Well, we knew the day would come. I was kind of hoping it would be sometime in two decades after posting 22 straight victories over Iowa, but alas, our mastery of Iowa is gone. With it, so might be any bowl hopes for 2011 as NU continues to spiral and wound up losing 41-31 in a exorcism in Kinnick on Saturday night. Northwestern (2-4,0-3) was moving at will on Iowa on a typical Dan Persa drive in the 1st quarter when he threw a very atypical pass to the two yard line which was picked sixed for a 98-yard TD and NU was in a 10-hole. The hole would grow to 17-0 before NU did its normal Iowa comeback drill. The ‘Cats defied the odds putting up gaudy stats but few points until the 3rd quarter when we blanked Iowa 10-0 and both teams’ fans thought “here we go again!” However, a healthy dose of Marcus Coker ramrodding our D-line (124 yards) with a nice mix of “where the hell am I???” from our secondary led to a bloodbath of 24 points by Iowa in the 4th. Iowa had two gimme TDs on complete collapses in our secondary, yet again, in the broken record theme of our season. Iowa (4-2,1-1) snapped a 3-game home losing streak vs NU and won for the first time at home since 2002 against the ‘Cats.
Dan Persa was productive, but NU struggled for much of the game converting red zone opportunities for points. Fitz employed a Michigan-like rotation of Persa and Colter, who was brilliant, sans one play (a terrible pitch on third and five that took us out of FG range for all intents and purposes). Persa was hammered throughout the night by an Iowa “D” that was in contain mode and did just that while redefining bend-don’t-break conceding 495 – yes 495!!! yards to NU. Persa was 31/40 for 246 yds with 1 TD but it was his pick six and the seemingly 14-point swing that really turned this game, and the vibrant crowd in this one.
Kain Colter took quite a few snaps at QB and was playing in a 6th gear as an option QB who was running at will at times, made a few good passes and hauled in one of the catches of the year for NU. Jeremy Ebert had a career night with 13 rec and a TD, but NU just continued to stall in the Red Zone. When you go 16-22 on third down, pass for 342 yards, put up 495 yards and own TOP at halftime 21 minutes to 9 minutes you expect to win by double digits.
However, our “D” is extraordinarly bad against the pass and gave up two huge gimme TDs once again. The big play jinx is on in 2011 and you wonder if we’ll lose this team. So much for the senior leadership as Persa did his all as did Ebert and Dunsmore, but our secondary got torched for the big play we feared. Vandenberg was a modest 14/22 for 224 yards and 2 TDs with one tremendous pick by Demetrius Dugar. The only silver lining on this lost season was the stellar play by both Kain Colter and the continued fantastic play in limited minutes by QB Trevor Siemian who looked money and again threw for a TD, this one a picture perfect 35 yard TD to Rashad Lawrence in mop-up time.
Make no mistake about it, changes need to be made in Evanston as the staff has proven it is incapable of the same mistakes in the secondary – glaring mistakes – from happening again and again. Northwestern has lost four straight games and five straight Big Ten games. With Penn State, a likely Top 20 team and a phenomenal defense coming to Evanston, the schedule actually gets tougher. If you feel like you’ve had this feeling before, it’s because you have – it was called 2001 and it was unbearable. This was not the way Dan Persa was supposed to go out in his senior season. Let’s hope he’s got the entire bag of Cardiac ‘Cat-ness ready to go for the final six games as we’ll need every ounce of it. Let the venting begin…the so called media seems to be taking the tone of the “so called fans” – here is the link to Teddy’s story.