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Cats Eat Birds; Ready for Rice Pudding - Illinois State Postgame and Rice Preview

Wildcats Chow Down on Redbirds 37 - 3

This game was much better than the one against the Commodores. At the end of this game, my blood pressure was only 158/83 - high but not potentially deadly. (Recall that last week I hit 170/120 - I thought I’d bleed out of my ears due to another Cardiac Cats moment.) So people who bet “high” on the BP Over/Under win, since I predicted 150/90 for a total of 240.

Fortunately this was much less stressful - the game wasn’t even as close as the score might indicate. The Wildcats could have run up another 30 points if they had kept the first team in.

That said, I’m glad that our team has class. There is a difference between winning big vice going out of one’s way to embarrass and punish the other team.

This was a good game - lots of improvement versus the first game. And yes, I know that Illinois State University plays FCS (1-AA) football. Ask Virginia Tech and Minnesota what FCS schools can do if you take them lightly. Ask Michigan about how their 2007 season started. And unfortunately, ask Coach Fitz what a FCS school can do.

You never take a FCS opponent lightly. Period. Especially one populated with a fairly large number of transfers from FBS (including Big Ten) schools. The Redbirds were a potential trap game for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 7 - 0 lead, but the Redbirds immediately countered with a drive of their own. Fortunately, the Cats defense stiffened and the Birds were left with a field goal: NU 7 - ISU 3. After that, Northwestern became dominant. They went into the halftime break ahead 30 - 3. The passing game was “on,” and the ‘Cats simply ran it up the middle and made “less-embarrassing” yardage.

The second half found the Wildcats going into cruise control. While they scored only 7 more points, the Redbirds scored no more. More importantly, NU had the chance to make extensive substitutions on both offense and defense. There were even kicking subs. This could be really important down the road if injuries lead to the Wildcats needing to go deep on reserves.

The Good: Persa, pass defense (3 INTs), reserves doing well, punting, better running, and a crushing tackle that looked like a martial arts demo - I expected a literal dead Redbird. (If you saw the game, you know the tackle; it was the one that must have sent shivers up Stanzi's spine.)

The Bad: Kicking related to points, fumbles, run game not yet Big Ten quality.

So to sum up, NU’s game can be categorized as “The Good” - it wasn’t as close as the score would indicate and ISU didn’t cover the spread. It was a great game to watch.

First Look At Rice:

Rice is ranked the same as Vanderbilt (#17) by US News and World Report. So once again, let us chant “Our SATs Are Higher!” Like Northwestern and Vandy, Rice is a Nerd school; so let us call this game “Nerd Bowl 2.” We beat the Northwestern of the Southeast (the SEC’s Vanderbilt). We should beat the Northwestern of the Southwest (from Conference USA).

Among other Rice trivia: their mascot is an owl and their colors are “Rice Blue” and “Rice Gray.” The obvious question: What - no “Rice White?”

Anyway, back to football… Rice football used to be pretty much a doormat. However they’ve had some success, reaching bowl games in 2006 and 2008. (And they won the Texas Bowl in 2008 - a reminder that we need a win in a bowl game.)

So keeping with this year’s theme...the predictions: The Good, The Bad, and The Probable. (BTW, the Vegas line seems to be NU by 6.5 to 7.0.)

The Good:

Carrying on with the “killing an avian” metaphors, the Rice Owls get plucked. The NU kicking game has no sign of errors. (You hear me? - no missed field goals or PATs!) The punt game continues to go well during its limited employ. The Wildcats get an effective running game going, perhaps by just charging up the middle with the help of an even more practiced O-line. Persa adds to his outrageous stats and finally gets Big Ten Offensive Player of the week. Watkins and the rest of the 2nd team offense gets a few reps. The Wildcat defense is dominant throughout the game, but don’t make the Owls lay a “goose-egg.” Along the way, all potential interceptions are made, matching last week’s 3 INTs. There are no dropped balls (no fumbles). And there are no major injuries. Everything works and Northwestern wins going away. Central Michigan looks more and more like a win.

Final score: Wildcats 31 - Owls 17. (Blood Pressure at end: 150/90.)

The Bad (Really bad…)

The Cats get egged by the Owls and lose a game that should not have gotten away. All of the progress made last week seems to evaporate in a late night haze of dropped balls, missed tackles, and lost opportunities. The game stays close throughout, making the horror of the final score even more terrible.

Final score: Rice 27 - NU 24. (Blood Pressure at end: 170/110 out of frustration.)

The Probable

The Wildcats sprint out of the gate and establish a lead. But they cannot totally shake the Owls. It is a tough game with a couple of lead swings. Persa does very well, but not as well as the previous two weeks. There are lost opportunities for the Cats to put the game away - a dropped TD pass, a fumble in the Red Zone, a Rice run that gets past everyone, and a couple of other heart stoppers. The Cardiac Cats prevail, scoring the go-ahead points with less than two minutes to go and fending off a furious fusillade of last second passes to win the game. I run for blood pressure meds as the clock runs out. Central Michigan is looking like another heart attack opportunity.

Final score: Northwestern 27 - Rice 21. (Blood Pressure at end: 180/120, with possible nose bleeds.) NU wins, but Rice covers.

After this game, I’ll post a graphic comparing the point differential and my blood pressure. I’ll also note “special events” such as nose bleeds.

This Week in Wildcat Football 15 Years Ago

On 2 September 1995, Northwestern dropped Notre Dame. A week later, they had a bye week and rose to #25 in the rankings. Wildcat Fever was starting - it was an odd affliction, especially two weeks into the season.

Then on 16 September 1995 perceived reality reasserted itself when the Randy Walker coached Miami (OH) team beat Northwestern at the last moment. Suddenly, it seemed like the Notre Dame win was a fluke upset. Speculation reigned that NU would finish 1-10. It was a really sad loss, especially since everyone’s hopes (especially mine) were so high.

The upcoming Air Force game suddenly looked really tough. A loss here would crush most people’s hopes. A win would extend the confusion - was Northwestern the real thing or was it failure as usual? The 23rd loomed large. The Wildcats were 1 - 1; would they be 2 - 1?

Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)




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