The Mourning After – ‘Cats Crushing Loss Still Stings

Wow.  Quite a debate on the LTP board about the various problems and challenges that contributed to the 17 point squandered lead against Michigan State.  The fake punt made SportsCenter’s open and was also a cut-in across the country as the entire nation was checking in on NU’s seemingly sure upset.  If my cell phone is any indication of national interest than wow – I’ve never received more texts, calls or emails than I did today other than the Outback Bowl.  Yet, at the end of the day the ‘Cats lost and Kirk Cousins was phenomenal.  Yes, unfortunately, we did not get nearly enough pressure on him, but he repeatedly threaded some impressive needles including big play after big play in to the wind in an incredible 3rd quarter.

The ‘Cats played 58 solid minutes of football against the best team we’ll face all year.  We can all bitch and moan, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that was a heck of a team we faced.  Kudos to our preparation and the first half defense.  Kudos to Adonis Smith for running like a champion. Kudos to Dan Persa for playing like a warrior and sacrificing everything he had to try and carry us home. Let’s break it down.

The Great

Dan Persa’s Heart – What would we be without Persa? On a day when he was not Persa-like in the air, he simply made gutsy play after gutsy play picking up huge 1st downs by diving, spinning and cutting back to do whatever he had to and his 3 rushing TDs staked us to a 10-point 4th quarter lead.  Persa finished with 18-29 for 187 yds, 3 rushing TDs and 1 bad INT.  He had another 87 yards of GROSS rushing yards that was crushed by 35 yards of sacks.  Our last two drives were ones to forget, but Persa took shot after shot based in part to an awful performance by the O-line.  I’ll take this kid any day of the week.

Stefan Demos – The much-maligned placekicker did everything he could despite being significantly injured by making a TD-saving hit on a kickoff.  Demos looks to be in bad shape, but came through on FGs and kickoffs today.

Freshmen Phenoms – WR Rashad Lawrence was simply fantastic making big play after big play including a huge 1st quarter haul. Venric Mark had a nifty run (nice block Mike Trumpy!) and is now in the punt return/kickoff return slot (man, did he miss that one kickoff that Arby bailed him out on!). Adonis Smith was sensational racking up 50 yards on 10 carries but more importantly making positive plays nearly every time he touched the rock including a pile moving run that hasn’t been seen since the Tyrell Sutton era. Adonis- the ball is yours.

The Good

Play-calling – Yup, after two weeks of squawking, I thought we called a good game on offense. Persa’s 22 carries were a combination of good downfield coverage and poor line protection causing early scrambles on at least half of those rushes. Late in the 4th we simply didn’t execute. Again, poor O-line discipline killed us both in protection and dumb penalties. Al Netter’s personal foul on the 1st play of the ‘Cats final drive down 28-27 was inexcusable. I can’t remember a Fitz team with more personal fouls. Sickening.

Gameday Atmosphere – Yes, the 41,000+ had way too much green, but it was a great atmosphere.  I still believe we’ll get to 8-4 and there is much to root for the rest of the way, but I truly think the days of 40,000 plus are here through 2011.  That place got loud today – now, once we get it 90% purple it will even be better, but still pretty good.

Third Down Conversions – NU was solid on 3rd down once again going 8-16 and also limited Sparty to 5-14 on third down.

NU Rushing game- In one of those cliched “if you had told me…” reflections that the ‘Cats would rush for

The Disappointing

Jordan Mabin – Obviously, THE play of the game was the 4th and 11 fake punt by Michigan State (insert Notre Dame flashback here) by Aaron (heretofore known as Aaron F-in) Bates after they sucked us in with a delay of game penalty.  Fitz had NU in “punt safe coverage” and we covered it as if it was a fake.  Bottom-line is Mabin simply blew the coverage as he got spun around and the frosh Farlow nabbed a floater. It felt like Hunter Bates took forever to close as well.  We simply need to make that play when we have the proper coverage called. Compounding it all is the contradictory postgame reports that include Fitz talking about how on one hand they talked all week long about the fake punt, but didn’t see it coming on THAT play and Mabin’s admisison that we simply got outcoached on that play and he didn’t suspect it. Huh? 

Jacob Schmidt’s goal-line fumble – Obviously, we all were screaming after that fumble by Jacob to have the subsequent goal line plays for Persa under center.  I can’t remember a more mistake-prone NU team. Costly, costly mistake and unfortunately Jacob got hurt to add insult to injury on the play.

O-Line – 8 sacks. EIGHT.  Yes, Dan Persa has to learn to get rid of the ball a tad earlier, but he also avoided four or five other sacks by making magic happen with early pocket exits.  Persa took lick after lick on quick release plays as well.  Throw in several awful, dumb penalties and as Fitz said in the postgame  – you can’t just talk about discipline, you need to have it. He threatened personnel changes to prove it.  What the heck has happened here?

Killer Instinct – I was thrilled we got the ball back down 1 with 2-minutes to go as opposed to trying to wait out a last second Sparty clock-milking TD.  However, we simply don’t have that put away instinct that we’ve come to know.  The bonehead Netter penalty that put us at 2nd and 25 was a killer. Persa was also slinging from his back on that drive. However, between the fake punt, and inability to get any kind of drive on our last two drives, again – like Purdue, we have proven we can’t put teams away.  Bottom-line, I don’t care if it is the #1 team in the nation – you can’t blow 17 point leads. 

2nd Half Defense – Hank took the gas pedal off the playcalling as Sparty racked up 28 second half points.  We started sagging in coverage in the third quarter and playing way too far off the line.  We did a poor job of getting pressure on Cousins and seemed rather conservative on blitzes to start the half. 

Persa’s miss of Ebert on 4th down– Man, was Jeremy open. Man, did Dan sail that sure 1st down WAY over Jeremy’s head on 4th and 11 that would’ve put us near mid-field down 1 point with 1:30 or so to go.  Dan doesn’t miss that. Ever.  What a tough, tough miss.

Like you – I’m crushed. Devastated. However, I’m confident we’re going to rebound and come out strong and beat Indiana.  There is a lot of season left and I’m sticking to my 8 wins. We’ve got a ton of work to do and our O-line is my biggest concern.  I hate to admit I’m sneaking a peak ahead to 2011 when I think we’ll be having our best year by far in the Fitz era, but man, do we have some work to do on the line.  At the end of the day, our program is firmly planted as a middle of the pack program right now. We’ve been on the brink of the upper tier for the past two seasons, but leading the #7 team for all 58 minutes before folding isn’t going to cut it after that kind of a lead.  I simply hope we don’t go in to overthink against a god awful Indiana defense.  We need to throw and throw a lot. We also need to ensure Adonis Smith gets lots of reps the rest of the season to help him grow. I was really impressed by him, but disappointed we continued to pull him out after such positive plays. 

I think as much pain as we’re enduring, I’m happy to see Fitz at least embracing the questions we are all asking.  From his postgame speech:

 “I think our entire program will look at this game with a very critical eye, and guys will have to swallow a pretty heavy pill. You look at yourself in the mirror, me included. Did I do the right things to get the guys ready to go? Did I say the right things at halftime?”

He also lit in to the lack of discipline on the team and lashed out at the team and himself for the letdown.  We all felt the momentum and even though we were up 17-0, not a ‘Cat fan in the house didn’t reference the 2006 epic collapse.  The second half was a series of Michigan State momentum tidal waves that we seemed to stem with a good drive here or there, but it wasn’t enough.

This one is tough to swallow. Somehow, for me, not as tough to swallow as the Purdue game which STILL has me steaming.  We’ve got to find a way to protect Persa and again, we need to find ways to get guys open. I’m somehow optimistic, that we’ll turn this around starting this week. Perhaps, I can’t bear to think about the alternative.  It is time to flip the page and get in to Road Warrior mode and get a MUST win at Indiana and get bowl eligible.  Watching Wisconsin edge Iowa and knowing we were THIS close to the upset, makes it even tougher as I realize we’d be talking about a potential Big Ten title chase. All, if we simply stopped that wounded duck of a pass on the fake punt.  Yikes. 


  • MNwildcat

    I’m still not sold on the “Gameday Atmosphere”. I’m sorry, but that stadium got LOUD when MSU had 3rd down on defense. Those fans showed everyone in purple how’s it’s supposed to be done when your team is winning a game. Invariably, they were on their feet and making a lot more noise than those in purple – although I understand the purple seat cushions are comfortable to sit on, and clapping to “make noise” is nice. This is BIG TEN FOOTBALL. Get on your feet and scream. We were 17 points up on one of the best teams in the country. You should be absolutely beside yourself with emotion. Credit to the students for going nuts, credit to the usual fans (readers of LTP included, so far as I know), but something has to change, because while Evanston isn’t East Lansing or Kinnick or Camp Randall, it’s a Big Ten stadium. We need to prove that, institutionally.

    And credit to Demos – that’s bouncing back. I was critical of him, because his kicks need to improve technically, but that long FG into the wind: that’s what defines a kicker. Kudos to #1.

  • Farman in IN

    Couple thoughts:
    -was watching the game on ESPN and the commentators started calling Persa “Nails”. I think that nickname fits. That’s one tough dude, but will need to complete a win or two before he gets elevated to Kustok status (but the parallels between the two in playing style are scary). The ESPN guys definitely had good things to say about the gameday atmosphere too, especially the “Hands up in the Air” 4th quarter tradition.

    -Don’t bag on the coaching staff too much for the fake punt. They DID have a safe punt return called, and we were still ahead after that drive. Would have been nice to get more than 3 points out of our trips inside MSU’s 10 yard line (fumble in 1st, FG in 4th).

    – Cany you honestly think of another game where having the wind at your back would be a DISadvantage? Who could foresee that? The most accurate passer in college football can’t find his guys because there’s a 20-30 mph chinook suddenly turning his arm into a howitzer. It would have been better to be going into the wind in the 4th. Crazy.

    -Nothing like NU football to take 10 years off you life. I was literally sweating when the game was over. I know that we’re all saying; “Wow, we’re pretty good and should win 8 games.” But the team is at a very fragile point right now and Fitz will have to hit the right buttons to keep those 18, 19, and 20 year olds from letting two tough losses snowball. There are some winnable games on the schedule, but nothing is a gimme.

  • wildcat6

    Great analysis, LTP, with one quibble. All of Persa’s passes overshot the receivers on the final drive, but the wind was absolutely howling at his back during those passes. How do you practice this when you can’t re-create extreme windy conditions? Sure, you take a little of the mustard off the ball, maybe you float it a little. But that touch is a difficult thing for a QB who is used to zipping the ball, like Persa.

    Couple of corrections: End of 1st paragraph should be “4th quarter.” And Persa was 18-29 instead of 18-19.

  • wrestlerone

    I feel bad for Persa! He played well enough to get himself some serious Heisman consideration this year. Essentially,Persa handled the MSU defense a lot better than Denard Robinson who was leading the Heisman race. Now,because our DC did not handle an obvious fake punt,you have to give Kirk Cousins some Heisman consideration. Next year Persa will be in the thick of the Heisman race. I like what Adonis Smith and Trumpy did in the backfield. NU will be tough the rest of the way.

  • Michigan State (Cousins or their punter) didn’t have trouble with the wind in either direction. Cousins had fantastic accuracy all day. Persa did have trouble with the wind to his back, but considering the beating he took, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a throwing mechanics contribution to the struggles at the end.

    But I’m ready to move on. It’s a good thing we don’t have to sit on this one for 2 weeks like the Purdue loss. Indiana is going to be tough. Illinois’ defense is playing at a higher level than ours right now and they limited Indiana’s scoring because of 5 turnovers, including a pair of interceptions returned for TDs. But even they still gave up yards through the air. The defense will have to shift from focusing on stopping the run as they have recently to stopping the passing attack first.

    It’s pretty hard to tell who we should be pulling for in the Big Ten right now. Certainly we’d want 2 of Michigan State, Wisconsin, or Ohio State to get BCS bids. Missouri’s win last night wasn’t a good thing, as it may put them back on pace to get a 2nd BCS bid. And speaking of the Big 12, my current “goal” is the Insight Bowl (ESPN night game and alone in the time slot, think the Champs Bowl when we were associated with them) against a team from a pretty interesting and crazy Big 12 conference. There’s no telling who that would be at this point. Could even be a team like Missouri if they stumble and then get jumped by Nebraska and Texas. I think we can finish strongly enough to warrant a trip to the Gator or Outback bowls, but that would likely mean the Big Ten getting 2 BCS teams AND finishing at least two games ahead of Michigan and Penn State.

    If Michigan beats Penn State next week, Penn State’s realistic best case scenario becomes 6-6 (4-4 record before vs. NU, @ OSU, @ IN, vs. MSU). If Penn State beats Michigan, Michigan’s best case scenario likely becomes 7-5 (5-3 record before vs. IL, @ PU, vs. WI, @ OSU). Right now I think it would be better if Michigan takes care of Penn State and seemingly “eliminates” them from all but the bottom bowls. Then the following week, I’d like to see them beat Illinois since Illinois has the easiest schedule remaining. If Michigan is likely to jump us anyways, we might as well pull for them to beat some of our remaining competition in the standings.

    Indiana and Purdue are wildcards, but I just don’t see it with them…unless Indiana beats us, which they pretty much have to do. After our visit, they get Iowa, travel to Wisconsin, host Penn State, and travel to Purdue. Purdue is at Illinois next week before hosting Wisconsin, hosting Michigan, going to Michigan State, and hosting Indiana. It’d be great for them to upset Illinois next week, but they got Embarrassed with a capital E against Ohio State (42-0 with 425 yards for Ohio State…at the half). We got Purdue at the wrong time and didn’t execute, but they are going to have a big struggle to get to bowl eligibility.

    Obviously we still have to win ball games. And it starts next week. Hopefully there’s still a sizeable purple crowd in attendance.

  • buckyor

    I’m not willing to give the coaching staff a pass on the fake punt. It was *the* key play of the game, and from the quotes of the head coach and Jordan Mabin, we were unprepared for it. I can excuse a 21 year old kid for a blown play, but I cannot excuse a well-compensated coaching staff for having their heads up their asses so far they were the only people watching the game who *weren’t* expecting a fake.

    Bates threw a really crappy pass in to the wind, and if Mabin had the slightest idea that a fake was coming, it would have been extremely easy to break it up. Instead, he made the normal cut for the sidelines that he makes on every punt (read what Dantonio and Mabin said about that play and you’ll see that Mabin was playing it like a straight punt, and not a fake), and as a result Fowler was wide open. Really a complete coaching breakdown by the special teams coach, who also happens to be our head coach.

    No, Fitz does not get off the hook for that.

  • db

    Some thoughts:

    1) Persa was awesome. You keep saying he is not “persa-like”. He is what he is, and that’s very good with the potential to be outstanding on any given saturday. don’t hold him to his accuracy stats vs vandy who had never seen him before and 30mins against a D2 school. You obviously heap praise on him, but it feels like every week you say he is ‘off’ throwing the ball. Some day he’ll rip a good team for 27-30 4TD and that will be ‘persa-like’. But it will also look like nothing he has done since ill st.

    2) Demos was awesome – someone should kick him in the quad before every game. Or he can do that flying scissor kick on the opening kick-off coverage. whichever the team is more comfortable with, I’m indifferent. By the way the back-up kicker were banging 50-55 yard FGs, one of them into the wind, at halftime. I have a feeling that if they needed a long one it wasnt going to be Demos.

    3) They were absolutely ready for that fake punt. Even Mabin. He just flat out blew the coverage. He released the guy like he was in cover 2, with bates playing the roll of an aged adam archuleta. They had their first team D in the game, Davie, Peters and Bates were all staring into the backfield like they were going to release a tight end like the ND fake FG. Mabin was caught watching the backfield too. If it really surprised him, why did he release the guy? You block that guy out of bounds so he cant down the punt. He literally just released him for a few seconds and that was the difference. When you get surprised by a fake punt, the corner doesnt just release the streaker for the heck of it. It was just an unfortunate play.

    4) All of that said, you cant beat top 10 teams leaving that many points on the field. Obviously the goalline fumble, but we had the ball in good field position a couple times and didnt even get a FG attempt out of it. Killer instinct I believe was mentioned.

    5) The thing that bums me out the most…in both of these losses they have had the chance to make one defensive stop, OR get one scoring drive to win the game. Usually you are lucky to get one or the other. Irrespective of fake punt coverage, fumbles, penalties, whatever…both purdue and MSU had 80+ yard drives where a stop literally ends the game. Just like Iowa and Wisc last year. No miracles…no fakes…just 4 downs. But then when they didnt get that stop, they also had an offensive series with plenty of time and they didnt get that done either, the latest variety aided by our OT ripping off their guy’s helmet.

    Forget all the other crap. I would have happily signed up for first and 10 at our 35 with 2mins and all of our TOs left to get 3 points and win the game. That stings. Worse than kick to Demos’s quad.

  • db

    I cant stress enough they were ready for the fake punt. The contradiction in Fitzspeak is likely a combo of him not wanting to sell Mabin out + they probably were looking for a different play off the line (which is where all of the defense was focused, including mabin). You even heard that in his speech – re: the different play. They were absolutely ready. No one took the ‘cheese’ like that smug d’antonio guy spit after the game (is it ok to criticize a guy who had a heart attack? he’s ok now right?). That team got it jammed down their throat by inferior athletes. Not rope-a-dope mind you…jammed down their freaking throat…he needs a fake punt to get back on track…and he wants to act all mike martz genius about it. congrats coach. try playing like that next week. also i hope you feel better.

  • I really don’t but the lack of a killer instinct talk. Persa was hurting (Willhite tweeted in the 2nd half at one point that Persa was getting looked at while Watkins was warming up) and we just didn’t execute. It wasn’t the offensive playcalling. And the defense succeeded in the 1st half because of their gameplan, the same gameplan that limited the 3rd down conversions in the 2nd half. They didn’t give up a homerun play all day, which was critical, and couldn’t really afford to bring that much additional pressure (at least not blitzes) because of just how they were struggling to get much pressure on Cousins regardless and just how accurate Cousins was yesterday.

    They were in a good position to win that game because of what they did do, not because of what they didn’t. It was just unfortunate that both the offense and defense couldn’t make the critical plays at the very end, any one of which changes things completely.

  • buckyor

    Did anyone even read what both Mabin and Fitzgerald said? They were not ready for it. And Mabin did exactly what Dantonio expected him to do, what he normally does on a regular punt.

    I can’t believe the people drinking the purple Kool-Aid in here. Remarkable.

  • PBRCat

    To follow up on MNWildcat’s comment, there has been a electric feeling at the stadium during the last two home games (Purdue and Michigan State), but Northwestern fans always seem to be a bit hesitant to roar their heads off for four full quarters. I think in the second half, some Northwestern fans were more or less stunned into silence. The faked punt play was a killer — not only did Michigan State convert for a first down, but the Northwestern special teams unit looked awful on the play. The pass was nothing special, but neither Mabin or Bates were anywhere in the vicinity

    Michigan State had a sizeable contingent at the game and from what I observed a significant number of students made the trip to Evanston. It is easy for students to get loud and, in terms of numbers, as good as the Northwestern students are at cheering they cannot make as much noise as the Spartan students. Given the small size of the Northwestern student body, the majority of the fans filling Ryan Field are alums and older adults, including many senior citizens. I can clap and cheer as much as I want, but if I stand on every play of the game the folks behind me will ask me to sit down so they can see the game.

    I like the jump and wave your hands idea in the 4th quarter, but asking Northwestern to sell out every home game to overwhelming Purple crowds will take some doing. At every sell out that I have ever attended in Evanston, over a period of sixteen years, there has been a significant number of visiting fans in the stadium. If the opponent does not have a fan base that travels well, the stadium does not sell out. That is the current reality. I still prefer to see the stadium filled to capacity or close to capacity even if the visitors have some of the tickets.

    This was a tough loss, so many things could have turned out differently. If Peters intercepts the Cousins’ pass or breaks it up, who knows? Unfortunately, the ball deflected into the receiver’s hands.

  • db

    How is it cool aid? Watch the play. Like I said they weren’t looking for the wideout at all, but when you leave your first team d out there and none of them leave scrimmage they were prepared for a fake. Clearly the wideout pass caught them, but if mabin plays it true they would have been fine.

  • kinsella316

    Persa needs to win us a game in the 4th quarter. This iteration of NU football isn’t going anywhere until they can win a game in the 4th quarter. And not vs Minnesota, they were the worst and most dysfunctional team in the country when we played them.

  • What about Vanderbilt, when Persa led a drive to extend a 17-15 lead to 23-15, scoring with 4 minutes left? That proved to be the game-winning TD. And if Minnesota doesn’t count because they’re bad, should I assume that had he done that against Purdue, that wouldn’t have counted because they’d have been bad, as well?

  • NUdone 88

    Gary Danielson said it best during afternoon contest of LSU at Auburn…this is a game for big time athletes — power football. Yes, we have good athletes. We have more finese than other BT teams too. I’m thinking ahead to Iowa and Wisconsin front lines on both sides of the ball. Gadget plays have worked for us in the past too. Sometimes you get bit back. It’s just a shame though. We should be 7-0. Others have said it — we haven’t had lock down Defense in the fourth quarters. I think we should strive for 10-2 and 9-3 seasons vs. 7-5 or 8-4. Our secondary is going to be challenged in some upcoming games.

  • db

    Agree with NHighlights…with the caveat that this is game 3 of his real big ten career, and he has come a long way quick. Note how much weber still stinks and cousins is just coming into his own. This is a veteran qb league and somehow nu puts new guys out there every year that perform.

    But yes – 2 games in a row, one drive to win and they have not gotten it done. Its just like 40 yard field goals – can’t win without them. This team needs to be able to win if they get the ball last. The defensive stops are nice but that will not be how we get wins long term.

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  • Mark

    It’s hard for me to criticize the players individually and hard for me to credit other people doing it on a blog. Here’s the reason: we, the fans, in a tight game see a few plays that could have altered the final result. But we don’t see all the other ones that also could have altered the game – one guy’s failure to hustle to get a block that would have broken Adonis loose, a wrong assignment, not going full out on a play but realizing later that it made a difference. If any of us could take game film and break it down like Paul Zimmerman of SI did or we were on the coaching staff we’d see all these things.

    Also, I’m glad Fitz didn’t blame anyone other than himself for the fake punt failure. This is one of those things we, as fans, are never likely to know because when you’re on a team you don’t call out your teammates for blame in public since everyone in the locker room can think of things they could have done.

    Personally I thought the O line did an outstanding job. Again, without breaking down the game film and knowing everyone’s assignment and the calls by Ben at the line of scrimmage how would we know what, if anything, went wrong? Along with the game film, play call, and O line calls at the line of scrimmage we also could put a stopwatch on Persa to see how long he holds the ball on pass plays. Cousins would throw the ball away if he didn’t have anyone open – Persa would move and then run and try to make a play.

    Also, MSU held Ebert and Dunsmore to 2 receptions, both by Ebert. I don’t know this as a fact, but it looked like MSU had that as a goal.

    I agree that this was like the PSU game last year. NU showed they could play with anybody. I think the rest of the season is set up for great excitement and I’m looking forward to seeing every game.

  • Texasconnection

    All I can think about is how this team could be 7-0 with a different outcome on just a few plays. What happened to the Cardiac Cats this year? Yet, it is still great to be a Wildcat fan in Texas!

  • seasontixholder

    A couple of comments about the crowd as a season ticket holder: (1) it’s damn near impossible to tell how loud our crowd is getting sitting on the press box side, but certainly a lot easier to hear the visiting team fans simply because they’re facing us; (2) hands in the air is fun, but Tom Skilling? Really? And it took forever to get to that; (3) I know we want a home field advantage, but being made to feel every 3rd down is life or death is getting old.

  • Doug

    LTP I love the blog, but I have to seriously disagree with you: Persa did not have a great game — he threw 4 straight incompletions followed by an interception with the game on the line. Thats really the whole story of this game, in my eyes.

  • PBRCat

    Mark and Seasontixholder both make some excellent points.

    I felt that Cousins was able to connect on several critical passing plays, in part, because the officials failed to flag MSU for holding NU defenders who were trying to chase down the quarterback. Let’s face it, the Big Ten has a vested interest in seeing its one undefeated team remain unbeaten. Northwestern had to win the game without the benefit of quality officiating. I would never place a large wager on the outcome of a Big Ten game because the officiating is so biased and awful on a regular basis. In fairness, it does work both ways: when Gary Barnett had two ranked teams, usually in the latter part of the seasons, NU began getting the benefit of close calls.

    As to the head coach, Pat Fitzgerald deserves more credit than he has been shown by some of us posting on these boards. He is still a work in progress as a coach, but I believe that he is learning his lessons well and he will only get better.

    With the exception of the 1995 team, I have never seen a dominating NU defense. More often than not, we have played with a “bend, but don’t break” approach to football. I am somewhat concerned that the current team does not seem to be making adjustments as well as was the case with other defenses coached by Mike Hankwitz (who has been a valuable addition to the staff in my opinion).
    The corollary for “bend, but don’t break” defenses is that the offense must “always be scoring.” Coach Randy Walker had several successful seasons based upon running an offense that could put thirty points or more on the scoreboard and outlast opponents with high scoring offenses. The offense needs to step it up. The losses to Purdue and Michigan State were avoidable, but we need to start putting up more points so the defense does not need to be one hundred percent perfect.
    Trying to run down the clock with a short lead has not been working as of late.

    Let’s thump the Hoosiers!

  • Chadnudj

    @PBRCat — I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw quite a few blatant non-calls on MSU for holding….again, MSU unquestionably deserved to win, but there was a big play (3rd down in 4th quarter maybe?) where I’m CONVINCED an O-Lineman held an NU defender to prevent a sack of Cousins on a pass he connected on….

    Whatever….flush it, and move on to beating IU (and PSU, and both UIs, and UW)….

  • timmyclaff

    Great comments! Just a couple of thoughts that I didn’t see mentioned-

    I would give the play calling a C if only for a single play. The Jacob Schmidt fumble. We had 1rst and goal at the one foot line, AND IT’S RAINING! Call a QB sneak. It’s a high percentage play and decreases the odds of a slippery hand-off and fumble. And you’ve got 4 chances. That was a killer.

    Also on the Spartans critical drive to take the lead, we had them 3rd and 20 (deep in their territory) , and 3rd and 16 and gave it up both times. Can’t do that!

    Regarding attendance and atmosphere, NU has a disadvantage not shared by any other D1 school that I can think of. The Chicago area is home to countless thousands of alums of any and every school we play, making home field advantage for a small school virtually impossible.

    Al Netter, shame on you.

  • Richard

    Unless you’ve broken down the gametape, you can’t tell whether a lineman did a good or bad job, regardless of what penalties he got. One holding call didn’t lose the game for us. Think like a coach and not like a talk radio caller.

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