>The Near Perfecto

>I had fully intended to go on a seldom rant today as I continue to be disgusted by the fact Michigan – yes, of the 8-16 over the past two years Michigan – continues to be picked ahead of NU in nearly every preseason publication. I must be missing something about how that porous “D” has suddenly righted itself after the departure of their best player. But then, right down the road from Ann Arbor, an umpire robbed Detroit Tigers’ Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. You’ve likely seen or read about the play that will go down as one of the alltime worst officiating moments in the history of organized sport. Considering the buzz factor on this call will transcend sport today I figured it was time to call an audible and Northwestern-ize the moment.

The obvious way to go on Northwestern-izing this was to debate the all-time worst calls that went against the ‘Cats. The other way – the way I chose – was to try and create context for what constitutes a perfect Northwestern football game.

What is the college football equivalent of a perfect game? In baseball, the objectivity of the feat lends to the beauty of it – 27 batters retired in a row – period. Sure, there are shades of gray with called third strikes or bang-bang calls at first, but relatively speaking it is numerically based. The literal numbers approach in CFB is almost unrealistic – a shutout with no yards rushing or passing by the opponent and not one mistake on offense or special teams. It simply doesn’t hold water. Many of us describe the “perfect game” as a desired outcome with memorable play after offensive play that ended dramatically. I’m sure when you hear “Northwestern football perfect game” a few instant images flash in your mind; the Michigan 2000 54-51 classic, the 1995 Notre Dame 17-15 upset, or perhaps even “Victory Right”.

The context of “perfect game” is so highly subjective I realized that we as fans don’t even share a common language to acknowledge perfection. Perhaps that is one of the subtle beauties of college football – perfection is unattainable. One dropped pass, one missed route, one stumble on a kickoff return and boom – a blemish. Perfect game is more likely translated to college football as “complete” game – great day on offense, stellar “D” and productive special teams.

The one game I thought of that comes to mind is the 1995 Wisconsin 35-0 whitewash where the only thing that didn’t go right was the weather and Sam Valensizi’s celebration tactics. The Badgers, I believe had 7 turnovers, and as if the football gods were looking upon us, Darnell Autry’s 100-yard rushing game consecutive streak was corrected AFTER the game when a lateral reception was ruled to be an actual rush. I will say the best two played games I’ve seen on both sides of the ball was the famous Vince Young Texas title game over USC (in person) and the 1993 BC upset of ND (turned down a ticket as I had exams that Monday). There are a few games when I walk away saying “wow” that was nearly perfect, which usually means we throttled a team. The Brett Basanez 2005 49-14 stomping of Sparty, the 2000 61-23 win over the Illini and 1996 40-13 win at Iowa come to mind as games where we just dominated like I rarely see.

Obviously stats are your friend when it comes to supporting the perfecto argument and we can indeed do that. Let’s follow-up yesterday’s debate-fest with some common definitions of a Northwestern perfect game. Have at it…

Shout Out
Congratulations to Purple Mafia Profilee and noted writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis who recently launched The Good Men Project which is a cross-platform media machine seemingly anchored by this website that offers insightful commentary, news and fun about what it means to be a “good man” in today’s society. Here is a piece by “Ben-Wah” himself…

  • villox

    >If you're going to call something a perfect game as it relates to baseball, you'd have to pick something that was reasonably attainable, but happens extremely rarely. I mean, there are only 18 perfect games ever in the history of modern baseball. You might even come up with a definition that no Northwestern team has ever accomplished.

    Why not related it to QB performance, who is sorta like the pitcher. QB has 100% completions (you'd probably have to pick some minimum threshold, as surely there have been QBs who have completed something like 5 of 5 passes), it's called a perfect game.

  • Prairie Lawyer

    >The 1996 Michigan game was my favorite NU game. Thanks to the typical 11 a.m. start I missed most of the game because of the LSAT, but the Cats rallied back from a 16-0 2nd half deficit to win 17-16. I remember partying at a tailgate in the North row parking lot then abusing Michigan fans after the game. Great memories.

  • Steve and Missy

    >In a baseball 'perfect game' there are a variety of possibilities for each batter (strikeouts, groundouts, flyballs, etc) – so it isn't defined down to the pitch. The difficulty with Football is that it is not so segmented and there are many more variables. I'll propose an 'Out' is a change of possession. Perhaps an extremely rare event that may qualify for perfection is a touchdown on every possession. If you add to that a stop on every defensive series, you have a perfect football game. I don't think you can define it as a player accomplishment (as in baseball [pitcher]) but for the QB…

  • Adam

    >I'm with Steve and Missy – perfect game is your defense allowing zero first downs and no return yardage on kicks.

    This game might have been close:

  • Alvious

    >Pac-10 to invite Texas, A&M, OU, OK St, Colorado, Texas Tech?


    Things that make you go hmmm…

    We'll see.

    BTW, how many games would a completely perfect baseball team win? Zero. A perfect team would never make an out, therefore the first inning of the first game would theoretically never end. So baseball is the only sport I can think of in which a certain degree of failure is necessary in order to win.

  • Marc

    >Pefrect game would be the "point-a-minute" Yost teams at Michigan. They had years where they were not scored upon and games where the opponent did not get a first down. That is a perfect game/season.