Muted Euphoria – ‘Cats upset #12 Iowa, Lose Persa For Year

WOW.  Northwestern continues its mastery of Iowa with a thrilling come-from-behind 4th quarter 21-17 win to move to 7-3, 3-3 and ensuring we are bowl bound. However, Dan Persa, who was simply incredible (32-43, 318 yds, 79 gross rushing yards (50 net with sacks) 3 TDs (2 pass, 1 rush, 1 not-his-fault INT) has played his last down of 2010.  Northwestern reported via WGN in the post-game that Persa suffered a ruptured achillees tendon and will go under the knife tonight.  This of course has not only 2010, but potential 2011 implications and is an absolute devastating loss to Northwestern.

The ‘Cats jumped out to yet another 7-0 lead on another perfect drive, yet this time the only similarity to past games was a 3rd quarter implosion.  There is so much irony in the fact that Persa’s achillees heel was ruptured as he helped NU bury their achillees heel as we finished in impressive fashion scoring 14 points in the 4th and shutting out Iowa down the home stretch.  It was a day in which so many kudos need to be thrown around and some finger pointing at NU fans needs to happen (you know who you are – you gave your season ticket seats to the opposing fans). 

Give Iowa fans credit, they were LOUD and in full force making the nearly 50/50 split of fans feel at times like Kinnick Stadium. That was, until the 4th quarter when NU seized emotion and energy.  We’ll be breaking this down in the Great, The Good & The Disappointing soon, but I’m very happy we won so I can complain about the officiating. Yes, I’m doing so and it was one and only one official – the head referee – who was AWFUL today.  We’ll break it down in a bit AND post the game highlights soon. 

For now, let’s enjoy this win and then dive in to Evan Watkins who has the table set to get a full week of putting in a new offense and taking on the Illini who will be buzzing in the wake of their inexcusable loss to Minnesota today. Congrats to Fitz, the staff, the seniors and especially the defense who played outstanding today.  A great game in all facets today by NU and a back-and-forth nailbiter we’ll remember for quite some time.

I feel so bad for Dan Persa. The guy simply willed us to win – AGAIN – and won’t be on the field for the home stretch and bowl game for which he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for making it all happen.  Let the Dan Persa Hesiman campaign for 2011 begin in earnest today and the tape of this game is Exhibit A.  Well played Dan, you are a winner. 

Back in a few hours with MUCH MUCH more. Iowa is now out of BCS contention, Big Ten title contention and left ranking where this loss rates among the so many of late to NU.  In defense of Iowa fans, the couple I encountered were nothing but classy and respectful. Including one 80-year-old man, who said it all in line for the bathroom after the game, when he said to my father-in-law and I “guys, congratulations, but I simply can’t talk about it right now.”  We can and we will. We’ve got a full year – AGAIN – to do so.

  • zeek

    Evan Watkins is a big guy; he was among the biggest of his class among the top 20-30 pro-style QBs at 6’6″ and 230lbs. I didn’t even realize that till I looked at his recruiting profile (was recruited by Iowa, he was looking at Wisconsin/Illinois as well). It also looks like he has a cannon of an arm. He’s probably nowhere near as mobile as Persa, so all those Persa scrambles that we’ve relied on may not be there, and we may have to lean on the offensive line a lot to buy him time. On the other hand, his vision is probably among the best due to his size, so we may be able to air out the ball. The problem has largely been that we’ve relied on Persa to buy time for our receivers so much, that they’ll have to get used to not having the extra couple of seconds off the Persa scrambles.

    Still, today is all about Persa. What a hero. He’s carried us this season with the effort that he’s put into every game regardless of the score. Here’s to hoping he makes a full recovery by early next year so he’ll be ready for a great senior year.

  • I still don’t know what to feel right now. I do, however, feel awful for Persa. The look on his face after the defense clinched the win…at least his parents and quite a few teammates were with him.

    Let me throw out a few random thoughts while my brain tries to digest everything:

    -This was the lowest student turnout of the year, which is a real shame. Wins like these, including taking the field after a win on senior day (3 years in a row), really help to cement fandom.

    -I, too, had a lot of Iowa fans around me. The season ticket holders to my left and behind me pretty much never show up, so it’s new fans every game. At least I wasn’t immediately next to any Iowa fans.

    -Congratulations to the seniors. This was a special win and a wonderful way to go out in their last game in Evanston.

  • AdamDG


    I’m glad you ran into the only two classy and respectful Iowa fans in all of Ryan Field. I can’t tell you how many rude, obnoxious, overconfident bumpkins I had to deal with in and around our stadium.

    There’s no fanbase I respect less and enjoy disappointing more than Iowa’s — great win today!

  • Narcissus Smith

    Great win. We finally broke our form of folding when the other team makes a run. Like LTP and I’m sure everyone else, I feel terrible for Persa. This was his best game so far. After a lot of games I’ve felt the praise for him has been a little over the top, but today he was just incredible. I was also glad to see him try to throw the ball away for once, although he got flagged for an absolutely bullshit intentional grounding call. LTP, I hope this is one of the terrible calls you’re alluding to. Fitz was going crazy on the side about it.

    Still thought some of the coaching was suspect. A third and inches in the third quarter, when we really needed to get something going, and we call a low-percentage pass play. And bringing up the return man on that last punt? WTF? First of all, he ended up being extremely close to offsides and giving Iowa 4th and inches. Secondly, the ball hit the ground on the 25 but was downed on the 9. So instead of having 75 yards to go, we had 91. If Persa, Ebert, and Fields hadn’t pulled that drive out… I just don’t know what Fitz was thinking.

    But yeah, we needed this. We can actually fight through some adversity and finish a game. I’m pumped for the rest of the year, except for the major Persa buzzkill.

  • zeek

    NorthwesternHighlights, that’s a shame to see. These are the kinds of games the students should love to go to; especially since some of them probably won’t make it to the Wrigley game.

    This was a big time game with their 20,000 fans in the stands. Even if we had lost, it’s the last Ryan Field game of the season. Shame to miss it.

  • vaudvillain

    A great, great win. Persa wills us to overcome a 10-point deficit with 85-yard and 91-yard TD drives. I’m glad that the defense held on to give Persa the win, ‘cuz the kid is a warrior. Like everyone here, I’m hoping that his surgery and recovery go well. All the best wishes to Dan and his family.

    For the record, the Iowa fans around me (yes, some, but thankfully not all, of the season ticket holders bailed) were very respectful. Of course, I was around some older fans — I imagine the most of the blowhards are younger fans.

  • Mike

    Agreed… Shame on the studens (who didn’t show up and to the season ticket holders who gave up their seats AND a ton of parking passes to let them tailgate in the stadium lots. I know a lot of people who would be there to tailgate in that lot every game no matter the opponent, but can’t because they don’t have the priority points necessary to get a pass.

    Anyway, gutsy win. Feel awful for Persa and hope he has a swift recovery. What a drive by him at the end for that win. Io_a’s W stays in Evanston for another year.

  • Narcissus Smith

    I also understand everyone being extremely concerned for Persa, but someone in the last thread was suggesting his career may be over. There’s no reason to think that. People come back from this injury all the time. Persa’s young, he’s having immediate surgery, and there’s no rush to come back before he’s ready. He’ll be good for next year.

    The Iowa fans weren’t bad, that I saw at least. It sucks that we can’t prevent our stadium being invaded, but I can’t get mad at people for being loud at a football game. It’s a football game. As long as they’re not threatening people in the stands, live and let live.

  • zeek

    Hey, the one good thing though about our crowd was that this was the first time that the cheers really came across well for us in the 4th quarter.

    I was pretty amazed by that, even though we only had 60% of the crowd, the cheers for us were great during our comeback drives and defense. It was the loudest Ryan Field has sounded on TV, and much better than during the Michigan State game. So props go to the Northwestern crowd that made it, since the game came across great on TV.

  • Richard


    I agree on the short third down and all out punt rush calls being bad. I also really thought that third down (at the NU 40) should be 4 down territory, since Iowa’s line was manhandling our defensive line, so I didn’t think an extra 30 yards would make much of a difference. Finally, seeing how our hurry-up really made Iowa’s D-line ineffective, I wonder why we didn’t run that straight from the start of the second quarter. It’s not as if they had a halftime break left to rest up at that point.

  • VAwildcat

    Great win, but man oh man I feel awful for Dan Persa. He’s been so amazing this year and to now to have this happen! Sending positive energy for surgery and recovery!

  • zeek

    Well, if anything, people shouldn’t give up on the season because of this.

    This seems to happen to Northwestern every other year; CJ, Kafka, Persa; all of them came in under tough circumstances.

    The coaches have a week to prepare Watkins; they’ll do their best to come up with a gameplan that suits his style. They’re not going to rely on him scrambling or things like that. They’ll try to make a gameplan that’s not as dependent on him getting a lot of yardage. Look for more running; look for a lot of quick passes or the like. There’s no reason though that Fitz/McCall can’t come up with a gameplan that works for him. They’ve done this before multiple times. Everyone knows that this is a rough sport; injuries happen.

    We just have to make the best of it; hope Persa is back to 100% for next year; he’ll work hard to get himself rehabbed as best he can. In the meantime, Fitz and co. will do their best to prepare Watkins.

    We’ll just have to see how the team responds to Persa’s injury. The defense played a great game other than a rough start to the third quarter. The offense is still all there except for Persa; the offensive line is going to have to step up and make sure that Watkins doesn’t get overly pressured.

  • Narcissus Smith

    @ Richard

    Yeah, good point about the hurry-up. We should definitely be pressing it more. We’re never gonna have the O-line to ram it down people’s throats, but we have lots of competent and interchangeable skill players. I wish we used conditioning and substitutions to outfinesse teams more.

  • zeek

    Yeah, seeing the Iowa players totally gassed on the sidelines was a refreshing change for us. For once it was as if we had figured out how to tire our opponents by playing to our strengths. Seeing all those ESPN shots of Iowa players resting while we were driving was absolutely huge. They kept commenting that we were playing at too fast a pace for Iowa’s defensive line to keep up.

  • Another observation: how about Nate Williams on those 3 consecutive plays (open field tackle, sack, open field tackle) on Iowa’s 1st drive of the 2nd quarter? Hell of a sequence.

  • NUWildcat2010


    I know, it was amazing. And that second play, the sack, is the one with the brilliant shot of him sliding with his hands up. Someone (looking at you maybe) needs to track down a photo of that. I hope someone got a shot of it.

  • Henry in CT

    This game was a great promo for NU football and Dan Persa. A terrific game before a full stadium, a comeback win against a quality opponent and a heroic performance by Persa who gets carried off the field at the end. I think NU finally turned the corner by playing a mostly mistake-free game with clutch plays and the defense stepping up when it had to . They finally emphasized the short passing game and put it on Persa and he showed the country what an amazing talent he is. The best ever at NU at least in the 40+ years that I have watched them. Without the Persa injury they would beat Illinois and have a shot at Wisconsin and at a win in a good bowl game. Now…who knows? This was a great game. Perhaps this is the real beginning of a new era under Fitzgerald at NU. Someone said that this is the first time NU will have three winning seasons in a row sincce the Ara era. Cleaver huh? This was an impressive win by an impressive team…something we haven’t seen very much since Ara and for a while under Barnett. Now we have the Fitz era and it looks like it may be something great we all have to look forward to. So while we all are happy about the win over Iowa and crushed by the Persa injury the real significant thing is what this game may really mean…what it may be the beginning of. A new era at NU. This is the best I have felt about NU football in a long time.

  • Jesse

    Everything will be revealed over the course of the next few days, but…did anybody else see Persa limping earlier in the game? He landed on his foot really weird on that last play, so I’m not surprised that he got injured, but is it possible that he had already partially ruptured his Achilles earlier in the game and that’s why the landing caused a total rupture? Again, all will be revealed, and honestly I wonder whether it’s really prudent to go too much into such a devastating injury – his season’s over, that’s really all there is to it – but it does add an interesting dimension to the Danny Persa mythos… he looked like he was playing in pain for a few plays before the adrenaline kicked in, and then he rode that all the way to the end…

  • @NUWildcat2010

    That would be a great photo. I’ll have all 3 of those plays by Nate in the highlights.

  • Meats


    First off, thanks so much for continuing to make these highlight packages. For someone living across seas at the moment it is the only way I get to see the ‘Cats play-by-play. I can only ask that you put as MANY plays as possible this week, so I can savor each tackle and completion. Thanks again!

  • zeek

    Henry, I wouldn’t go quite that far.

    But I do think that having another year with a big upset helps in the quest for respectability. I mean there was a reason this game was chosen over for the ESPN slot (some of that is Iowa at #13, but if they wanted the highest ranked team they would have gone for #7 Wisconsin’s game).

    A big part of that is that we’re being seen as a respectable opponent. The more often that happens, the better it is for us. We’re seen as a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team that can knock off a big dog, or that can make games exciting (up 21 against Penn State, up 17 against Michigan State). We’ve had leads or been tied after the half of 26 straight games. TV people know we make for a good matchup even though we don’t have a giant fanbase due to those kinds of numbers.

    The people who matter think we can compete, and they have huge respect for Fitz (as seen by the number weeks that we’ve gotten random votes from Coaches in the Coaches Poll). The amount of gushing over Persa in both the Penn State game and today’s game was a first for me to have seen of a Northwestern player. I mean Persa got the Chase Daniels treatment there in the Penn State game. Obviously, today was a tough day for the Persa clan and anyone’s who’s a fan of the kid’s heart and guts, but in terms of respect, it’s the weekend like this that go a long way.

  • David

    Great win. I posted earlier about trends and how hard they are to break. Every close game Iowa just knows that we are going to get them in the end. Similarly we will beat Illinois next week. We own Illinois even more than we own Iowa. Watkins needs to pick up the flag and finish the season. Our bowl hopes are in his hands.

  • @Meats

    Thanks. Look for the highlights in about 60-90 minutes. Taking a while, especially while trying to watch OSU/PSU and Auburn/Georgia.

  • Anyone else think it’s a little crazy that Wisconsin scored 83 points and yet they’re barely going to get any attention when the media talks about the Big Ten?

  • David

    Persa had better get a helmet sticker and some serious love on Game Day Final tonight. Also, B10 offensive player of the week.

  • zeek

    Adding little more cruelty to this injury, Persa told Fitz he did it “running to celebrate with Demetrius” after Fields’ game-winning TD. 41 minutes ago via TweetDeck

    Wow, that makes it really bad luck. Hopefully the surgery goes well.

  • vaudvillain

    There was a 67-65 game last week, Wisconsin puts up 83 this week — what’s up with all the basketball scores on the football field?

  • Narcissus Smith

    @ NU Highlights-

    I’m glad. I know they can claim that they’re playing for the computers, but winning by 63 is inexcusable. They did it to Austin Peay too. Bielema’s a jerk. I really hope we beat them.

  • @Zeek

    That’s a little misleading. I looked at it several times and Persa hurt it right as he was beginning to run. He was backpeddling a little bit, stopped, then was pushing off (but not too hard) to start running to celebrate. That’s right when it happened. No jumping, nothing else crazy. Just a freak injury.

  • Narcissus Smith

    Forgot to mention them going for 2 against Minnesota up 41-16 with 6 mins left. Like I said, a jerk.

  • Every point scored in the game was in the open endzone. It was obviously a huge advantage to be driving in that direction. This was hardly mentioned by the TV commentators. But it gave me a little encouragement watching at home during the 3rd Q, knowing we’d be going the “right” way in the 4th.

    Even thought Persa was clearly the hero, the biggest play of the game might have been the Peters interception. If Iowa keeps the ball on that drive and scores (even a FG), it’s probably game over.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see us winning another game without Persa. He might be the single most important player to any college football team that I have ever seen. It looks to me like our offense is literally nothing without him. With him, it almost doesn’t matter whether our O line blocks well or not. If they block well, Danny can pick the D apart with his arm. If they block poorly, Danny can buy time and throw anyway, or pick up yardage running. He’s a one man wrecking crew. Given the mediocrity of our running backs and our run blocking, it’s not realistic to expect to make up for the loss of Persa by handing off the ball more. We’ll have to continue to move the ball with passing plays. But now, the O line will have to step up.

    Maybe we can hang with Illinois in the Wrigley game. But the Wisconsin game could be ugly.

  • Frank

    We should compliment the determination of our team. After falling behind by 10, I had visions of the Michigan State and Penn State games. Kudos to the coaches and the players for continuing to fight and pulling out the win. Weren’t there only about 8 minutes when we began the drive to make it 17-14? Impressive come back.

    I’m in the east stands, section 107, so I’m generally surrounded by the Huns. The Iowans were the most obnoxious by far. The Michigan State people were actually classy.

  • zeek

    Well, look how confident we felt going into the Purdue game; they totally shocked us with their QB scheming, and we had no idea they would pull out that kind of running game. We weren’t that well prepared for it because we had no tape.

    Illinois can’t gameplan for Watkins because they don’t have tape on him, and he’s a pro-style QB who is 6’6″, which makes him a totally different player than Persa. He might find it easier to throw over the defensive line, and we may be able to pull out a couple of unexpected deep plays due to his arm.

    Obviously, he’s not likely to be as efficient at moving the ball as Persa with those two beautiful 80+ yard drives in the 4th quarter. But the one thing you can’t deny about Fitz/McCall is that they’ve done a great job of preparing QBs. We’ve always had stud QB play the past couple of years, and we’ve probably been spoiled by it.

  • Surfmen93

    a- Great win. Good coaching in general, except for whatever was said at halftime. Peters pick turned the tide and we are an emotional team. Somehow we need to find a way to be emotional starting the second half.

    One week for the offense to figure out what to do without Persa. Time for people to step up. O-line: you’ve been getting some criticism from fans, show us we’re wrong. Trumpy/Smith: give us a thunder/lightning approach against Illinois. WRs: forget your drops today, it hasn’t been like that all year, we have faith in you. Watkins: Do your thing, don’t worry about the Persa comparisons. From the little we’ve seen, you are a different style of QB. Defense: bring the heat for 60 minutes so the offense can just do their thing and NU puts the W in Wrigley as well.

    Go Cats!

  • cece

    Great game, especially by Persa and the defense, which played an epic 4th quarter. The Iowa fans seem to think that we think only about them all season. It’s not true, but it is nice to beat them, and their on line, and in person nasty fans. some of the comments on their main fan board now are over the top. Who would allow comments concerning an opponent and killing and rape? their main fan board does.

    as for our crowd, our students disappoint, arriving late and in small numbers. and to those season ticket holders who put seats and parking passes in the hands of the yellow fans, shame on you. you do not deserve to go to the next game or a bowl game.

    as for the full stadium, who cares unless the seats are filled with purple! granted we have the smallest undergraduate population in the Big Ten, but filling the stadium is not the goal. filling the stadium with people in purple is the goal. it’s hard work reaching those with an interest in NU, but that is the work that must be done. the product on the field does us all proud. back them up by working to get people showing up in purple!

  • SupaKat
  • ベン

    Is it just me, or Persa now locked in with the NCAA record for completion percentage?

  • ベン

    Nevermind, looked it up- shy by 2 percent.

  • Colt McCoy’s record is 77.8%. I can’t recall where Persa finishes, but I think it was in the 73-74% range.

    He does, however, shatter the Big Ten single season record.

  • Doug

    Think that NU will go to some 2-back sets this week? Help protect Evan, and possibly also improve the run game, if he have any plays that use a full-back? (Which super-back is our “fullback” this year?)

    More realistically, I’d expect to see a lot more Josh Rooks for the rest of the season, and I know I’m alone here, but I think we’re really going to miss Schmidt’s blocking if his ankle does not improve. His short yardage ability and hands were great too, but I digress.

    I’m very interested in what we look like on offense next week, but I’m not particularly optimistic about the rest of the season.

    GO CATS!

  • Doug

    Oh, and it is dissapointing that there weren’t more students, but certainly not at all surprising. Coming off a gut-wrenching loss, and having not won a Big Ten game at home, and at 11am — thats a recipie for no student support. They’re NU kids and its midterms time, and Central street is a long walk with a hangover… At least they rushed the field for a big win!

  • PBRCat

    This was not the game that I expected to see.

    The weather was threatening for most of day and at times the sky was dark enough that the lights were turned on at the stadium, but, apart from a brief shower, the rain was kept at bay. I thought that the elements would dictate the flow of the game, as LTP suggested earlier this week, but that never really came to pass.

    The defense played one of their best games of the season. Stefan Demos continues to worry me, but someone said the snap and hold was not too good.

    The officiating was beyond pathetic. Iowa did whatever it wanted for most of the day without facing any consequences. Holding, face masks, intentional grounding, what have you, the officials did the Wildcats no favors all day long. The Hawkeyes were able to commit flagrant penalties directly in front of officials who never penalized them. At the time of Dan Persa’s injury my attention was focused on the endzone where Fields made the winning touchdown catch. When I turned and saw Persa crumpled on the ground, my first thought was that he had been on the receiving end of a late hit after he threw the ball. I have not seen the videotape yet, so if I am mistaken please correct me.

    All season long, we have been imploring the coaches, particularly the offensive coordinator to let Persa play to one of his strengths and throw the football. But for the passing game, which was necessitated by the Wildcats being behind late, NU does not win this game. I still maintain in our three losses, especially against the Boilermakers, that we ran the ball too much for little or no gains and failed to throw the ball often enough. Persa had one interception on the day, but the ball was tipped to the defender.

    I am really proud of the graduating seniors who put it all out there today. This was the first late rally that the 2010 team has delivered against a quality opponent all year. Even after being injured Persa remained on the sidelines to watch his team mates finish the contest. That is gutsy.

    After the game ended, I had the opportunity to converse about college football with several Iowa fans who were respectful and knowledgeable. They asked me about how Northwesten seems to have their team’s number and I responded that the Hawkeyes seem to “own” Penn State. The best answer that I could come up with dates back to when Coach Gary Barnett took umbrage at former Iowa Coach Hayden Fry commenting “I hope that we did not hurt your boys.” Barnett claimed to have told his team about this later on and challenged them by suggesting that NU would never be a good program until they could match up against Iowa consistently. I remember seeing a WTTW -Channel 11 documentary program about the storied 1995 team in which Chris Martin was pumping iron while wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Enough is Enough” printed on it. Barnett gave these shirts to his players to encourage them to snap a long NU consecutive game losing streak against Iowa. The Iowa fans said “But that was fifteen years ago.” I said that it seemed like only yesterday that Iowa had routinely taken NU to the mat.

    See you at Wrigley.

  • subwayalum90

    How about a word for Jerevain Mathews on punt coverage today?

  • NUdone88

    Well folks at least we are being a bit more positive in these posts. 3rd quarter still needs improvement. 7 Wins is huge. Now, what about better Bowl positioning! That’s what everyone was complaining about the past couple of weeks. I know one of you has it figured out, basically. Please share.

    Poor Indiana. Unbelievable Illini the last 2 weeks – everyone was riding their wave. Happy for Minnesota program. Wish Purdue had beaten Michigan. Seriously, let’s take it to the Badgers – we’ve won up there before.

    Congrats to the Seniors and to JARV!!!!

  • Richard


    Schmidt’s short-yardage ability actually was dismal. Sure, he was a strong powerback, but he wasn’t a smart runner, meaning he didn’t pick holes and use leverage to pick up an extra 1-2 yards the way a smart back like Trumpy does. Schmidt wouldn’t have added much; we’ll really need to draw up a bunch of screens & misdirections, though, without Persa.

  • Richard


    Matchups, I think. Iowa is a prototypical BigTen team in that they are strong, slow, and predictable (and not too well conditioned, evidently). NU, with their coaching staff, which seems to prepare the team well during the week, and our smart players can handle that. PSU is more athletic (causing NU problems) but even more conservative than Iowa, so JoePa will try to just shove Iowa off the ball (like he does against NU) but with much less success against the Hawkeyes.

  • @ subwayalum90 – Matthews has been great. So impressive as a gunner.

    @NUdone88 – I second those thoughts about the seniors and Jarv. I’m thrilled they could get a win in their last game at home.

    Bowl positioning…well, keep in mind that we’re less attractive now without Persa. The odds of us being jumped just went up and odds of us jumping or being selected over another school just went down.

    With that said, we’re “in line” for the Insight with 2 Big Ten teams making the BCS given where teams are right now. However, Penn State at 6-4 travels to Indiana next week. If they split their last two games (finish vs. MSU), they’ll almost certainly be selected before a 7-5 or 8-4 Northwestern. Michigan is already at 7 wins and the same is probably true for them even if they lose out (vs. Wisconsin, @ Ohio State). The one thing they’d have going against them is a poor finish to the season, but any bowl committee would love that fan base and that offense.

    Purdue and Indiana are no longer threats. Purdue (@ MSU, vs. IN) and Indiana (vs. PSU, @ PU) can at best finish 6-6. They’re not going to jump us. So that leaves a 5-5 Illinois. After our game, they take a week off and then travel to Fresno State to end the season. If they beat us and both teams finish 7-5, I think they get picked before us. If they finish 6-6, though, they’re not going to pass us.

    So aside from our remaining games, Penn State is really the team to keep an eye on at this moment. It still appears that the Big Ten will get 2 BCS teams, at east as of right now, so Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, and Illinois are fighting for the Gator, Insight, Texas, and TicketCity (in that order). If the Big Ten only gets 1 to the BCS, it becomes Insight, Texas, TicketCity, and Little Caesars.

    By the way, highlights are up:

  • zeek

    NUdone88; the game with Illinois will pretty much determine whether we move up the bowl games or stay at the Dallas Football Classic/TicketCity (barring a surprise upset of Wisconsin, but we’re just taking things one week at a time).

    Illinois is 5-5, but they face @ Fresno State last, which is winnable as well. So if both teams finish 7-5, it’s likely they finish above us, and we finish at the TicketCity game.

    If we beat Illinois, we likely move up to at least the Texas Bowl, with possibly a shot at the Insight Bowl or Gator Bowl being likely if we can convince them to take us over Penn State or Michigan for those games.

    Heck, we pulled it off last year due to our wins over Iowa/Wisconsin, which got us nice positioning. That’s the kind of thing we may get with a win over Illinois if Penn State or Michigan finish with 7 wins.

  • zeek

    And I pretty much said the same thing as NorthwesternHighlights, so just read what he wrote.

  • Jason Merecki

    Some Iowa fans rude, some not. For those rude bloggers, you can at least tell them how impressed you are by them. They graduated from Iowa (presumably), and still learned how to write and use a computer!

  • PBRCat

    I finally caught up on everyone else’s posts and finally have the correct information on Persa’s injury. What a bad break! I would not doubt that Persa was playing through pain earlier during the game, however, since that is indicative of his character and his commitment to the team. His performance on the day would look even better, but the receivers dropped a few passes for incompletions. Dan Persa is a true competitor.

    I did appreciate the fact that Pat Fitzgerald did take a few minutes to lay into one of the mediocrities who was supposed to be officiating at today’s game. It was wholly justified criticism.

    There were tons of Iowans in attendance today and, yes, too many were seated in the West side of the stadium where the home team fans are supposed to predominate. The Iowans were loud until the Wildcats stunned them into silence. I cannot answer for the poor attendance by the students, some of whom seem to treat Wildcat football as a simple diversion from their studies, but the students need to be a reliable component of the fan base.

    @ Cece, as you said there needs to be more “Purple” in the stands at every home game. In fact, many of the people in my section, myself included, are not NU alums. We are simply local people who like college football and appreciate the unique character of the Northwestern team. Iowa lacks a major league professional team, so their fans have transferred their rooting allegiances to the Hawkeyes and they travel well. I can accept half of the crowd cheering for the visitors, but Chicagoans need to embrace this team and fill the home side of the field with people cheering for Northwestern.

    An hour after the game, I chided several people in a tavern who packed up and left the game when Iowa was leading 17-7. True Wildcat fans know that this team needs to play four quarters and sometimes more.

    I think that Evan Watkins will be able to give the Wildcats an opportunity to win next week. It was great to hear “Chelsea Dagger” again after so many months.

  • I don’t think Fresno State will be a walk in the park for Illinois. It’s a late night Friday game on the west coast against what has so far been a pretty good offense. Fresno State plays Nevada tonight followed by @ Boise State and vs. Idaho. So they’ll have faced some good competition leading up to that game.

  • zeek

    Yeah, Fresno State is a legit opponent; one of the three legit teams in the WAC right now. I didn’t mean that to say they were a walk in the park (my bad on not being more explicit there). I don’t know who will be favored; Fresno State did give Wisconsin some good games a few years ago as well.

    Still, we control our destiny. If we want a shot at the Florida bowls, we just have to beat Illinois. It’s all up to Fitz/McCall to give Watkins the tools he needs to succeed in terms of a game plan to his strengths.

  • cece

    @PBRCat, sounds like you’ve adopted the purple and that’s good. I’m not interested in filling the stadium if it’s filled with fans of the opponent. we need more people like you, not Iowa fans.

  • David in Dallas

    A quick glance at BHGP reveals that Io_a fans are crediting the officials with our win.

  • SaintLouCat

    Regarding the crowd mix, I am a season ticket holder but the 600+ mile round trip ensures that I can’t make every game. I specifically did not sell or give my tickets to the Iowa fans who asked for them, believing it would be better to give a little extra elbow room to the NU fans in my section rather than allow Iowa fans to intrude. Given that I will again probably make only half of the games next year, I welcome thoughts on whether I should renew my tickets based on what people feel is best for the program.

    Go ‘Cats!

  • NU Cat 95


    What did Fitzgerald say about the officials? I had the misfortune of only seeing the game on DirecTV on the back of an airline seat, which made it difficult to see all of the missed calls. But I will say that I thought all the intentional grounding calls were correct. When Persa committed it, he was definitely still in the tackle box. However, both times Fitz griped to the officials about calling it on Stanzi, replays showed that he was outside the tackle box when he threw the ball away.

  • Chupetunes

    SaintLouCat, as a fellow STL Cat, I’d think about splitting some season tix, and I’m sure there are others who would do the same.

  • Or donate the tickets back to the school.

  • Chaddogg

    @Henry in CT: Is that you? Are you okay?

    Because I swear you just came over to the dark side and agreed that this Cats’ team is as good/better than last year….

    Whatever. Huge win today, with a corresponding huge cost. Persa….I have no words. We throw around words like warrior, leader, etc….and yet we know those are inappropriate given the proud service our men and women in uniform provide each and every day as “warriors” and “leaders.”

    But Dan Persa….he’s a quarterback. He is a competitor. He is a champion. He will fight for every yard, reach for every inch, inspire, teach, run, pass, and claw in every battle…..

    Persa has, as many NU players have, made me proud of our student-athletes. And I CANNOT wait to root for him next year.

    Team — we’re you’re fans. We’re completely in support of Watkins. We’ll cheer loudly here (at Wrigley) or there (at Camp Randall) or anywhere (any bowl)….mainly, because we know that our boys will pick up the flag and win when they need to. So Evan — welcome. We’re excited to see you win….and I’m sure no one is as excited to see you win as Dan Persa, because that man BLEEDS purple…..

    I’m so proud of our team, our players, our coaches, and especially our seniors…..just a great day to be a Wildcat….

  • Texasconnection

    Please provide a website where I can send a contribution to the NU athletic dept. in appreciation to Dan’s stupendous year and well wishes for a speedy rccovery.

  • wcgrad

    There was only one time that I thought an official missed a call against us – I thought I saw a little bit of holding on IA’s defensive end when we picked up that 2nd and 19 to charles brown on the first TD drive of the fourth quarter.

    What was up with 1) the intentional grounding call, 2) the phantom penalty on the interception return (whom the official didn’t even name the foul committed OR the player who committed it) 3) the officials stopping for a measurement after an obvious third down conversion- giving IA a rest break when we were driving on the final TD?

    Good for Fitz for screaming at the ref.

    I’m interested to see what this can do without Dan Persa.

    Today is the first day that post game I can remember standout plays from multiple defensive players. Maybin with some great pass defenses in the first half. Nate Williams with the 3 play domination. Peters with the HUGE interception. Vince Browne’s sack on the last drive, during a 3 man rush no less.

    I’m just hoping the last two games have left Illinois shell shocked and not super motivated and that the team doesn’t get satisfied with itself over this win.

    Those of you praying tomorrow – say one for Persa. Kid had himself a whale of a season – better gross stats than almost all QBs who will play 3 more games. Hope he can channel his intensity into this team for the last 2 games.

    Let’s defend the Land of Lincoln trophy – Go Cats!

  • Adam

    Thanks to everyone for keeping me updated; going to the game, you miss all the extra info and stories. I’m looking forward to seeing Evan lead his team at Wrigley.

    Thoughts are with Dan.

    Go Cats!

  • PBRCat

    @NU Cat ’95:

    I was in the stands and could not hear what was being said, but Fitzgerald was most definitely giving one of the officials an earful. I would rather doubt that Fitzgerald would break conference protocol and lay into the officials during his postgame remarks. He probably left it out on the field.

    It was sort of funny to hear that some Iowa bloggers are bemoaning the officials too. When Stanzi was operating deep in Iowa territory during the fourth quarter one of his offense linemen stopped a Wildcat defender by almost removing his helmet with a vicious face mask grab and the official who watched it all did nothing.

    For the recordkeepers, if this is Stanzi’s final game against the Wildcats, did he go winless against NU over his college playing career? I think that he did.

  • jnvh

    Here is the difference in the game. More pass attempts than runs. It looked like Persa was looking to pass first and run second, when at times in the past few games you just knew he was going to pull it down if the first slant read was covered.

    Also, offensive playcalling – McCall’s best day of the year by far. Why? Looking at the drive chart on, it looks like they had only two 3-and-outs. That 10-20 yards of field position on 1-2 first downs from short drives is huge, as it allows the defense to give up a couple first downs or a big run and still play well. Complete 2-3 passes, get 1-2 first downs. Pass first, run as a change-up. We didn’t light up the scoreboard, but 400+ yards of offense and only a couple 3-and-outs is huge. Huge huge huge.

    And of course best wishes to Persa.

  • jnvh

    Correction – looking at the detailed play by play the ‘Cats had ZERO three-and-outs today. Fantastic stuff.

  • NU Cat 95


    Misread your earlier comment. I took it as Fitz laying into the officials after the game (which, as you noted, would have been out-of-character for him — and probably would have resulted in some sort of punishment from the Big Ten/NCAA).

    On the TV broadcast, Fitz seemed to take most offense with the two no-calls for intentional grounding against Iowa (after the Cats were hit with a penalty earlier). I thought, in both cases, it was unnecessary/incorrect griping from Fitz. Stanzi was outside the tackle box on both occasions.

    Considering both sides are complaining about the officiating a bit, seems to safe to say the calls (or, better put, non-calls) probably evened out. Was certainly a “let ’em play” sort of day. Maybe the refs wanted to get off the field and dry off.

  • Surfmen93

    @wcgrad …. on the bad calls you listed:

    #1 – I thought it was horrible, but I was at the game. If the replay shows he was in the tackle box it was clearly a throw away. Fitz yelled about Stanzi probably to make a point to remind them they “missed” it… even if they were right.

    #2 – McNaul (I think) hit an Iowa player out of bounds. It was a late hit, and it was obvious in real time to us.

    #3 – I thought that was odd too. However, both coaches (I believe) can demand a measurement when it’s close. It’s possible Ferentz did that to slow the game down.

    I thought the non-hold calls were pretty bad. But since Iowa feels the same way, I agree with NU Cat 95 that it was just let em play.

  • vaudvillain

    re: officiating — Northwestern also benefited from a blatant non-holding call on our very first TD drive of the game. When Iowa later got away with a similarly blatant hold, my thought was that the refs were just “making up” for the previous call. As for the intentional grounding — my beef isn’t whether or not Persa was still in the box — my beef was that there was actually a receiver in the vicinity of the ball. No, he had no realistic chance to catch it, but he was cutting back and was certainly close enough that it should have been an incomplete pass.

    If some Iowa fans think that bad officiating cost them the game, so be it. Bad officiating doesn’t lead to back-to-back 85+ yard TD drives in the fourth quarter. In a twist on an old theme, I’ve seen a bunch of Iowa fans griping about conservative play-calling and “playing not to lose” being the culprit for their loss.

    The bottom line: We won because we played better than Iowa in the 4th quarter. (Feels good to say those words again — it’s been a while!)

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