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Boston College Review and Eastern Illinois Preview

Wildcats Shoot Down Eagles for the Road Win!

The Northwestern Wildcats performed admirably. Quoting from my prediction “The Probable”:

Northwestern winds up starting Colter, which gives Boston College some initial momentum. But Northwestern’s defense hangs tougher than expected. While BC scores, they can’t totally put the Wildcats away. Once Colter establishes a rhythm, the momentum slowly changes toward the Wildcats. NU’s run game helps enable dink and dunk passing. Colter airs out a long ball that finds its target, further rocking BC’s defensive confidence. Conditioning makes a huge difference for the Wildcats toward the end of the 4th quarter. With minutes to play, the Wildcats take their first lead and hang on for the win. The Cardiac Cats send another group of fans to the emergency room. Final score: Northwestern 38 - Boston College 35.

I called it pretty close. The differences were:
NU took the lead before the 4th quarter (they did it in the 3rd).
The final score was Northwestern 24 - Boston College 17 (margin was 7 vice 3).

My blood pressure at the end of the game: 150/100 - close to nosebleed bad.

I think there were some critical successes, including:
The O-line and D-line played far better than last year. There were times where they just drove their BC opposites into the dirt. That gave Colter time to make (mostly) good decisions.
Conditioning - there is no substitute. Northwestern’s was obviously better than Boston College’s. Near the end of the game it helped make the difference.
Running game - NU got one. I know that people were touting the fact that BC’s running defense was tops last year. But that was last year. Nonetheless, the running game made a very positive difference.

It is so much more fun to write after a win than after a loss.

There are areas for improvement:
* There needs to be an actual deep ball threat. Dink and dunk worked adequately. I get the whole walk before you run thing (short passes building to medium passes building to long passes…)
* The defense can’t give up multiple 3rd-and-longs.
* And the whole prevent defense only prevents killing the opponent. It seems like that always boils down to 1) go to prevent defense, 2) become a speed bump for the desperate opponent, 3) start to actually stop the opposing offense once they get down to the NU 30, and 4) hope that the other side finally runs out time and/or downs.

Eastern Illinois Panthers Preview!

The Eastern Illinois Panthers are this year’s FCS football foe. Last year’s version of the Panthers was not terribly successful, going 2-9. However, that was greatly out of character since they are a perennial FCS playoff team. Last week showed a possible return to excellence with the Panthers defeating the Illinois State Redbirds (remember them?) 33-26.

I’m personally ambivalent about playing FCS teams. There is a high expectation that one should always win against a lower division foe. But that doesn’t always happen - just ask Michigan about Appalachian State a few years ago. And if you do win but the margin is under 30 points, you’re still seen as a quasi-failure.

Given that Northwestern is not the type of school to run up the score on anyone, a 30+ point margin of victory is rare. Being blunt, any lead that is less than 38 points makes me nervous.

And now for the scenarios.

The Good:

The stands are filled to capacity with screaming purple-clad fans that help get the team fired up. The Wildcats find their inner psycho-killer. Colter plays long ball target practice, throwing multiple bombs. The receivers run the Panthers ragged. The running game racks up another 200 plus yard day. The O-line gives Colter and the various reserve quarterbacks all day to do their thing.

Meanwhile the defense stuffs the Panthers in every way possible. The Panthers can’t run or pass with any continuity. In addition, the defense forces a number of turnovers, which gives the offense a short field. The D-line is particularly fierce and causes EIU to use their reserve QB after the primary one gets pancaked.

The Final Score: Wildcats 51, Panthers 17 - and it isn’t even as close as the score would indicate. (Added bonus: The reserves get plenty of playing time that is valuable later in the season.)

The Bad:

A loss is “The End of the World” Scenario. I don't see that today.

Beyond that, The Bad would be EIU hanging close to NU throughout the game. Due to the closeness of the game, NU has to keep the 1st team in the whole game. Bad things occur as a result, including Colter and a couple of defense stars getting injured. NU survives the slug out, but multi-game injuries make the Army game much more worrisome.

The Final Score: NU 38, EIU 31 - the game was closer than the score indicates. Plus the Army game is in more doubt due to injuries.

The Probable:

Colter looks even more comfortable as the starter and does a good job. Watkins gets some valuable time as does QB1d. The O and D lines dominate, easily shoving EIU around. Despite jumping out to to an early 14 point lead, NU can’t totally put the Panthers away since there is a lack of killer instinct. Northwestern slowly adds to the lead and grinds the opposition down. The Cats look good, but not great. Coach Fitz is unhappy about the war of attrition.

The Final Score: NU 35, EIU 17 - The Wildcats get the win, but the Panthers beat the point spread (which is ~31 points). Despite that, the game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate.

Go Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)
Twitter: #nuspiritleader.


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