Updated: 9:50 pm et – Nothing like a double-whammy of a NU win and a loss for TTISB who was “upset” 23-20 by South Florida. Didn’t we call that right here? Just so you know NUHighlights was at the game and is now diligently editing the highlights. They’ll be up early in the morning. We’ll have it as a part of our Sunday Morning Sunrise edition, complete with an update on the Big Ten action and 2011 opponents and of course, our recruiting rivals. Keep the comments coming!
Before we jump in, obviously we’re all in celebration mode, but it is time once again to hit the celebration “mute” button. First, Teddy G. reported that Dan Persa will NOT play next week against Eastern Illinois in this report. Additionally, several reports have surfaced on twitter that Kain Colter, the star of the day, underwent “precautionary” X-rays for his leg after the game. QB1c – be ready! Let’s get back to enjoying things before we sort out the MASH status.
For those of you new to being a ‘Cats fan, well, we tried to warn you. Northwestern (1-0) outlasted BC (0-1)in a nailbiting 24-17 win at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, MA on Saturday afternoon. The morning started with the news we had feared – Dan Persa would not dress – and the ball was placed in Kain Colter’s hands to carry us to victory. Boy, did he deliver.
This was a classic chess match in the match-up between two well-coached teams. The major question marks coming in to the game surrounded the ‘Cats front seven against a potent, yet diluted rushing game (ACC player of the year, Montel Harris was out) vs the questionable passing game of Kain Colter against a green secondary for BC. Boy did those storylines get flip-flopped. On the very first carry of the game BC RB Andre Williams bounced to the outside and blitzed us for a 69-yard gain that thankfully Jordan Mabin saved from a TD – barely. Every single one of us thought “uh-oh, here we go again.” Yet, the ‘Cats “D” stepped up and held BC to a FG on a 1st and goal from the 3-yard line.
I’m not sure about you, but I spent most of the first half screaming at my TV pleading for Mick McCall to test the BC secondary. Yet, Kain and the ‘Cats ran a full dose of the zone read option and the message was clear – slowly build Kain’s confidence and manage the game. After a clear miscommunication led to a Luke Kuelchy INT that set-up an easy BC TD the ‘Cats were in trouble. Big trouble. Then, mirroring the 2010 Penn State game in the reverse, Northwestern went up tempo and Kain finally got the green light to hit the under routes. Boy, did he ever. Colter put together a phenomenal 80-yard TD drive hitting a myriad of receivers and capped things off with a sick TD run that left All-American Kuechly with his ankles twizzled. The ‘Cats went in to halftime 10-10 with a ton of momentum.
Unlike traditional Fitz teams, NU came OUT of the gates on fire in the second half. It was like a TIVO rewind of the final drive and the 80-yard drive was brilliant as Mike Trumpy capped off the drive with a nifty, shifty 5-yard TD run. The ‘Cats would take command of the game and the strategy was clear as day – stop the run game and make Rettig beat us in the air. Both almost happened. The ‘Cats put up another TD as Colter continued his brilliance making absolute money throws on key third down plays to keep the drive alive. Colter’s hit a money strike by stepping up in teh pocket to drill Jeremy Ebert for a big gain. Then, later in the drive, Colter threw a beautiful pass to Christian Jones who made an “OMG” catch and injured himself in the process. Adonis Smith broke things open on the option pitch and he went untouched in front of a sea of purple to make it 24-10. There was 9:24 left in the game. We Cardiac Cat club members knew there would be a chance to put this game away, or, settle back in to conservative play calling and find the game down to the final snap. I literally stopped the TV, turned to my wife and said, this game will come down to the very final play. I hate when I’m right. Thankfully I was wrong on the final score and I’ve never been happier to be so wrong. Northwestern had multiple chances to put the game away, but couldn’t. Granted, the refs gave BC QB Chase Rettig a GIFT on a clear penalty of passing past the line of scrimmage, but we had stuffed the run game. We were saying beat us in the air. Chase Retting said “OK” and put the hurt on Jeravin Matthews as they iso-ed the 6-6 Momah all day, until he got hurt. BC closed to within 7 with a way-too-much-time 6 minutes left. Northwestern put together a drive and found themselves in go in to the shell mode and had a 4th and 1. For the second time of the day, the play call was poor and the execution awful as Colter went read option and got crushed. BC’s final drive was like so many we’ve seen before. A dink and dunk to get to our red zone. There was catch after catch and with :14 left and BC in the red zone, they got the most crucial 5-yard penalty I can remember an NU opponent getting. Thanks to the new rule, the BC false start led to a loss of :10 of game time. The final play saw Chase Rettig roll out to his right for a “TD or its over” play and Vince Browne, held in check all day by BC, saved his first real big play for the best time as he crumpled Chase Rettig like a Yugo on the final play. Rettig writhed in pain and NU celebrated in muted fashion as the opposing QB was clearly hurt seriously.
No matter how you slice this, this is a HUGE win. As I said all week, a win with a back-up QB on this type of stage says quite a bit about our program. You take a Heisman candidate off any roster and you see what happens. Just ask Auburn, who had to rely on a miracle onside kick to save an embarassing loss against Utah State. Kain Colter was a stud today. The psychological blow that the NU team suffered when #7 wasn’t in action last year wasn’t prevelant today, regardless of the fact the Persa announcement was relatively recent. We now all become the biggest BC fans that aren’t BC fans out there to help substantiate this win.
The #1 rush defense in America got torched for 227 rushing yards (54 att). They gave up an ACC best 309 ypg last year and we had that by the first drive of the third quarter and put 424 yards on the board. Granted, our much-maligned defense had a poor day statistically. We made Chase Rettig look like the Heisman candidate (OK, that’s a big exaggeration) by coughing up 375 yards passing, but it was part of the big picture strategy of goading them to pass and stopping the run. The rush defense was absolutely lights out AFTER the first play of the game. Andre Williams put up 69 yards rushing on the first play, yet NU locked up the Eagles for a grand TOTAL of 35 yards rushing the rest of the game.
Congratulations to the Wildcats players, coaches and staff. What a great win for the program and a launching pad for positive things for 2011! I can only imagine what Dan Persa would’ve done against that pass defense. Talk about a Heisman stat pad game! Kudos to him for being on the headset and clearly being a winner by providing leadership and apparently light moments in stressful times on the sideline. It was quite a contrast to what Tyrell did at Ohio State in 2007. Great job Dan!
Kain Colter – Thrust in to the unenviable position of having to step in to the shoes of Heisman candidate Dan Persa, Kain was a winner in every sense today. Check out his stat line – 17/24, 197 yds, 71 yds rushing (including sack yardage), 1 rush TD, 1 INT. His late second quarter and first drive of the 3rd quarter showed the potential of what he and we could do in games to come if McCall lets him throw.
WR Blocking – To me, the untold story of the game was the collective stellar blocking by the WR corps. Demetrius Fields laid the hammer to spring Trumpy. Jeremy Ebert sprung a huge hit on a big play. With the lone exception of the hold by Rashad Lawrence which negated the first Adonis Smith TD, the WR unit was brilliant. It was a difference maker in the game. Congrats Dennis Springer!
Jeff Budzien – Odd, wasn’t it. After Budzien drilled a 43-yard 1st Qtr FG you had instant comfort in our placekicking game. Budzien was perfect on PATs which has been an Achilles heel issue for us in recent years.
Defensive Gameplan – It’s rare when you say that a team giving up 375 yards passing yards should get praised for a gameplan, but the ‘Cats silenced the critics of the front seven if you give them a mulligan for the first play of the season. A great strategy and even better execution. Well done Coach Hank.
Brandon Williams – Once again, an unsung hero as he was so clutch. Williams averaged 45 ypp (five punts) and if the NU coverage team had paid better attention, he would’ve trapped BC at about the two on one punt. His punt before the final drive (58-yarder) was negated by a false start and was a costly penalty.
NU’s RB By Committee – If you saw a statline that read 227 rushing yards on 54 carries with 3 TDs you’d be talking Heisman candidate when you consider it was done against the defending #1 RUSH DEFENSE IN THE COUNTRY. The fact it was done by the combination of Colter (71 yards, 3.1 ypc, 1 TD), Trumpy (85 yds/15 att, 1 TD), Smith (53 yds/11 att, 1 TD), Schmidt (11 yds, 3 att) and a cameo by true freshman Treyvon Green shouldn’t diminish the accomplishment. To me, Trumpy clearly separated himself as our go-to back. He didn’t look to good at the end of the game, I hope he’s OK.
Tyler Scott – What a force our new starting DE was! Scott’s motor was non-stop and he had so many plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet it’s hard to recall all of the good. Yes, he had a sack and yes he had a few hurries, but #97 was all over the place and Rettig knew it. What a drastic improvement in productivity from that slot.
NU Fan Support – The seats eventually filled in, for the most part, but the purple was out in full force. There were several third down
situations where you could hear the Wildcat faithful that were in various pockets througout the stadium. Both endzones were purple, but there was a noticeable tint of purple to offset the glaring yellow of the Superfans. Great job folks!
Discipline - NU has shored up the penalty-plagued ways of 2010 at least in week one. The line again had a few false starts and there was the lone holding call on Lawrence, but a great improvement overall in terms of limiting mental errors.
O-Line – Colter had plenty of time in the pocket and also had some indecisiveness that caused penetration against the line. I thought they played a good, but not great game. There were a few glaring oopsies. The fact we can’t get the short yardage first downs by simply winning the trenches is disturbing, but no one is perfect in week one.
Killer Instinct -At some point, for us to get to the next level we will have to figure out how to learn to put teams away. Our ability to hang around against ANY team is a great trait. Our inability to smell the blood and go for the kill is still an elusive trait. Let’s hope this is the year we develop it.
Offensive Playcalling – Again, sounds like I’m a curmudgeon here sour grapes-ing playcalling AFTER a victory. However, the ultraconservative approach to Colter passing in the first half was underscored by the last drive of the half. BC’s secondary was weak and gave cushion all day long and we were pretty worried about the pscyhe of our new starting QB. He proved he was ready. Also, the 4th and short calls and execution were just plain bad. I trust the staff regarding Schmidt and his fall camp, but Trumpy and Smith looked pretty darn good to me. I would’ve loved to have seen them earlier in the game.
Officiating on line of scrimmage/intentional grounding – when will ESPN create the tackle box line? Also, the line of scrimmage line, which does exist, did not get challenged by NU or the refs at all. There was a close call in the first half and also the 3rd and 18 completion by Rettig was clearly a penalty. Ben Johnson was pleading a case and no one was listening. I was stunned the NU staff wasn’t on the field complaining. Ever since the Iowa game last year, we really have to work to get a “in the grasp” call, no?
Stats To Stew On
Rushing – NU: 54 carries, 227 yds BC: 30 carries, 104 yards
Passing – NU: 197 yds, 17/24 BC: 375 yds, 24/44
Total Yards: NU: 424 yds, BC: 475 yds
TOP: NU -28:58, BC – 31:02
Penalties: NU 4-26, BC – 5/47
3rd down: NU 6/15 BC 8/17
Game Ball: Kain Colter. What can you say? A maturation within the game itself and delivery of a huge victory to set the tone for the season. Congratulations Kain!
- With the win, Pat Fitzgerald (35-29) has tied Gary Barnett for third alltime for wins among Northwestern coaches.
- Fitz is now 6-0 in season openers.
As soon as I get them from NUHighlights we’ll post them right here. Check back tonight!!! So, what did we miss?