle, a bucket, and a jug. Do we go for tradition and make it something “old skool” or do we go for something a bit more 21st Century-ish?)
My biggest worry was in the fourth quarter when Illinois closed to 10-16 and seemed to have momentum. Then Smith broke a 50+ yard punt return and that single play seemed to deflate the Illini once and for all. Bacher’s TD pass capping the drive was like an arrow through the heart of UI.
The Wildcats finish the regular season with a terrific 9-3 record. And this is despite the team being shotgunned with injuries. As I’ve said before, this team’s depth and conditioning is impressive. I find it ironic that 9-3 gets some coaches fired by certain state schools. Me - I’m very grateful, and I’m sure that almost every Wildcat fan is similarly happy with the season thus far. If Coach Fitzgerald doesn’t get at least Big Ten Coach of the Year, there’s something seriously wrong.
Northwestern versus Unknown State School, But Some Place Warm On New Year’s Day:

NU hasn’t won a bowl game since 1949. Undoubtedly they will be the underdogs even if they play The University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. I think this team can get it done and finish at 10-3.
I’m debating whether or not to go to the bowl game. Since it won’t be in Detroit (no offense, Motor City), that adds to the attraction. If by some strange alignment of the stars they play the South Carolina Gamecocks, it becomes personal - I have relatives who live there and it would be hard to resist taking them to the bowl game just so they could see that real *student*-athletes can win games. Stay tuned - I’ll write a column or two before the bowl game.
Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (former NUMB Spirit Leader)
PS: A big shout out to the Northwestern University Marching Band (NUMB). I heard them playing in the background throughout the season and cheering on the team. Morale is a big factor in football games and NUMB gives NU a definite boost. And they’re clearly the Best Band in the Land. :-)


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