Illini Crush ‘Cats Soul with 38-35 Win as NU Collapses; Persa Injured (Again)

Consider the term ‘Cardiac Cats a negative. After having the tag of being able to pull out close ones, the ‘Cats now are becoming known as the team that can’t hold on to a big lead. Illinois (5-0,1-0) pulled out a 38-35 improbable win over Northwestern (2-2, 0-1) in a heartbreaking game that saw both QB Dan Persa and starting RB Mike Trumpy leave the game injured. Sorry folks, but this is not just a loss, this a loss that is costly psychologically and physically.  The psyche of our program – from the fans to the coaching staff is rattled. With good reason.

We had Dan Persa, the nation’s most efficient passer, and we threw 14 passes with him. Consider this – we rushed 51 times and passed 16 times. Are you serious? The weakness on this team was known by everyone – the pass defense. Persa carved them up – WHEN WE LET HIM THROW.  I was on the pulpit all week to let us pass with Persa, but this is beyond ridiculous.  Four TDs on 14 passes. I’m all over the place right now so bear with me.  What’s even more unacceptable is getting away from what worked so brilliantly on defense.

Northwestern’s gameplan was to try and ease Persa back in to the game by establishing the ground game. The defensive gameplan was to stop the Illini potent ground game and challenge Nathan Scheelhaase to beat them in the air. Mission accomplished on both. AJ Jenkins became Keyshawn Johnson and will forever be in NU lore.

After mounting a 28-10 lead midway through the third quarter on a 4th Persa TD pass, Northwestern was clicking. Despite my yelling at the TV constantly to PASS THE BALL, NU seemed content to be predictable on offense with first and second down run calls all day long. Northwestern fans were uniting in saying “go for the jugular”, but before you could blink, AJ Jenkins was just playing catch with Scheelhaase as the secondary was torched. Well, actually Jeravin Matthews was torched.

The ‘Cats stuffed the run all day long, but Scheelhaase obliterated his personal bests with 391 yds passing on 21/32 passing and overcame 3 Illinois TOs including a pick in the endzone.  Mr. Hankwitz, I’ve got some issues here. The “D” has not looked this good in the half since Iowa. Heck, we were better. We had four men rushing, LBs blitzing and Scheelhaase was rattled. We had an incredible 4 sacks and 6 TFLs plus two turnovers caused by penetration. So, what do we do? Stop. Go to the 3-man rush once we get a lead. Enter the AJ Jenkins story.

The story of the day was AJ Jenkins who put up a ridiculous 12 rec, 268 yard, 3 TD day and didn’t even make many spectacular catches – he was too open. Give Scheelhaase and Jenkins credit. They found it working and went back again and again and again. If you’d put our staff on that team awe would’ve started to run more as opposed to passing to Jenkins. I want someone to ask Fitz and Hankwitz why  we completely abandoned what was working so well. The second half was a complete retreat on our defensive strategy and I have no clue why.

When NU went up 28-10, you could sense the air tighten. We continued to stay conservative and start running play after play. You could feel the coaches counting the ticks on the clock. The Illini got a spark with a TD to Jenkins when Matthews got torched down the sideline and – BOOM – momentum changed.  NU then starting gasping when Dan Persa tweaked his ankle on a scramble and left early in the 4th quarter to never return. Meanwhile, Illinois took the first play of the 4th quarter and hit Jenkins on a wide open bomb to cut it to 28-23 to open the 4th and every ‘Cat fans asked the question whether this was the program from 2010 vs PSU, MSU or will we have the resolve to overcome. We had a five point lead, no Mike Trumpy, no Dan Persa and negative momentum. Sure enough, we started to run regardless of the down and distance and Illinois mounted another Scheelhaase drive wher he had ALL DAY TO THROW since we were consistently playing three down lineman, after an amazing first half where we tallied 4 sacks and 6 TFLs by being aggressive. The Northwestern of past reared its head – get a big lead and try to cling to it. Shocker – it failed to work again.

Kain Colter took the ‘Cats on a sustained drive in to Illinois territory after Donovonn Young had put the Illini up 31-28 with a 1-yard TD plunge.  The ‘Cats were flirting with FG territory, but found themselves at 3rd and long and went for a draw to Treyvon Green. It emphasized just how silly we’d gotten on our playcalling when we needed to move the chains to get in to FG territory. The next play, 4th and 8 and Colter scrambled but came up well short. It appeared the game was over.

Jason Ford took the handoff and was shellacked by Brian Peters and the DL and FUMBLE! NU recovered and Colter became the one-man show on offense, running and scampering for yards with Treyvon Green doing his part to mix it up. The ‘Cats picked up 1st and goal after Colter was horse-collared on a fantastic 1st down run along the sidelines. Jacob Schmidt had his monster rush of the year, dragging players on a 7-yard TD with 1:22 to go and you and I know what you were thinking – “uh-oh, too much time!”.  The play was reviewed and I was actually rooting for it to be down at the one so we could run down the clock and plunge in to win. Nope, ‘Cats would have to hold up 35-31. 

Illinois promptly threw a 30-yard pass to AJ Jenkins.  Well, I can’t even go down the recap of the rest of what happened. The Illini moved it at will and NU played its normal 3-man rush and we paid dearly for it. The Illini got another break from NU’s secondary when Scheelhaase floated a pass to (who else) Jenkins, but Matthews pushed him having lost sight of the ball and it was 1st and goal from the 4 with under :30 to go. Scheelhaase punched it in from the one with :13 to go.

Northwestern ran what almost looked like the best play since Stanford-Cal, as a backyard play turned a last second reception in to Jeremy Ebert hitting Kain Colter across the field in stride, but I believe Mulroe couldn’t get his block to spring Colter around the corner and Colter tossed it back to Fields who fumbled it to end the game. Illinois had moved to 5-0 and won back to back Land of Lincoln Trophies. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats slunk to 2-2 and 0-1 in Big Ten play. Notice I haven’t mentioned Persa yet?

That comes now. Dan was rusty, as expected early on, but more from a timing standpoint. NU had two three and outs to open the game where we primarily ran.  Persa was his usual self when we let him throw and amazingly threw only 9 times in the first half and had 46 yards, but had thrown two beautiful TDs. In the third, Persa seemed to have more confidence and started to get the greenlight to throw. He was simply brilliant in the 3rd quarter going 5-5 with two more TD passes and had the most incredible series to bring NU to the 28-10 lead. He had a Houdini special 1-yard gain in which he avoided three tackles and then, on a 3rd and long, managed to escape a sack and simply create space to find Jacob Schmidt on what would be a head-shaking first down. Persa would once again connect with his buddy, Jeremy Ebert for the third TD for Ebert on the day and a career best 4th for Persa.

There is so much to review, and we’ll do just that. However, any questions I had about playcalling were exacerbated in this one. It was so painful to watch, because we can rehearse the script at this point. We as a program simply have no killer instinct. I give a ton of credit to the front seven who played marvelously for three quarters today. The secondary got torched, which was primarily on Jeravin Matthews and also on the NU coaching staff for rushing on three men in a Big Ten game and giving that good of a QB that much time. It was really painful to watch.

With the uncertainty surrounding Persa and Trumpy heading in to this week’s game at Michigan, we are reeling right now. Trumpy getting carted off with a leg injury isn’t a good sign. Persa not playing most of the 4th is downright panic time. He appeared to tweak the same ares of his leg where the Achilles injury is and you know if he could play, he would.  I have little confidence he’ll be back for Michigan. The bottom line is this is a program from top down that doesn’t know how to close out games. Kudos to our staff and team for having a gameplan that enabled us to get to the point where we are up 28-10, but in the end, if you lose games, it’s a loss. Period. It has gone from preventing us of getting to the next level to a trend to a major red flag and program buzzkill.

We’ll be back in a bit to break down the Great, The Good  & The Disappointing.  Candidly, I thought Illinois would run all over us. Instead, they passed all over us. There is absolutely zero in the moral victory category – those days are long gone. It’s time to look in the mirror and see what we’re made of.

Congratulations to Nathan Scheelhaase, AJ Jenkins and the Illini.  I think the rivarly has been stoked to a new level, don’t you think?

Final Stats:

  • Northwestern -332 yds total offense, 163 yds passing, 169 yds rushing
  • Illinois – 473 yds total offense, 391 passing, 82 rushing (38 attempts, 2.2 ypc)
  • Persa – 10/14, 123 yds, 4 TDS, 0 INT, 9 car (-3 yds)
  • Scheelhaase – 21/32, 391 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT, 1 rushing TD
  • Rushing: Treyvon Green 17 car, 69 yds; Trumpy 12 car, 63 yds
  • Receiving: Ebert 5 rec, 68 yds, 3 TDs; Schmidt 3 rec, 40 yds; 2 rec 26 yds, 1 TD
  • TOP: NU 30:29, IL 29:31
  • Turnovers: NU 0 IL 3
  • First Downs:: NU 21 IL 23
  • Penalites: NU 4-48, IL 8-70

 

  • slavin

    i cant bear to watch a team at any level constantly rush 3 guys. rush 4 or 5 or why play this game?

  • zeek

    Fitz needs to learn at some point that we don’t have a good enough defense to switch to the “Run Run Pass Punt” strategy anytime we get a big lead. But my question is when is he going to learn it? He’s blown so many huge leads in his career here (I won’t blame him for the early ones), but even just the past two years have featured several. It’s becoming an annual tradition for Northwestern to run up to a huge lead in the 3rd quarter of some game, and then just hand it back with interest in 10 minutes of play.

    This is clearly a 5-6 win team that we have this year. I don’t understand how anyone can be satisfied with the defenses that we’ve featured the past 2 years. We’re back to the dark ages defensively. And if Persa is injured again, it’s going to be a long, long season.

  • Sandta

    It is time to admit we have a horrible game coach. It is time to realize you can’t win games with defense. It is time to admit we need a new coach who is willing to admit he has to outscore the opponent. I have seen enough. Got of

  • Sandta

    Go to Penn st please. Coach the type of team you want to coach b you can’t coach at northwestern. Adjust to your talent. How much more evidence do you need? Get a big lead and turn conservative. Enough is enough. Be gone fitzgerald

    • zeek

      The biggest thing that galls me about all of this is that Fitz somehow believes he’s built Ohio State or Penn State here. He clearly hasn’t.

      We’re like Kansas State. The only way they win games is to keep scoring on offense.

      That’s who we are. Yet Fitz denies it and keeps trying to play his version of Tressel-ball. Yet it’s never worked.

      The last comment on the previous thread pointed out Fitz’s record in Big Ten games with 17+ point leads. It’s 1-3. How in the world do you lose 3 of 4 games where you have a giant 3 touchdown lead. And we’re talking about leads in the 3rd quarter of games. When your offense is your engine, you have to ride it to the end.

      Fitz needs to recognize that our shortcomings on defense necessitate a shootout style of offense. Just put up 40+ every time you play, and you’ll have a much better chance to win than doing what Fitz does.

  • The problem with these comments is that they feel to realize a key point: once Persa was out, we don’t have anyone who can pass; we HAVE to run the ball. But we don’t have any running backs worth a damn. Hence that basically means Colter running, or short passing to Ebert. We don’t have any other impact players, on either side of the ball. MY POINT: WE DON’T HAVE ANY TALENT. Blame Fitz for his recruiting, more than his in-game coaching (not that I think his coaching is great; don’t misunderstand).

    • Lake The Posts

      14 passes with Persa in 3 quarters of play. 51 rushes for the game. Really? As pointed out, story of game = defense. We rush 4, 5 we were dominating. We go to 3-man rush and we blow huge lead. Same old story.

    • zeek

      This started before Persa was out though.

      The first drive after Illinois made it 28-17. With Persa completely in: Run (+3), Run (-2), Pass (+11) for 1st down. Run (-1), Run (+3), Sack (supposed to be Persa pass), Punt.

      The next drive (where Persa got injured): Run (+3), Sack (-2, Persa injured), Run (Colter in), Punt.

      Heck, why even put Colter in on 3rd and long at that point. It was just entirely worthless. We went into a shell on offense totally.

      The same thing happened before Illinois gifted us a chance. Four straight run plays? When you’re down by 3 with 3 minutes left on their 40?

      What in the world were they thinking on that set of downs? That was the worst offensive play calling I’ve ever seen from this bunch.

      • It’s true; I was flabbergasted by the play calls when it looked like do or die late in the game. The fact remains, however, we just don’t had virtually any impact players. You can’t win in the Big Ten that way.

    • Alan

      How can you say we have no one who can pass? Just two weeks ago, after not being able to move the ball all day on the ground with Colter, Siemia came in and in 3 plays we were in the end zone.

      So Persa goes out, we’re down by three with 3 minutes to go, and in comes…..Colter? And then 3 straight runs? Did our coaching staff get amnesia and block out the Army game entirely?

      This loss is solely on the coaches. Our secondary wasn’t beat because they were slow, they weren’t within 15 yards of the receivers, that’s blown coverage, and that’s on the coaches.

      I know next to nothing about football, and when I can predict exactly what we’re going to do, I know we’re doomed.

      • But you are proving my point; Siemian had one successful play; that hardly provides a basis on which to believe he is an impact player, or can be trusted at a key time in the game (if you don’t have to, as was the case at Army).

  • jason

    play-callers out. fired.

  • PittsburghWildcat

    From Rittenberg’s blog on espn.com:

    But quarterback isn’t the biggest issue for Northwestern. Pat Fitzgerald has to completely reassess his defense: the players, the scheme and the coaching. After being shredded by Army’s run game, Northwestern had no answer for Jenkins and the Illinois passing attack. Illinois’ second-half scoring drives were far two easy, as Northwestern put no pressure on Scheelhaase and seemed to sit back on its heels.

    Illinois would have piled up more points if not for some first-half miscues in the red zone.

    Fitzgerald has done a lot of good things in his tenure at Northwestern, but as a former All-America linebacker, he can’t have a team that plays defense like this. And he can’t have teams that consistently blow huge leads, as Northwestern has for the past year and a half.

  • Mick McCall has long been the problem as the offensive coordinator. And this game showcased it. Although he mentally develops very good QBs he is a poor play-caller. He is simply not aggressive, not creative, and cannot put his talent, which we DO have in the right spots to make plays.

    Discounting tempo, McCall runs this spread offense with the ideals of a pro style offensive, wishing he could power run the ball. Our talent lies on the perimeter. However McCall refuses to pass 10-15 yards down field and use clear out route, zone routes, and reads.

    Once we had the lead it was 3-and-out after 3-and-out. I’ve seen it happen too many times. NU teams of the past decade relied heavily on creative offense (we basically pioneered the no-huddle spread under Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker) and now we have the lame play-calling of Mick McCall. We need a dynamic play-caller as our OC.

  • surmen93

    I cannot agree more with this post. I will also add that nu needs to let Jerry brown go, the secondary struggled again. Yes I agree they had way too much time to throw, but they weren’t even close to Covering on some plays. Rosenberg nailed it, its time for new coaches our at least a new philosophy.

  • zeek

    The only good thing to come out of this is the general recognition that our approach to offense is flawed when we get big leads and pull back. Our defense is entirely flawed. Fitz said we have young guys making those kinds of mistakes? But this is one of his most veteran teams that he’s had here. What happens next year when our whole defense is young? Are we going to be even worse?

    I’m still really annoyed with that 4 run sequence when we had the ball on the Illinois 40 down 28-31. Who in the world pulls off 4 runs in a row in that situation…?

    • Lake The Posts

      Totally agree. That sequence is what gets you fired in a performance review. I’ll say it again – 51 rushes, 16 passes..25% of our passes were TD passes. This one is on the “D” playcallng though. It was black and white as to what was working and we simply stopped.

      I want to know why

  • LondonAlum

    I guess the good thing about living in the UK is that I can soon go to bed and try to forget about all of this; you guys back in the States can dwell on it for another 6 or 8 hours today.

    I do not understand some things, many of which have already been mentioned here:

    1. The prevent defense. Why do it. I know we have serious problems in the secondary, but a good pass rush will at least make the opposing QB hurry is throw. We rush three and given the opposition not only plenty of time to pick apart the holes in our secondary, but give their WRs plenty of time to get down the field. I was hoping that Fitz was saying to Hank through the headset in the 4th quarter, “You’re sacked if you even think about rushing only three.” I guess I was fantasizing.

    2. If you are playing in the Big 10 and have to go to a second string QB, have some confidence in his arm. We’re behind by three in the 4th quarter, and we run a draw play on 3rd and long. I know the defense was expecting pass, but c’mon … that’s telling everyone, including your QB, that you do not have the confidence that he can throw for a piddling 8 yards.

    I don’t fault Colter … he does his best, and he is still young. He may be a good QB someday. But if you do not trust him to throw, then put Siemian or Watkins or someone else in there. Hell, let Ebert QB if worse comes to worse.

    3. I cannot say anything bad about Jacob Schmidt, because his touchdown run was all about grit and courage. However, let’s remove the option to Jacob from the playbook. I have feeling that Schmidt is a good blocker, he has great hands and he can find holes, but running him on a sweep or something akin is not going to make big yards.

    4. I agree with LTP. I know Persa was rusty at first. I know the staff was worried about the possibility of injury. But, still, to have him throw only 14 times in three quarters is lunacy. I know that Fitz likes to sit on a lead (and then blow it), but c’mon … throwing 14 times, especially considering he was 9 for his last 12.

    5. I thought it was great when Fitz was renewed through 2020 … I am starting to have doubts. All I could think of when we got ahead 28-10 was last year’s Penn State game.

    ARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

    BTW, what could be the worst display for sportsmanship I have ever seen is on display at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOncicrmmr4.

    • Bret

      @LondonAlum: I’m going to be in London later this season. Is there a bar where NU alums gather to watch the games?

      • LondonAlum

        @Bret: I do not know of a bar that shows NU games. There is a contingent of NU alums in London, but it is not that big.

        I watch the games over the internet, either via Big Ten Ticket (which streams the games that are shown on BTN) or via ESPN Player (which is the overseas version of ESPN 3).

        You also have to remember that the next three games will start in London at midnight.

        Bring your laptop if you want to watch the game!

    • More Mich. St. game of last year, rather than Penn. St.; we simply got blown out at Penn St.

  • PBR Cat

    Thus was a mind numbingly bad loss: it has to rank with the losses to Bowling Green in 2001 and Michigan State in 2006 in terms of spectator pain,

    Meoo to Pat Fitzgerald: Northwestern has not had a stop them dead in their tracks defense since 1995. Stop pretending that the Wildcats can secure the lead and run out the clock on opponents with the present roster. They cannot. The coaches have got to adjust and run an offense that keeps putting up points until time expires. I.e. no lead is safe.

    Why is Jerry Brown still employed? His assigned players always underperform week after week. Jenkins was alone on most of his receptions.

    This is awful: Northwestern could easily be 4-0, but now it looks like it would take a minor miracle to finish with six wins and an invite to the Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

  • cece

    Who’s Chicago’s Big Ten Team now? Not us.

  • zeek

    We could get away with a loss like this last year (bad loss to Purdue or blown leads to Michigan State and Penn State) because we had already feasted on our cupcakes early and were 5-0 to start the season.

    But our schedule is much harder with Michigan and Nebraska on the schedule annually. Wisconsin and Ohio State rotate on instead of Penn State (a down Penn State I might add) in 2 years.

    We have all those tough non-conference opponents coming on over the next few years.

    Fitz is going to have to figure out how to hold a big lead sometime, and our defense has to be improved dramatically or we’re going to find the route to even just 6 wins to be much tougher.

  • PBR Cat

    Final thought from a nauseated Wildcats’ fan (this feeling is so bad that I feel as if I should be cussing ‘jNU over at the Blackhearts Goldpants site): CLOCK MANAGEMENT 101 — if you are planning to sit on a lead and run out the clock, it helps if you run plays designed to take as much time as possible. Try snapping the football only when the play clock is about to expire for instance!

    Somedody buy Fitz a Timex wristwatch!

  • Henry in CT

    It was the worst possible outcome. Get a big lead, stop doing what got us the lead so we get behind late but get a break that allows us to get the lead back with almost no time left and then we are unable to stop the opponent and we lose the game. How bad can it get? Once again you have to put this on the coaching staff. We gave it away. Of course if we had won it would have been largely due to Illinois’ miscues but winnable is winnable and this game was. And on top everything we lose Persa again. At this point I have no expectation that much good can come of this season because I have absolutely no confidence in Fitzgerald and his staff.

    • DT

      @Henry-
      Right on…

  • ScottCat

    This team is so bland.

    Senior laden team with tons of talent playing like a bunch of mewling kittens.

    Fitzgerald is overrated. Defense is atrocious. NU not getting the return on investment from all the money spent on football.

    Go for the facilities plan. See what kind of donation responses you get now!

    • zeek

      My biggest pet peeve is that Fitz refuses to realize that this is his most senior laden team (of his own talent) that he’s had here; he used his “young guys makes mistakes” thing again today, but there’s only one or two young guys out there…

      What exactly is the plan for our defense next year? We’re going to have a much younger defense in place next year…

  • Jcat93

    Fitz is overrated. He has lost the last two games. We all are in love with the image and idea of him – but he continues to be average. And we will deal with it – like Carmody. Don’t expect victory – “expect close painful losses”

    Driving back from Champaign and it is so sad we handed those THUGS a win

  • Jo

    Seriously. I’m off the bandwagon. This program is heading backwards

    • zeek

      While I wouldn’t go that far, I have to say that of the past 4 years, I had the highest expectations for this team.

      Yet, we’re clearly not going to win as many games as the first two teams of that 4 year period.

      And with Persa’s status being extremely fragile, it’s hard to see where we go.

      The other thing is, that this is a team with a lot of seniors on it. Next year could be a rebuilding year, yet we’re playing like this year is the rebuilding year…

  • NUmanager

    @PBR Cat- Everyone is going to see the #s that Scheelhouse put up through the air and think he had some great day passing the ball. He made good reads, but did he hit a guy in stride all day? On almost all of his big throws guys were standing there waiting for the ball to come down. And someday, some one is going to hold Jerry Brown accountable.

    I love that we generally shut down the run today, esp in the 2nd quarter. Scheelhouse did look rattled at a few points. Maye that was the strategy, that Scheelhouse couldn’t beat us through the air.

    We went up by 18 and I all I could think was… keep the foot on the gas. Someday I hope we figure out that we can’t ever let up. Ever.

    • PBR Cat

      I agree with you. The Illini receivers were wide open without a defender from the Northwestern secondary in the same area code. This was an awful loss for the program. The coaches have to blame themselves for what has occurred during the past two weeks. The team has its limitations, but the coaches have to adapt their playbook to deal with what they have. Randy Walker seemed capable of doing this successfully, but Fitzgerald has routinely lost winnable games by not accepting reality and playing the cards that he has been dealt (i.e. running up the score rather than trying to go conservative on offense and playing to run out the clock on defense while not waiting to the last second to snap the ball). Northwestern football has been marketed and hyped to the high heavens over the past two years but cannot manage to live up to their publicity campaigns. The Illini played sloppy football, got penalized frequently and turned over the ball in key situations, otherwise it would have been a 50+ point rout. Despite playing poorly, the Blue and Orange have the “W” and the trophy. Look for other schools to begin scheduling Northwestern as their preferred homecoming week opponent again if the coaches do not get their asses in gear. Do not be surprised if NU ticketholders begin dumping tickets to opposing teams either if the losing pattern is not eliminated soon.

  • Jim94

    We won’t get rid of McCall. We let all these losing coaches linger. We embrace losing programs and continue on. Look at basketball.

    Let Fitz go to another school. I’m done with him. See if they get that money from me for that new stadium. No way

    Hope you read this Phillips

  • zeek

    All I can think is that Michigan scares me to death, and I’d hate to send this team to Iowa at 2-3 with Iowa smelling blood in the water. This is just the kind of way they’d script a season to get revenge on us.

    The other thing is that Minnesota, Indiana, and Rice have become absolute must wins. We have no path to 6 without those 3 and an upset somewhere along the way.

  • Lake The Posts

    7 months of prep for Army – 2 weeks for Illinois. Perhaps we should wing it. Hey, at least Army won (45-6) vs Tulane. BC dropped another one to Wake. Folks, we are on the precipice of a program slipping back in to irrelevancy.

    • zeek

      That last line is the reason why I think a lot of us are taking this loss really badly.

      We’re 2-2 and Illinois is 5-0 at the front of the Chicago sports scene.
      And the schedule ahead is daunting for us.

      Maybe we got spoiled by the two seasons in 2008-2009 and the first half of 2010. But still, I don’t really think we can afford a 5-7 season at all. I doubt our fanbase is built up enough, and the Chicago’s Big Ten Team stuff won’t really resonate if Illinois is surging at the same time we’re backsliding. That’s really worrisome.

  • LondonAlum

    At the beginning of the season, the ESPN bloggers predicted that Northwestern would be going to Detroit for their bowl game. That really hacked me off.

    I would now consider it a major triumph it we would have the honour of playing in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl .

    • zeek

      Agreed. We’re not Texas, which can put up #1 recruiting classes no matter whether they have a 5-7 stumble.

      A no-bowl season would really be a pain at this juncture, and again especially when compared to a surging Illinois that looks like its headed to Florida…

      • LondonAlum

        My guess is that we can probably still get to 6 wins (wins against Indiana, Rice, Minnesota and possibly Penn State or Iowa).

        My worry (assuming that two Big Ten teams go to BCS bowls) is that Purdue will also get to six wins and that we will stay home. And, if only one Big Ten team goes to a BCS bowl, chances are a 6-6 record may not get us anywhere.

      • PBRCat

        Our suffering is what it is, but I was not overly impressed with the Illini. 5-0 is their record to be sure, but they have struggled to eke out a couple of their wins, including today’s victory. Down the road, the floor is going to drop out from under the Illini unless they improve dramatically. If the Illini continue to rack up penalties and turnover the ball like they did today, the losses will come and their poll rankings will plummet. I think that Illinois will still go bowling, but it will be a middle tier bowl game.

        Where are the Wildcats? It looks like 2003 again. The team is going to have struggle to win six games and hope that Detroit is available to a .500 Big 1G team. Without a stud running back or two, something that the 2003 team possessed in the persons of Jason Wright and his understudy, Noah Herron, I am not sure how the Wildcats win six games this year.

        Both the Army and Illinois games were highly winnable. I do not see a clear path to win more than five as of now. If the team continues to play as it has been, beating Indiana, Minnesota and Rice might be a challenge.

        Northwestern is going to have to pass the football as its receivers seem better than its running backs. The key is Persa. The coaches seem wary of throwing the ball when Persa is not under center.

        It is bitter to imagine that the entire season may be at the tipping point as October 1st.

    • Do you always spell it “honour”, just because you are in London?

      • LondonAlum

        Sorry. I try to use American spellings on this site, but sometimes the Brit spellings creep in. Since I work for a British-based company ane therefore now write like a Brit, I feel the need to throw in an extra ‘u’ or ‘me’ in certain words.

  • UVA Cat

    35 points is enough to win this game. The 3 man rush prevent defense lost this for us. Period.

    • NUinNY

      As much as the offensive play calling made me nuts at times, I couldn’t agree more. The second the 3-man rush began, all of us at the NU bar started screaming at the TV. If we saw what was about to happen, why didn’t Hankwitz or Fitz?

      • UVA Cat

        Exactly. So, this is squarely on the coaches. We clearly had what it took to win today (in fact, we had Ill-annoy trying to help us at times with their turnovers) but, in the end, we were hamstrung by poor, poor coaching decisions.

  • littlemanpat

    NO killer instinct!!! When we have a lead, Fitz needs to keep his foot on the gas pedal and not look back. But time and time Fitz lets up and the other team just comes right back at takes a win out of our hands. He has been the HC for 6 years now, when will he learn!!! Fitz, it is ok to run up the score if you have the chance!!! Please, please, please Fitz, develop a killer instinct NOW!!!

  • Fed up

    Great comments by everyone. Bottom line: this one is on Fitz and his staff (Dr. Phillips, please take note). They need to understand the team that they have. They need to take risks & they need to be creative because they do not have the talent to play Big Ten-style football. Fitz represents our program well for sure, but he needs to demonstrate he can coach and can put together the right staff. As LTP has noted, this was such an important year for future recruiting (because of the tougher schedules) and with the fundraising need for the facilities plan. I fear the program is taking a huge and dangerous step backwards, and it’s all on our favorite son, Pat Fitzgerald.

  • Sandta

    If he has half a brain he is sitting down with his staff and they are all assuming Michigan will score 50. Now let’s figure out a way to score 51.

  • skepticat

    I actually don’t have a problem with the offensive performance today. This is the most amount of points we’ve scored against a conference opponent, even a non-FCS opponent, since…? Given the instability at quarterback and running back this season, things have quite simply been a mess this year, and I really think they’re struggling to find an identity, and yet they’ve continued to perform.

    My fears about Persa pushing an aggressive schedule to get back into the game only to re-injure himself apparently weren’t unfounded either. Admittedly I’m no expert, and we don’t know the full story yet, but from everything I’ve read about his injury, he really might not be able to come back from this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re looking at the rest of the season without him. It’s just a damn shame, given his the remarkable talent.

    That defense, though, is just atrocious. I mean scary bad. Which is a shame to say, because they really seemed to step up in shutting down the vaunted Illinois run in the 1st half that so embarrassed us last year. The problem is Illinois went into half time and realized they were having some success with the 20+ yard passes to uncovered, wide-open receivers and … here comes that word that must make Hankwitz cringe … adjusted. I mean, this defense didn’t just give up an 18-point lead, it gave it up in something like 4 minutes. The offense handed them a 4 point lead on an Illinois gift with 1:15 left, and it took exactly 3 plays, an incomplete pass, and 45 seconds for Illinois to get to the 5-yard line. I mean, they couldn’t shut the door on a house fly.

    In short, this game left me less impressed with Illinois and more confounded at our complete inability to finish games. And the turns in momentum are palpable: you could feel it after Illinois scored to make it 28-17 and showed they still had some life — just as Penn State did when scoring that touchdown at the end of the 1st half last year — at which point our “response” is complete collapse. No doubt(?) we’ll pull off some upsets this year — though I’m not going as far as predicting a bowl — but we won’t ever shed the albatross of our program’s history until we can bring a halt to the big-time collapses and play with some consistency.

    And I really hate to mention it in the face of losing, but I was mighty unimpressed with the character of Illinois’s players as well. I think the horse collar might actually have been a bad call (it looked like he pulled him down by the jersey in replay), but the late hit on Persa, the video that LondonAlum posted, their running back flexing after he just got stuffed on the 1-yard line…. Perhaps Petrino should be less concerned with what Fitz is saying about his own players and more concerned with the actual behavior of his own.

  • Mr. Frustrated

    NU plays with a lead like it’s holding an egg it’s scared to drop. As much of a cliche as it is to talk about playing to win vs. playing not to lose, I think that to some degree it rings true with this program. They get ahead, and all of the sudden they cling to that advantage for dear life rather than sticking with what works and simply continuing to play the game.

    Sure, there’s a line between you could cross into being so aggressive with a lead that you’re being reckless and counterproductive, but this coaching staff is so far away from that line it can’t even see it with binoculars. If it’s the middle of the fourth quarter and you’re up by 18 points, then you try to run out of the clock. When it’s the middle of the third quarter you have to call offensive plays under the assumption that you need more points and defensive plays with the understanding that the best way to give the other team quick points is to sit back and let the QB play catch with his WRs.

    I think anyone calling for Fitz’s head is being absolutely reactionary and nuts, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be questioned. And he and his staff really need to sit down and fundamentally readjust their strategy for playing with a lead.

  • hudhaifa3

    Before everyone starts pointing fingers at position coaches. It starts with Coach Fitz. No Killer instinct. He always takes the pedal off the medal. I am so proud of all these coaches for letting these kid’s down. Rushing 3 guys. Running 3 straight downs and then letting Colter air it out.

  • NUinNY

    It’s tough to add a meaningful comment; it just seems like piling on at this point. But I truly would like for Fitz to explain how he sees us improving and why he keeps McCall and Hankewitz employed.

  • Ahmed

    I just canceled my tickets for the Homecoming game. I’m done with this coaching staff. I’ve seen enough. I’m sorry guys, I can’t take this anymore.

  • Jon
    • I will believe it when I see it. Right now, I would still bet against it. If he wasn’t hurt badly, I can’t believe he wouldn’t have come back in.

  • Just the Facts

    Let’s look on the bright side. This wasn’t a Legends Division game, so we can pretend it is still preseason and run the table 5-0 in the Division and play for the Big 10 Championship (sighs, attempts to replace internal organs in proper places, and stops counting how long it takes to reach the QB with a 3 man rush after 4 hours).

    • ByebyeFitz

      All big ten games count regardless of what division it is in. If we go 5-3 (5-0 in Legend’s Play) we still would not go to the B10 Title game. Sorry to be a downer.

  • calling all toasters

    Mike Leach is still looking for a head coaching job. Just saying.

    • Narcissus Smith

      There’s certainly reasons to not want Leach, but his commitment to an explosive spread offense is exactly what we needed this year (with Persa to run it). However, if we have no healthy quarterbacks that can actually throw…

  • Ahmed

    Someone needs to start a fire Fitzgerald website. I’ll join and pay a subscription for that. I place 100% of the blame on him. The honeymoon that we have with him needs to end.

  • DT

    Send the Leach suggestion (or the name of at least a couple dozen other qualified, tenured, Head Coaches) to a certain Dr. James Phillips at Northwestern University… Wait a minute, Phillips is the guy who signed Fitzgerald to the ten year deal, and well er, got one himself! Everybody to the trough in Football Pleasantville, Evanston, Illinois…

    • calling all toasters

      “Everybody stays friends, everybody gets paid, and everybody’s got a f***ing future.” —Jimmy McNulty

    • Just the Facts

      I look forward to seeing the list of head coaches who will lead NU to consistent 9+ win seasons. Barnett did it for two years, followed by two sub .500 years, and then left for Colorado. Is there another head coach out there (other than Fitz) who could lead the Cats to a 9+ win season — maybe? Is there another head coach who would stay after such a season (or two) — no. So if you fire Fitz, you have at least two bad years (sub .500) in the transition, and if all goes well and you win 9+ for a season or two, then that coach leaves and you go through another sub .500 transition. If things don’t go well, you head for another dark ages spiral.

      I share in some of the criticisms of the play calling on both sides of the ball, but I would like to hear the name of a coach who would win 9+ consistently at NU and stay (and maintain the academic and character standards we currently have for student-athletes).

      • buckyor

        Well, Fitz himself hasn’t led us to consistent 9+ win seasons. He’s led us to one. I also am not looking to fire him, but let’s not overstate whe’s done.

        I’m beginning to think that Fitz is a guy who will lead us to consistent 6-7 win seasons, with an occasional 8 or 9 win season mixed in. That’s certrainly an improvement from my days at NU, where we had consistent 0-2 win seasons, but it’s not like he’s the second coming of Ara Parseghian

        • Loretta8

          totally agree, buckyor. the calls to fire him are ridiculous. that said, fitz and the rest of the staff can do a lot better and need to start improving immediately.

          • surfmen93

            THIS. Well reasoned, deserved criticism without calling for firing of Fitz. Frankly, if this year continues as such, perhaps a call from Phillips to Fitz to pull an Illinois: You stay, but get new staff.

      • Narcissus Smith

        I agree with you that some of the “fire Fitz” comments are over the top. But he had a team this year, especially on offense, that could have been really good. And he’s squandering it. He deserves credit for getting a good group of skill players on offense, and he deserves a ton of criticism for wasting and misusing them. Examples: I like Jacob Schmidt as a player, but as others have pointed out, running an option for Jacob Schmidt (multiple times!) is laughable. 14 passes for Persa is ridiculous. And the two run plays on 3rd and 8, and 4th and 8? My God.

        So yeah, Fitz deserves credit for putting himself in a position to absolutely squander the promising team he built.

  • Yes, lots has to change. The 3 man rush with the lead to start with. We need four men rushing plus creative blitzing.
    The QB in this offense has to be able to run and pass. So Coulter is just not the guy. Try the freshman we saw late in the Army game. and better balance the pass and run. (Better yet, of course, Persa is just knicked up and returns next week.)
    Fitz needs to change coaches if they can’t adapt to the above.
    It’s hard to believe we can’t recruit better kickers. I don’t understand that.
    But Fitz is critical. The program has a solid foundation, and we need to build off of that. Fitz is doing that, and will continue to do so. (As is Carmody.) Clean solid programs that learn lessons and build over time.

    Don’t get me thinking about the dark years, mid 70’s to early 90’s.

    PS: I can’t believe how good Persa looked in returning from his injury. It’s a horrible injury to come back from. I certainly hope he is just nicked up, and can improve from here.

    • DT

      Uh, Gary 68… Don’t know how you see it, but six years in to The Head Coaches tenure, as a long time season ticket holder and booster, I expect much more than this… This “Give it time” mantra you among others advocate has left the gate… These are titanic losses in the world of BCS Football… You just don’t, on a regular basis blow leads and/or GET BLOWN OUT, as this teams is doing on a regular basis… There are plenty of coaches who can run “Clean Solid Programs”… Some, can even win more conference games than they lose, and win games they should…
      Not the case at NU…

      • gary68

        DT, we do need serious changes. But for me they don’t yet go to the head coach. I see it from a long perspective, of a football program that has attained a level it has not had since the sixties. And I think Fitz can take it to a higher level yet, and maintain it for decades to come. He is a great guy, with a very unique background for his university, and I would like see us leverage that.

        That is not to say we don’t need changes. We certainly do. He’s got to learn how to be demanding with his assistants, and fire them when they can’t respond. As a particularly young coach, move into the position early, he perhaps hasn’t figured that out yet. And he’s going to have to learn fast, much faster than he has. Sticking with the same basic 3 man rush with big leads has failed, and they need more flexibility and creativity from the defensive coach, or a new defensive coach. Same with the play calling offensively.

        Phillips, or someone, needs to talk to Fitz and get his head in the right place on this. Changes need to be made, results improve, or heads roll. Just hopefully, imho, it can be done under Fitz’s leadership so we can build from where we are today.

        (Posted earlier, but not as a reply)

    • Hcattie95

      oh ya – build over time

      So 11 years with Carmody is not enough time to rebuild I guess

      DISTURBING!!!

      NU fans can be so complacient – thats our problem

      Other alumni would NEVER tolerate such losses and losing programs. But we are fine with it at NU for some reason

      • gary68

        Ten years is a long time. But there is a matter of perspective. As you may know, the first NCAA tournament was played at Northwestern in 1937. And NU has never been in the tournament. They really haven’t even smelled being in the tournament in 74 years! In the early 80’s it was a major feat when we beat Notre Dame in the first round of the NIT, and then lost a squeaker to DePaul. We are smelling it now. I don’t want to give up that ground.

        We’ve had lots of success in the minor sports over the years. But this is probably the best shape the two major sports have been in since Otto Graham!

  • Hudyblitz

    I could have done a better job covering Watkins today (and I may have some eligibility left, so Fitz, call me.)
    -Hudhaifa

  • Hudyblitz

    Uh… I meant Jenkins. Long day….Hudy out.

  • Hudyblitz

    Seriously, what’s with all the Fitz hate today?
    Was it a bad loss? Yes
    Does it merit firing the guy who gives us the best chance to build a winning tradition the right way, and one of the best people, not to mention players, in the history of the program? No way
    Do you really want a Leach, Zook, Tressel, etc.? NFW
    And those of you giving up your tickets, I hope you miss out on a sweet win over michigan!

    • DT

      And let’s hope they have added the capability for a third digit on the visitors side of the scoreboard so those that do attend the Michigan game can keep track of the points Robinson and Company will put up next weekend…

    • vaudvillain

      Agreed, Hudyblitz. I get the frustration when we give up a big lead…and it’s happened three times in the past two seasons, which adds to the frustration. I get that there are things we need to fix, and that the coaching staff (including Fitz) needs to be questioned after this kind of loss. But long-term, Fitz is still the right guy for the program. I’m not interested in a coaching carousel with a different head coach every two seasons.

      I was very worried about this game. I had no idea what Persa would look like…which is why pretty much every objective observer was picking Illinois to win (including a clean sweep for both the Gameday and BTN crews). After Army, I wasn’t sure if our D could stop Illinois’ run game. I was afraid of a blowout loss.

      Persa was better than I was expecting (I agree with Gary68 here), the defense during the first half was better than I had seen in a long time, and even after the collapse and both Persa and Trumpy had left the game, we still fought back, getting a turnover when we needed one and punching it in for a TD to reclaim the lead. Today, I did not question the team’s heart.

      I know I’m sounding like the purple kool-aid silver lining guy right now, but there’s so much negativity here right now that I feel like somebody should go ahead and take the lumps for it.

      For the record, I know we lost the game. I know giving up an 18-point lead in the matter of 4 or 5 minutes is inexcusable. I know the three-man rush drives us all nuts (me, too). I know the inconsistency in our kicking game can be maddening (what was that, a 15-yard punt?). But for all of that, there were positives. I’m keeping my purple, I’m keeping my season tickets, and I still believe we’ll make a bowl game.

    • surfmen93

      The hate comes from frustration and expectations. I am assuming most of us could not do the job of any of the coaches on the staff. However, we can plainly see when a three man rush has hurt us for the third time in four games. We can clearly see that this team plays not to lose on offense with a big lead. After the 2006 MSU debacle, I thought Fitz would learn to always pad a lead with your standard offense. How about not trying to run out the clock at all until the last 5 minutes of the game? That’s the stuff we fans see. I don’t want Fitz gone at all. I want him to throw caution to the wind, let the kids play and tell his assistants to go nuts for 60 minutes regardless of score!

    • TommyKo

      I was at the game today and the Illini fans were despondent when we went up 28-10. Little did they know that no lead is safe from the NU defense (of late). It beared little resemblence to the days when you played …. I’ll never forget the games where we beat Notre Dame & Michigan. You were a one man wrecking crew. I’ve never seen a defensive back cause so much havoc on an offense. NU needs someone like you to disrupt the other teams offense. It was a true pleasure to watch you play.

  • jason

    i agree i think we still beat michigan next week. but only because hank fitz and mccall come up with a decent F***** strategy for once.

    • DT

      Gonna take much more than a new game plan to beat Michigan, Jason.. Much more…

  • If Persa is out for awhile, what about the much heralded freshman, Oliver? Of course, Watkins was much heralded, too, and look how that worked out for us. I know these are just college kids, not pros, and we shouldn’t be too hard on them, but it is really frustrating watching all this.

    Can you imagine what Robinson is going to do to our defense next week? The thought of all those Michigan fans going nuts at Ryan Field makes me sick to my stomach.

    • 2O2Die-2O2RnR

      Watkins-“look how that worked for us.” Yea, it was a little rough. Illinois game had 5 practices-Trumpy breaks wrist late in game. IL middle linebacker-Wilson bliz every 3rd and long. Going into Badgerland, Watkins had Arby Field as his starting RB, Trump, Schmidt injured. Arby got out of football shape, after getting demoted. Had 2.2 seconds to throw, since JJ Watt was hitting him after every pass attempt.
      Then versus Texas Tech, he came in when it was 3rd and 12 etc. after Colter ran on 1st-2nd down. Nothwestern should move Watkins to H-back or beef up 30 lbs and become DE. 6’6″-275lbs would look good next year. However, coaches won’t do that since they haven’t recruited a QB for 2012. Since coaches want a duel thread QB, and Colter passing is questionable, we only have 2 QB’s in the system for future, and I’m not sure if Siemien/Oliver are true runners. Like Watkins, both were listed as Pro-Style by Rivals.

  • buckyor

    This is really the first time I’ve seen anyone seriously calling for Fitz’s head. I think most of it is frustration, but that frustration has a basis in the performance we’ve seen on the field.

    I’m not ready to pick up a pitchfork yet, but I’ve seen a lot of things that Fitz and his staff need to work on for some time now. Most of the problems that everyone is upset about now are not new.

    My greatest concern is about Fitz’s general mindset. He’s extremely stubborn, to a fault, and just cannot see where his approach is not working. He’s got a strategy, and he’s sticking with it, regardless of whether or not it’s producing positive results. He’s just unwilling to adjust based on facts on the ground.

    The result of this is that there are some serious problems with this team that Fitz is unwilling to address. To steal a phrase from Desmond Howard, his defense has a lot of Hello Kitty in it. The secondary is remarkably soft, and yet we constantly pull one of our talented defensive linemen in favor of another DB. I cannot imagine how someone with Fitz’s defensive background has allowed this problem to fester for so long. On offense, the coaching staff just will not put the players in a position to succeed. Diving Jacob Schmidt into the heart of the line every first and second down is destined to lead to a lot of 3d and longs. The offense’s predictablility puts a lot of unneeded pressure on the players.

    I’d like to think that things are going to improve as this season goes on. But I’m not convinced. Fitz does not strike me as a particularly introspective guy, yet introspection from our head coach is exactly what is needed most right now. He really needs to spend a lot of time thinking about his entire approach in coaching this team every week.

    FYI- my captcha seems to include hebrew letters. WTF? I guess I’ll try the souind version

    • surfmen93

      Very well said. I hope Fitz sees that. Usually a leopard can’t change his spots, but maybe the coordinators might feel their jobs are on the line and they’ll start pushing him.

  • PBR Cat

    The Water Boy is going to be in rare form (spitting blood) when he posts his commentary later this week.

  • David in Atlanta

    While giving up an 18-point lead is unacceptable, I am sticking with Fitz. (Hankwitz is a different story.) I for one, would rather have a coach like Pat Fitzgerald, than root for a team that gives a knee to the groin without fear of being benched. That cheap shot, and Zook’s non-response to it, now symbolize Illinois football for me. I do not want to be that team.

    • DT

      In that Fitz has a legal document that says he will be here or paid as such for ten years, good thing you are hip to sticking with him…

    • NU Cat ’95

      @David in Atlanta: Those aren’t the only two options, of course. It’s possible to have a good coach who’s a competent in-game manager whose players don’t kick opponents in the nuts.

  • Lake The Posts

    @David In Atlanta. 100% agree. Well said.
    @All – The Great, The Good & The Disappointing coming up shortly…

    • john

      Ill start it – we are all in love with him for the WRONG reasons….HE IS AVERAGE!!! Why do we all want to think he is so great? Oh – thats because we are all Northwestern fans and a 7-5 season is GREAT to us. What other Big Ten School would deal with his record – not many programs that win and want to stay winners

      Listen – NU has Chicago hooked and biting what it is selling…..the tickets are being sold and the focus is there – and then THIS…..embarassing. And we will continue to just deal with it and say blah blah blah – it is better than it used to be or he is just getting started or its a young team. BS!!!!

      EXPECT MORE PEOPLE

      EXPECT ACTUAL VICTORY!!

      Barnett was better – and WALKER (RIP) MUCH BETTER!!!!

      Forget he was in the 95 Rose Bowl – forget the romance associated with him being a former NU ALL American. He is now moving htis place back

      And watch – he wont change or learn a thing fom today

      And he wont fire one coach this year even if they dont win another game

      Pathetic

      • buckyor

        Actually, Fitz was in the Rose Bowl the same way I was- as a spectator. He had a better seat, though.

        • john

          oh – but ofcourse I knew that – He would have stopped K Johnson for sure if he played and been worshipped even further

          LOSE FITZ

  • Let me share a quote from the movie “Patton”

    Now there’s another thing I want you to remember. I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose and we’re going to kick him in the ass. We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we’re gonna go through him like crap through a goose.

    Northwestern’s entire team needs to see the movie or at least read the speech. Substitute [team of the week] for “Hun” and that pretty much summarizes what needs to be done. There should be no “prevent” anything – all that “prevent” is preventing is a Wildcat win.

    When the Wildcats have intensity and fire, they can hang with anyone and defeat most of them. But NU doesn’t have the talent to make do with “cruise control.” We’re supposed to have intelligent athletes, presumably they can adjust as long as they are coached to do so…

  • CrankyCat

    How does he give us the best chance of building a winning tradition when all he does is coach himself out of winnable games? Fitz has gotten a pass for years on certain basic things as being a young coach, inexperienced, etc. We also cut him slack because he’s our guy.

    But yeah I’d rather have a guy who might get hired away. That way at least he’s incentivized to do something. If our coach gets hired away it means they’ve delivered some results.

    I’m not giving up my tickets yet. But the school should be seriously concerned that in the year that we were finally supposed to make some strides (attendance up, PersaStrong campaign), we are going backwards.

  • Narcissus Smith

    Most has been said already, and I agree with the main sentiments: we have to change our approach on offense, we’re not a team that can slow down the tempo to protect a lead, and if we can’t create pressure up front our secondary is going to get torched.

    I know Jeravin Matthews switched positions in the middle of his career, and his last couple games before this one he did well, it seemed. After what Momah did to him at BC, I thought we were in for a disaster; today renewed that fear. Not that Hankwitz does him any favors… the “prevent” defense we run just gives more time for our secondary to be exposed. We have to be aggressive on both sides of the ball or we’re overmatched. HOW CAN SOMETHING THIS OBVIOUS ELUDE OUR COACHES?

  • Ahmed

    Guys, Fitzgerald is a great guy and a great motivator. However, I think he is better utilized as head of our cheerleading squad than the head football coach. We nee a better game manager, a better strategistand a bette r tactician.

    • pissycat

      Lets pay out his salary to recruit for $2mm a year – he can focus on that perhaps

      Im cancelling my season tickets and not renewing my basketball ones either now

      Carmody is worse

    • surfmen93

      Or keep Fitz as the head coach (general manager) and have the DC/OC really run their show more aggressively to be a better game manager. The head coach should really only be saying a few things a game to a coordinator (when to be aggressive or conservative, when to go for it on fourth down, key personnel substitutions). That’s the part we as fans think we understand and don’t get why the guy getting paid misses things we can see. If he’s as stubborn as buckyor said, who will push him to listen?

  • Ahmed

    Hcattle95, the problem is that NU fans feel that we should be thankful for every single win we get. We feel guilty about raising our expectations for NU. Unless our expectations change, we will continue to wallow in despair after witnessing the crap we witnessed today.

  • zeek

    Fitz’s problems right now are exactly the same as Zook’s just a few years ago.

    He’s having problems with his basic philosophy of prevent offense/defense.

    I think they’re fixable, and I think he’s the right guy as the Captain of this ship. But his defensive coach probably needs to be replaced. And either him or McCall needs to get their act together about playing the “run run pass punt” strategy at the end of games.

    • I agree that Fitz is the right guy for this team. But his coordinators need to get aggressive and stay aggressive. And if they can’t do so they need to resign and go.

    • surfmen93

      +1, rec’d.

  • CatInTheHat

    I’m getting VERY f’ing tired of being a Northwestern Wildcats fan. We travel all over the country–Boston, Dallas, Tampa, El Paso, freaking Champaign-Urbana, IL, and get sh*t on every single time. VERY TIRED OF THIS. There is ZERO JUSTIFICATION for giving up an 18-point second-half lead.

    Z-E-R-O.

    • DT

      @Cat In The Hat-
      Cat, I’ve grown to know you as one of the nice and prudent people on this blog over the last year or so… The fact, you have hit the wall is very telling to me… I think many NU fans, myself very much included are tired of losing the big games and then being fed a line of pabulum from the program not to mention the folks as well meaning as they might be, who fear losing a 36 year old guy, (with a five year losing conference record, having never won a bowl game at any level of association), would put the program back in the so called dark ages… Just not the case… One poster on the thread, mentioned Mike Leach… Love him or hate him, would be perfect for the NU job… We need to score points… He’s the man… LTP has taken shots at me for an admiration for June Jones… Turned around SMU in two years… Beat TCU today… They have a system, a specialty and timeline.. That does not exist at NU… Fitz, is a nice young man, solid motivator, decent recruiter and quality spokesman… That, not game management or player development, is his skill set…

      My main discontent is with an Athletic Director who gives a young man with that level of qualification a 10 year contract at a million plus (for an attendance challegned program no less) a year. Further, who is giving supervision to an Athletic Director that cavalier with money and job security in the process? Shaprio? Ryan? Learfield? One thing to call out McCall and Hankwitz for their obvious shortcomings… The program is on the shoulders of Phillips and Fitz… If you like 6 win seasons, these are your guys.. At this point, I just want to see them win a bowl game via those six wins… Forget anything more… Just not there…

      • CatInTheHat

        @DT

        I really do value and appreciate your kind words. Thank you very much for them. I love the NU community and view it as family, so what you and other quality posters have to say is extremely important. You are always realistic bordering on pessimistic (in a positive way, if that makes any sense, because you care so much about this program), and I think it’s a perspective that we desperately need right now.

        Am I going to abandon the ‘Cats? Absolutely not, but my sentiment is genuine. I have been a strong cheerleader for Fitz since the day he was hired and have very deliberately stayed out of the fray among those who would question his fit for this program.

        Today marks the end of the free ride that I have given Coach Fitzgerald thus far.

        You stated it more eloquently than I ever could–he is a company man, a NU guy, and the greatest cheerleader/ambassador that we have, but that is simply not translating to the wins we should have and certainly is not worth 16 years at seven figures per.

        While economics preclude us from realistically looking at a Mike Leach or a June Jones, I think that your approach is spot-on. I’m at the point where I WANT W’s. Period. Wins. Wins, wins, wins. And yes, like you, I WANT A FREAKING BOWL VICTORY. Depending on how one looks at the situation, we are either stuck with Fitz (the way I feel after the last two dismal coaching performances), or we are invested in him (the way I feel after wins like Iowa last year). So be it. He is our man, and though his cachet has certainly fallen with me, I am still behind him. As long as Fitz is our coach, for better or worse, the best we can ask is simply to end The Drought and then see where it goes from there.

        I am so frustrated. I am so disappointed. I am so fed up. But I am a Wildcat, and a damn proud one. It’s time for Fitz and his men to either coach their kids to the peak of their potential or overhaul the coaching staff and start coaching like an aggressive Big Ten man should. It’s put up or shut up time for this program. 16 years of “gosh darnit we’re respectable!” is enough. Time to prove it or, as you said, DT, find another approach.

    • buckyor

      While I share your frustration, I will *never* tire of being a Northwestern fan. I was a fan my freshman year when we were 0-11 and set a record for consecutive losses; I will be a fan forever, regardless of the record.

      • CatInTheHat

        Agreed, agreed. I am blowing off some steam, but I think that frustration is justified.

        Read my post above for a more thorough explanation of my feelings.

  • zeek

    The only question I have for those who think offense wasn’t in part to blame is, when has Northwestern ever finished a game with momentum?

    We almost always rely on the \Cardiac Cats\ approach to win, but that can really harm the team if the loss of momentum becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    You say 35 points were enough to win, but what game were you watching. we had 28 points at the end of 3 quarter and then let them have the ball for most of the final quarter.

    Their scoring drives were 1-2 minutes in length. That means that you have to win the possession battle way more in order to win.

    How do you think Army wins games? They have to absolutely dominate the TOP and sustain drives. We’re kind of like that because our defense has been pretty bad the past year and a half.

    Every time we slow our offense down after getting a big lead, we end up coughing up most of the lead. Why? Because our basic philosophy is to try to bleed the clock and hope the defense holds.

    But we aren’t built for that. Our recruiting strengths are the receivers/skill players. We aren’t built to hold 3 score leads for longer than 10 minutes. Why? Because our offense can’t pull off sustained drives with 2 runs and then a pass.

    Our team is built to win shootouts. Our team is built to win by pushing our momentum and trying to hit 40+ points. Yet, every game where we have 20+ points in the 3rd quarter, we almost never hit 40+ points. Ask yourselves why…

    • surfmen93

      also rec’d

    • skepticat

      I never said the offense didn’t share in the blame, I’m just saying that the offense wasn’t the reason we lost. Going back to the post about Dan Persa coming back, I pointed out that our average points-per-game with him was 26. Northwestern Highlights went on to comment that our average TOP in Big Ten play with him was 30:05. We met or exceeded both of the wickets yesterday, and more often than not, that formula’s gotten us a win. That said, the offense was feast or famine yesterday — either a touchdown, or a three-and-out. They were unable to either put together some clock-killing drives or put the game out of reach with more points. And I’ve said in the past that the offense hasn’t been able to close the door on the opponent when it matters, and in general, I would agree that’s a result of getting too conservative with the play-calling when attempting to hold onto a lead.

      But good lord, a year after setting all sorts of school rushing records, Illinois did the same through the air — and this is a team built for running the ball! I mean, basically any time you want to set some new offensive records, just play our defense. And that’s become an unsettling trend with too many opponents. I’m just a little surprised that people would come away from yesterday’s game saying we need more offense. In the context of basically having no defense, I guess that’s true — obviously you lose the game if you score less points than the other team. But they did their job, giving the defense a 4-point lead with 1:15 left. How about somebody, anybody, making a stop at that point?

  • Nudone88

    Love the passion! Fickle, maybe. No bowl game this year. Basement- Indiana Minnesota Purdue Us

  • gary68

    DT, we do need serious changes. But for me they don’t yet go to the head coach. I see it from a long perspective, of a football program that has attained a level it has not had since the sixties. And I think Fitz can take it to a higher level yet, and maintain it for decades to come. He is a great guy, with a very unique background for his university, and I would like see us leverage that.

    That is not to say we don’t need changes. We certainly do. He’s got to learn how to be demanding with his assistants, and fire them when they can’t respond. As a particularly young coach, move into the position early, he perhaps hasn’t figured that out yet. And he’s going to have to learn fast, much faster than he has. Sticking with the same basic 3 man rush with big leads has failed, and they need more flexibility and creativity from the defensive coach, or a new defensive coach. Same with the play calling offensively.

    Phillips, or someone, needs to talk to Fitz and get his head in the right place on this. Changes need to be made, results improve, or heads roll. Just hopefully, imho, it can be done under Fitz’s leadership so we can build from where we are today.

    • DT

      Appreciate the perspective, Gary68… Net/net, six years in, I expect more from the Head Coach, be it Pat Fitzgerald or whomever… If you among others are betting futures on good Ole #51, I hope you are right… He certainly needs help nonetheless… Game management and adjustments under his watch are abysmal, particularly with leads… We as a fan base do him or the program no favors cutting him slack on performance that would be subject to significant critique if another coach without the sentimental affinity Pat has via his playing days were leading the program. Again, I think Phillips was cavalier and reckless in giving the young man what I’ve heard is a ten year contract. There are a handfull of coaches in college football that have earned that level of job security and compensation.. Pat, is nowhere near that sphere of influence…

      I’ve missed one home game (Ryan Field games…) since 1994 and do not advocate folks talking about boycotts or not renewing season tickets, etc. I still feel we get six wins this year and still have the opportunity to win a bowl game, that IMO is the most important thing this program can do this year… Plenty to play for on that basis. Yet, this team is no closer to a Big Ten Championship, Top 25 finish, or BCS trip then when Randy Walker had the program before Fitzgerald took over… I was not happy about things circa The Hawaii Game in 04, blowing a 20 point lead, nor the Sun Bowl, blowing a 20 point lead… Penn State last year and U of I yesterday, is the same vintage. Period..

      • Gary68

        Good comments DT. I totally agree on Fitz needing help. He needs to learn a lot of this on the job, rather than under Walker’s tutelage. (Frankly I almost think he needs management lessons–he needs to be more demanding of his coaching staff, and if they don’t perform make changes.) I hope he can pull it off.
        Hopefully we’ll get better play calling offensively at Michigan (I think we will with a stronger Persa), and I think the offense will be fine. and on the defense, maybe we’ll be OK because we won’t have a lead until the end of the game. :) The defensive situation in blown leads is the most frustrating for me.

        I was a regular at the games for years, football and basketball, but live in California now, only see one football game at Ryan Field,,,,,but basically all the rest on tv. (I watched the goal post come over the south end zone stands in the “Lake the Post” game.)

  • GO55

    When you cannot hold a team with less than a minute and a half it is BAD. Not rushing Scheelhause when you know he has to pass is BAD. When you have a major penalty on a pass which would have been incomplete is BAD. This and the Army game should have been WINS. Both losses are on the coaches.

    I was in Champaign for the game. And, I kept telling my wife that I have never seen such poor play calling. We were definitely the best team that day anyway. Illinois is nothing but a bunch of THUGS (as someone said) Allen and Brown should both be thrown out of the Big 10! It is going to a LONG season.

  • S myers

    Hey, Illini fan here and I am delighted to see this game turn into a real rivalry. It’s good for both programs. We need a rival and you’re all we have.

    Game on!