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Wildcats Vs Syracuse Preview

Finally! Wildcat Football is Here!

The Wildcats start the football season tomorrow against the Syracuse Orange. Being a fan of the Cardiac Cats, it means that in addition to the usual spread of snacks, I also have blood pressure medicine at the ready and 911 “pre-dialed” on the phone.

So, what will the Wildcats be like this year? I don’t have much of a clue - I have no empirical evidence to make a judgment. But based on last year’s performance I know what needs to improve:

Defense - especially the secondary and pass rush. I’ve read that there is some promising talent. But that is to be determined. And frankly, the coaching has to get better or talent won’t much matter.

Run game - someone needs to figure out how to establish a credible run game so the passing game has more flexibility. Having a solid O-line is essential for the run game.

The Orange weren’t very good last year, but that was last year. As little as I know about the 2012 Wildcats, I know even less of the 2012 Orange. Even if they are awful this year, Northwestern seems to play down to such teams and sometimes loses as a result.

I’m guessing blind here, so I’ll use “Improvement” as the theme for The Good, The Bad, and the Probable.


The Good:

The 2012 Wildcats are undefeated as they wake up in Syracuse, NY. The the Spring practices, the August practices - all the warmups to the opener are now in the past as the kickoff sails from end of the field to the other. The battle is joined.

As the Wildcat defense takes the field, the Orange offense knows all about last year’s weaknesses. The QB immediately tries to test the Wildcats’ D - and has to scramble for his life as a blitz brings the heat. Second down - the QB is a little faster on the release, but the pass is batted away by a streaking defender. On third down, the QB sees that his receivers are covered and starts to check down. But before he can get to his third choice, he’s blindsided by a Wildcat defensive end. The Orange first series ends with a 3-and-out.

The Wildcat offense takes the field with good position - thanks to the first of many Mark punt returns. Colter takes the first snap and rolls out, tossing a perfect strike on the run. On second and short, Mark takes the football up the middle for a hard fought first down. The O-line gets the credit for providing the opening.

On first down Mark gets the ball on the option and fires up the afterburners, turning the corner getting deep into the Orange secondary. Another first down.

Colter takes the first down snap and steps into the pocket, checking down his receivers. Seeing no one clear, he takes off upfield on an impromptu draw and earning a hard fought first down. The Orange are reeling as the confident Wildcats shove them back.

On the fourth first down of the Wildcats’ inaugural offensive series, Colter rolls wide and delivers a solid pass to Prater. The supersized receiver takes off for the endzone, blowing through a defender to get his first TD as a Wildcat.

The Cats are now up 7-0 and already look more steady than anyone believed possible. The rest of the day rolls along for the Wildcats as they keep the accelerator floored for the full 60 minutes.

The final score: Wildcats 38 - Orange 17. And because of the solid defense and a productive offense, the game wasn't even as close as the score. Northwestern declares itself ready for 2012. The fans look forward to sinking the Vandy Commodores.


The Bad:

The 2012 Wildcats are undefeated as they wake up in Syracuse, NY. The the Spring practices, the August practices - all the warmups to the opener are now in the past as the kickoff sails from end of the field to the other. The battle is joined.

As the Wildcat defense takes the field, the Orange offense knows all about last year’s weaknesses. The QB immediately tries to test the Wildcats’ D - and has plenty of time to set up a short pass. Second down - the QB dumps a short pass again, getting close to a first. On third down, the QB sees that his receivers are covered and starts to check down. When he doesn’t see a clear choice he simple sprints past the marker for the first.

And it goes on and on like that as the Orange grind down the field toward the goal line. Minutes later, they get their first 2012 touchdown on a short pass, taking a lead against the favored Wildcats.

The Wildcat offense takes the field with good position - thanks to the first of many Mark kickoff returns. Colter takes the first snap and rolls out, missing a receiver on the run. On second and 10, Mark tries to take the football up the middle and gets rejected. Third and 9 doesn’t go any better as Colter has to dump the football short while running for his life. NU goes 3-and-out.

The Cats are now down 7-0 and look shaky out of the gate. The rest of the day is no better - NU exhibits all the weaknesses of the previous year and the Orange look much better than they should.

The final score: Syracuse 28 - NU 18. With a shaky defense and an inconsistent ground game, Northwestern fans steel themselves for a tough 2012. Thoughts of the Vanderbilt game make the NU faithful nervous.


The Probable:

The 2012 Wildcats are undefeated as they wake up in Syracuse, NY. The the Spring practices, the August practices - all the warmups to the opener are now in the past as the kickoff sails from end of the field to the other. The battle is joined.

As the Wildcat defense takes the field, the Orange offense know all about last year’s weaknesses. The QB immediately tries to test the Wildcats’ D - and has to scramble for his life as a blitz brings the heat. Second down - the QB is a little faster on the release and gets a short completion. On third down, the QB sees that his receivers are covered and starts to check down. As he runs out of protection, the QB scrambles for a first. Eventually the Wildcats slow the Orange to a stop. Syracuse settles for field goal.

The Wildcat offense takes the field with good position - thanks to a Mark kickoff returns. Colter takes the first snap and rolls out, tossing a perfect strike on the run. On second and short, Mark takes the football up the middle for a hard fought couple of yards. Another run on 3rd and 1 gives Northwestern its first 1st down of the season.

On first down Mark gets the ball on the option and fires up the afterburners, turning the corner getting deep into the Orange secondary. Another first down.

Colter takes the first down snap and steps into the pocket, checking down his receivers. But before he scrambles out of the collapsing pocket, he’s hauled down from behind. On second and 13, Colter once again scrambles for his life. Third and long brings a very predictable pass. A towering Prater simply grabs a wounded duck from out of the hands of a defender and saves a turnover.

It isn’t pretty, but the Wildcats make their way down the field and get the TD. The game turns into a war of attrition - somewhat rusty offenses going up against even more shaky defenses. Turnovers, blown coverages, missed blocks, etc. make the game a lot more of a contest than it should have been for the Northwestern Wildcats.

Northwestern simply outlasts Syracuse, scoring on the last possession of the game to win the game in Cardiac Cats fashion. It isn’t pretty, but it is a win.

The final score: Northwestern 31 - Syracuse 27. The season opens with a win, but Northwestern fans look to Vandy with a lot of trepidation. Both the defense and the run game have to improve if NU is to get to a bowl.


Other Things

Vanderbilt took South Carolina to the wire. They are ready to play. The Wildcats will have to play really well to win that game.

Michigan State outlasted a tough Boise State by figuring out a way to win. Their defense stymied the normally prolific Broncos. The MSU offense stepped up when they had to. The Spartans will be a tough foe near the end of the season.

Go Cats!

PS: See you on Twitter.

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)
NUMBSpiritLeader@gmail.com
Twitter: @nuspiritleader.

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