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Cats Make Rice Pudding, Central Michigan in the Gunsight

Wildcats Feast on Rice, Win Nerd Bowl II 30 - 13


Two in a row.


Two really good, double digit wins in a row. Three total wins in a row. Three times the total number of wins that I saw while I was at NU. Halfway to bowl eligibility.


Yeah...


Speaking of Nerd Bowl II, NCAA Fanhouse just reported that Coach Fitzgerald led the Wildcats to 1st place in Academic Progress Rate with a total of 985 out of 1000. (APR is a measure of classroom and graduation success.) Let’s be very honest - among the roughly 10,000 athletes playing NCAA FBS football, the vast majority will go professional in something other than the NFL (or UFL, CFL, Arena, or whatever). Academics really count more in real life. Go Cats!


Football-wise, it was a dominant win. So much so that my blood pressure was only mildly elevated versus the beginning of the game. And frankly, it was likely because the Rice video feed kept freezing, blurring, and otherwise behaving as if it was being squeezed through a 1200 baud modem. But even given that, the BP at the end of the game was 134/84 for a total of 218. It looks like “under” wins this week - Thank God.


Once again, the score could have been even worse if the Wildcats had kept the heat on full throttle the whole game. The subs got significant time, which is great on several levels.


The big concern I had was pretty clear to everyone in the first half - the lack of an offensive touchdown. Persa looked merely slightly above average (rather than his usual great). The whole offense could have done better. Northwestern can’t afford to be less than fully effective during the Big Ten portion of the season. To paraphrase Mayor Daley The First - “You (the Wildcats) should score early and score often.”


Fortunately the Wildcat defense was on the ball. Literally. To the tune of a Pick Six by Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week - Quentin Davie. And the kicking game was very nearly perfect; Demos was perfect for a total of 12 points for the night. The Wildcats were in the lead (but not in total control) by 13 - 6 at halftime.


The second half was much better. The Wildcats broke out the big guns offensively. Persa went from good to great and the whole offense gained traction. The defense continued to be stifling. Near the end of the 4th quarter the Wildcats were up 30 - 6. The pain for the Owls was soothed a little when they scored a TD with under a minute to play. I thought it was classy for NU to take a knee on the ensuing kickoff and to follow that with Victory formation.


So to sum up, NU’s game can be characterized as “The Good.” Seriously good. Effectively 30 - 6. (Yes, I know Rice had 13; the last 7 points were meaningless to the final outcome.) A win and a point spread more than covered. Not the perfect game, but a good game. And I’ll take a win of any type - even an ugly one if it comes down to it. The win pushed the Wildcats to 3 - 0.


First Look At Central Michigan:


The Central Michigan Chippewas are in the MAC - actually one of the best teams in the MAC. Before you say anything about “It’s only the MAC,” you should remember that the 2009 Chippewas finished nationally ranked - the Wildcats did not. The 2009 Chippewas won their conference - the Wildcats did not. Central Michigan is likely the best team Northwestern has faced to date. If NU can’t win this one, then the even tougher Big Ten schools will be a problem.


And then there is the whole issue of NU having bad luck beating all of their non-conference foes on a consistent basis. There seems to be a dumb loss at least once during the Big Ten “pre-season.” (Example - Syracuse last year.) People have debated this horrid trend for years and have searched for an answer. I think I have the best theory to date: after Northwestern defeated Notre Dame in 1995, Coach Lou Holtz levied a dark curse upon the Wildcats. The curse was that NU would feel the same humiliation of a dumb loss in the “pre-season” that NU had inflicted upon Notre Dame’s 1995 “pre-season.” Because of his vile curse, Lou Holtz doesn’t cast a shadow within 100 meters of “Touchdown Jesus” at the Notre Dame campus.


Let’s see if we can give this rumor (the Holtz Curse/casting no shadow at ND) some legs on the Internet. :-)


So let’s look at the three scenarios: The Good, The Bad, and The Probable. (BTW, the Vegas line seems to be NU by 6.5 to 7.0.)


The Good:


Persa is consistently great from the beginning. The run game clicks and NU tops over 250 yards - not great by most teams’ standards, but better than the first 3 games. And the defense is as tough as the previous two games. NU continues to be in positive territory regarding takeaway margin. The kicking game hums as well. Northwestern starts to get some press about being a darkhorse candidate for Big Ten Champion and Persa starts to get some mention regarding the Heisman.


Final score: Wildcats 34 - Chippewas 17. (Blood Pressure at end: 140/90.)


The Bad (Really bad…)


Holtz’s Curse comes to roost. Persa shows signs of being merely human. He suffers his first INT of the season and it rattles him and the entire team. The Chippewas do something else no other team has managed all season - get a lead on Northwestern. The Cats don’t quite hit their full stride, but make a valiant effort on both sides of the ball. The lead swings back and forth. Unfortunately, Central Michigan finally gains the only lead that actually matters - the lead when the clock runs out. The home crowd leaves disappointed on Evanston Day. Coach Holtz cackles with glee on ESPN when he talks about a “...mediocre Northwestern” losing to a “...mediocre MAC team…”


Final score: Central Michigan 28 - NU 27. (Blood Pressure at end: 170/110 out of frustration and sadness.)


The Probable


Similar to “The Bad” case - Persa suffers his first INT of the season. Also for the first time this season the Wildcats fall behind their opponent and stay that way until after halftime. Whatever Coach Fitz says during halftime, it works. The Wildcats come out roaring in the third quarter and quickly surpass the Chippewas. NU’s conditioning becomes a big factor in the 4th quarter as CMU starts to run out of steam. It’s a tough fight, but NU prevails in the end. Importantly, the Wildcats go into their Big Ten schedule 4 - 0.


Final score: Northwestern 30 - Central Michigan 22. (Blood Pressure at end: 160/100) NU wins, and covers.


This Week in Wildcat Football 15 Years Ago


23 September 1995 was a critical date for the Wildcats. The season had its stellar start against Notre Dame and then descended into despair two weeks later when they lost to Miami - of the Ohio variety. Going into week four of the college football season (3rd game for NU), the psyche of the team hung in the balance. They were going against the 2 - 1 Air Force Academy Falcons. Which NU team was going to show up? The Giant Killers or the Mildcats?


Before the game against the Air Force, Coach Barnett said something to the effect of, "Fellas, for the rest of the season, we can either be the team that beat Notre Dame, or the team that lost to Miami of Ohio. Your choice."


The Wildcats responded in a big way, walloping the Falcons 30 - 6. The victory was huge on a number of levels. It showed that NU could bounce back from adversity and regain their confidence. It also showed that the Cats could crush a decent team.


Thus Northwestern University, perennial Division 1-A and Big Ten doormat, went through the “Big Ten preseason” 2 - 1. It was really great going into the Big Ten competition with a winning record. Indiana loomed the following week and NU had confidence they could win. But then again, NU had gone into the 1993 Big Ten season 2 - 1; they finished that year 2 - 9.


Which way was the “Real” season going to go? Hope sprung eternal...


Go ‘Cats!


BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)

NUMBSpiritLeader@gmail.com

twitter/nuspiritleader.

2 comments:

  1. Things are looking good, I think we are going to make noise in the Big Ten this year with a doubt. How about Persa!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think NU can win the Big Ten if they take it one week at a time. They can't afford to overlook anyone. And this week, that "anyone" is a pretty good CMU team.

    But I do think NU wins this week.

    I also already figure that if the Wildcats beat Minnesota next week (and I think they will), Brewster will be shown the door before Minnie's next game. (Despite the progress since 1995, there is still an element out there that thinks that any loss to NU is the end of the world.)

    ReplyDelete