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Preview: The Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Three Keys to Winning: Leadership, Coaching, and Hangovers

The Obvious: The Northwestern University Wildcats are going to a bowl game - their third in a row; the TicketCity Bowl. They are underdogs for a number of reasons: Persa being sidelined, defense collapsing the last two games, Persa being out, inconsistent offense, Persa being out, etc. Did I mention Persa being out?

The Texas Tech Red Raiders are 9-10 point favorites. After the last two games, I’m surprised that it’s only a TD+FG margin. There aren’t a lot of people giving the Wildcats any sort of chance of winning the game.

There are ways for NU to win. Let’s look at a few of the key points.

  1. Persa is still important. During the first ten games, Persa was the Matador; he was the offensive leader. The last two games showed that he was important to the defense as well. The sideline shots during the Illinois and Wisconsin games showed Persa sitting away from everyone looking forlorn. He must show leadership during the TicketCity Bowl. Sitting with the bench instead of away from everyone is a symbolic step that would send a message to the team - he’s still with them and still the leader.
  2. Coaching must follow the rhythm of the game, not micromanage it. NU is by far the best academic school in the Big Ten. Northwestern is smart, but sometimes prone to overthinking situations. The past couple of games seemed to reflect overthinking in the coaching. Watkins would start getting into a grove and Colter would sub in. Colter would be pulled out even more quickly. It appeared as if the semi-random substitutions were meant to confuse the defense. I think it may have confused our own offense. If one QB has the hot hand, leave him in.
  3. I don’t think Texas Tech is going to take Northwestern very seriously. Given the past couple of games, I can understand why. I would fully expect that the Raiders will show up with more than a few hangovers and an expectation of a win no matter what. Northwestern must take advantage of that fog early and often. The Wildcats must come charging out of the gates and just wallop the Raiders.

So let’s look at The Good, The Bad, and the Probable.

The Good: The Wildcats get all three major factors lined up their way. The Red Raiders party on New Year’s Eve like there’s no tomorrow. They show up at the stadium and stumble through the motions as their heads pound in time with the Northwestern University Marching Band playing Go U! Meanwhile, the Wildcats look sharp on both sides of the ball. Persa is with the team on the sidelines cheering, pushing, and most importantly, leading. Watkins takes the field first and directs a quick scoring drive - he doesn’t get subbed out for Colter. The defense makes a statement by taking the ball away from a hungover Raider offense. Then Watkins repeats the initial scoring drive. At the end of the first quarter, it’s Wildcats 14 - Raiders 0. The Wildcats keep the pressure coming. As the Red Raiders start to wake up and figure out Watkins, Colter is put in for a full offensive drive. All the things that the Red Raiders figured they could do against Watkins just don’t work against Colter. By halftime, NU has a 28 - 3 lead. During halftime, the Texas Tech coach (former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville) passes out aspirin and kicks in the rear to his players. As a result, the Raiders wake up and attempt to stage a comeback. But it is too little too late as the Wildcats fend off the Red Raiders and go to 8-5. Most importantly, the 2010 Cats go down in history as the first bowl winning team in the post-Dark Times era. Ending the 60+ year bowl drought makes sports news everywhere. The goalposts at Ryan Field in Evanston get a well deserved bath. (HINT: If you can’t take the goalposts to the lake, take the lake to the goalposts.) Final score: Wildcats 42 - Red Raiders 31. Blood pressure at end: 150/100.

The Bad: The Wildcats can’t catch a break. The Texas Tech team actually takes the Wildcats seriously and follows curfew. Persa looks forlorn on the sidelines and doesn’t exert leadership. The coaching staff thinks and overthinks the game plan, interrupting the rhythm of the offense more than the Red Raider defense does. It quickly turns into a debacle as Texas Tech coach Tuberville tries to make a statement at the expense of Northwestern. By the end of the game, even the repeated chanting of “That’s alright. That’s okay. You’re gonna work for us one day.” seems forced and weak. Final score: NU 21 - TT 52. Blood pressure at end: 142/92.

The Probable: The Wildcats have some opening jitters. Fortunately, the Red Raiders are hungover for much of the first half. It isn’t pretty as both offenses turn over the ball a couple of times. But Northwestern somehow does the better job during the first half, taking a 18 - 14 lead into halftime. As the Red Raiders wake up fully, so does Northwestern. The Wildcat offense finds its rhythm and the defense looks the best it has since mid-season. The battle is joined in earnest, but NU manages to use Persa’s sideline leadership and the manages to not totally overthink the offense. Texas Tech misses a last second field goal to seal the Wildcat win. The goalposts at Ryan Field in Evanston get a well deserved bath. (HINT: If you can’t take the goalposts to the lake, take the lake to the goalposts.) The final score: Northwestern 36 - Texas Tech 33. Blood pressure at end: 175/112, and I run to take an emergency dose of hypertension medication.

Call me crazy, but I feel a win (and a potential heart attack).

There’s a Lot of Craziness Out There

Let me say a few words about how broken NCAA FBS Football is:

Newton. Ohio State. Iowa (though they’ve shown more remorse, more common sense, and more class than Ohio State). Players doing stupid, dumb, and/or illegal stuff. Maryland (9-4 still gets you fired), West Virginia (9-4 still gets you fired), Miami (of Florida, 7-5 gets you fired). State schools showing what’s most important and justifying Northwestern’s “State School” cheer. I could go on and likely will in a few days.

Power corrupts. Lots of money corrupts absolutely. I blame the "adults."

Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)




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