SOS – Hawkeyes Exact Revenge; Same Old Story For ’11 ‘Cats

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.


  • zeek

    Our season is looking like a 5-7 kind of season (maybe 4-8), but there’s still a decent chance that we log an upset and get to 6-6.

    I’m going to say that it must happen against Penn State for us to really be able to turn the season around. If we fall to 2-5, then we’re likely on our way to 4-8 or 5-7.

    It might sound harsh, but we are a 4-8 or 5-7 team right now. We haven’t put together a full 60 minutes of clean play against a decent opponent. Not even close.

    We play to our potential for around 25-30 minutes per game and then there’s silly errors all over the place in the 4th quarter.

    I really do like where our future could be in 2013 though. But we need to clean up a lot of stuff in terms of coaching and development of players before that. The 2nd half of this season and next year could be rough.

    At this point, I just hope we get some more wins for our seniors like Persa and company who gave us a great couple of years. We also need to start developing players who can help us out next year since that’s going to be a tough year with the number of players we have graduating.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I don’t think it is unfair to call this a 4-8 team right now. We are 2-4 at the midpoint of the season. Minnesota, Indiana and Rice should be wins, but at this point I just do not know. Any team seemingly can find a way to attack and exploit our secondary. The safeties are a wreck or there is some serious miscommunication between the corners and the safeties. We could sure use a bye week right about now to regroup. Instead, we have to correct our mistakes on the field.

      It feels like we are close. But a few critical errors and we are in a hole too big to climb out of. There is just too much pressure put on Dan Persa and the offense to deliver. They are good, but not this good. Not Brett Basanez covering up all the defense’s mistakes good. Not C.J. Bacher with some crazy 350-400 yard passing game good.

      It might be hard to admit, but we might have to lower our expectations for this team and just watch for improvements and signs of hope. I hate saying that. But this team looks off right now.

      • zeek

        Close to what though?

        I mean how do we reconcile the fact that these games look close at certain points with the fact that our defense can’t buy a stop at all at critical points in the game.

        It could take 2 seasons to fix this defense. And our offense is nowhere near as good as it was last year.

        Last year in the first 10 games our offense could almost will itself to drive the ball for 7-8 minutes and then score at the end.

        We’re having a lot of problems doing that consistently in the 2nd half of these games. Persa really looks like he’s having a tough time making decisions in the pocket, and our line play has never been good enough to allow him time to make a decision. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t look at quick as he was last year.

        I think we need to lower expectations for this and next year. We’re 1/4th the way through rebuilding, but my biggest problem is that Fitz doesn’t seem to realize it.

        We need to thoroughly rebuild the defense and probably the offense as well since Persa doesn’t look like he’ll be back to 2010 form at any point in this season.

        • buckyor

          Persa looks like he’s pressing, trying to make a big play every down. In another post I call his play Favreian, and I think it is, because at times #4 seemed to think he needed to make a big play every down. Unfortunately those plays usually ended up as disasters, like Persa’s ill-advised pick-6.

          However, all that considered, I think he’s still playing pretty well, especially considering the fact that the offensive line is just awful once again. At some point the guys on that line, who are supposed to be both talented and experienced, need to perform at the level they are expected to. Right now they’re pathetic.

          Is that coaching, or are they really not as talented as we thought? I’m not in a position to know; what I do know is that their performance is tremendously subpar, and if it does not improve significantly we will be looking at a 4-8/5-7 type of year.

          • PBR Cat

            Dan Persa is a remarkable player, but he definitely seems to be favoring his surgically repaired Achilles tendon. He is forcing passes and running the football less often.

            Special teams play has been hurting the Wildcats too, but, with so much focus on the defense’s repeated lapses,
            nobody is calling out the fact that NU’s opponents usually start drives with excellent field position.

            Last week, there was plenty of talk about the offense needing to help the defense by keeping the ball and controlling the time of possession. Well, the offense was on the field for much of the game, but the well rested defense still could not do enough to slow down Iowa. Thirty points ought to be enough to win a game.

          • Gary68

            Dan Persa is an incredible young man and I would say one of the most dedicated athletes in NU history. His comeback from injury and surgery has been Persa-esque. Unfortunately some things can not be undone, and I’m afraid the achilles tendon injury is one of those. Dan Persa of 2010 was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate both mentally and physically. Unfortunately at this point he has lost that “half a step”. Last year he would have ran out of a couple of those tackles, and deeked away from others.

        • Philip Rossman-Reich

          That is the question. I think the team had moments last night where it looked like it was putting it all together. The offense certainly seemed to be on the doorstep of doing something really special. But like one of the comments below says, Persa is trying to do too much. He may have bought in to the Persa Strong talk and is not making the safe/right play of taking a sack or throwing the ball away. That is something you have to do as a senior quarterback and two-year starter.

          The defense had moments. But they have not gotten anything resembling a decent push into the backfield since the first half of the Illinois game. That is the most concerning thing from them. Especially considering the defensive line is not too bad. The secondary is a complete mess as there are major communication problems.

          But still, after all these problems, NU has had a chance to win every game it has been in. And that is all you can ask for. It comes down to execution and making the plays. Right now the Cats are not doing that. If they start making those plays, this season might be salvageable.

          • cibercat

            agree gary68…Persa’s injury is a 12 month recovery…and that does not mean at 365 days he would be back to where he was….clearly a step behind last year and cannot get away from the rush and make plays….saw a video of him at the great lakes practice and was still limping….looked over and told the wife he will not be able to do what he did last year

    • “It might sound harsh”?????? You are really dreaming. There is very little talent here, and I shudder to think what will happen next year. The secondary is as bad as I have seen since around 1976. If you think this team will be close to 6-6, you are dreaming. I will worry about 2013 in the spring of 2013.

  • zeek

    Also, dare I say we were the ones who were predictable this time?

    Last year, Persa said about Iowa that we knew what they were going to do.

    This year it felt like they knew exactly what we were going to do. We were going to run a lot of short plays in order to move the ball and control the clock.

    But they knew that as long as we didn’t get TDs, it wouldn’t matter how much yardage they gave up between the 20s. I felt like that was a big part of the difference in this game. They knew exactly how to stop us near the redzone.

  • NUdone88

    I said it in your other article.

    We are being “Out-Athleted” in every game.

    Expect Losses (to pile up quickly, for awhile).

    Sorry, I’m a huge fan too. I can’t invest anymore emotion into this. Cost benefit analysis.

    Make some changes. I liked QB13 and our WRs are a good core.

    • zeek

      We’re not getting out-athleted though.

      We’re only playing well for like 20-25 minutes.

      Out-athleted was Minnesota getting absolutely wrecked by Michigan.

      We’re just getting badly out-coached and mis-executing. Our defense looks like they have no clue what they’re doing out there on the field. They look absolutely lost on coverages.

      Our athletic ability has nothing to do with the fact that their players are running around the center of the field with no Wildcat within 10 yards. That has nothing to do with athletic ability.

      • LakeCountyCat

        uh, we’re definitely getting “out athleted”. The fact that our coaching has tanked so quickly has magnified it. We used to be able to depend on game planning on scheme to compensate for the deficiency but now it’s really exposed. The few All athletes we have are on the offensive side of the ball. Browne is the only guy really shows promise on defense.

        • JimB98

          You’re kidding me right? Have you seen Tyler Scott play? Mabin is also very good. In fact, I would submit that as ATHLETES Dugar and Mathews are as good as any #2 CBs we’ve had. They have speed that we’ve so often lacked. We have lots of other guys that “look the part” on D. They’re just constantly blowing coverages and miscommunicating,

          On offense we have, what may be the best WR corps in the B1G. Even our O-line is full of stout bodies. Adonis and Green are pretty good *athletes* at RB.

          I feel like this is actually one of the most overall talented Cats teams we’ve ever had, which makes it that much harder to watch. This team is never going to be as talented as someone like Mich or Ohio St but we’ve got enough to compete with just about anybody else – you see it in flashes in each game.

          We used to be completely outclassed as far as talent – looked like a bunch of shrimps out there, and we had to “coach them up.” Now we have the talent but apparently not the coaching. Very frustrating. I would say that hands down, this is the worst coaching job since pre-Barnett.

          • jh

            I challenge you to watch that game again and tell me Browne is great. Watch any Iowa pass in the 2nd half and count the number of rush moves he uses. He was stopped cold by Iowa and disappeared with the rest of the defense.

        • wheatoncat

          Browne has sucked big time this year. Looks injured with very little motor since the sack against EIU. Non factor in the last three games.

  • buckyor

    It pains me to say this, but we are really not a good football team right now. We’re still probably better than Minnesota and (hopefully) Indiana, but it’s hard for me to see us as being as good as Purdue. In short- we are bad.

    More troubling than just the losses is that the team seems to play worse each week. Not sure exactly what that’s attributable to; maybe growing frustration, and guys pressing? And I’m sure there is a lot of frustration in the locker room; just as NU fans had high expectations, I think the team did too. We’ll see what sort of leader Fitz really is here; if he can keep the team together and right the ship, or if they start to spiral out of control.

    I wish I were as optimistic as some are; when we see Persa making Favreian decisions and see highly touted players such as Patrick Ward become completely useless (hell, our entire offensive line has been a joke the past two seasons), I can’t see where things get better in the near future. I originally thought this team was a 9-3 team; now I think we’ll be fortunate to get to 5 wins, as I’m still not convinced we can sweep the Rice-Minnesota-Indiana trio, and I don’t see anyone else on the schedule we can beat.

    And no, I’m not calling for Fitz’s firing, but I am again calling for him to spend a lot of time figuring out what’s going wrong here. I’m not encouraged by his proclamations that “we just need to execute better”; yeah, ok, your job is to get this team to do that, and you haven’t done it. So get to it.

    • zeek

      That’s a fair analysis.

      Fitz’s lack of introspection is the most worrying thing to me about this whole thing.

      If he pulls another \so-called fans\ line to avert attention from our horrible defensive efforts, I don’t think anyone is going to jump in to defense him on that.

      And he’s wrong that we just need to execute better. Maybe our offense’s problems are due to a lack of execution, but our defense just looks badly coached and clueless out there. It really doesn’t help that all of our defensive players are converted from other positions typically, but it’s especially glaring how our defense just doesn’t look like they know what they’re supposed to be doing.

      As for fixing it, it could take a year or two to fix at this point. There doesn’t look to be any easy fix that can be worked in at the halfway point in the season.

      We have to hope our offense can score almost every time it touches the ball and that we can put up 40+ points every game. That looks like our only shot other than making sure we win the turnover margin (as in we turn it over 0 times while hoping they turn it over once or twice).

      • buckyor

        Teddy Greenstein is tweeting that the secondary doesn’t even know what defense they are in. Umm- what? Really? We’re halfway through the season and the defense doesn’t know what the defensive call is? That’s clearly a coaching breakdown that needs to be addressed. I don’t know what can happen this season, but stuff like this makes it clear that there’s gonna be some changes there.

        • Philip Rossman-Reich

          Miscommunication is the word he used, I believe. That does not surprise me. The safeties and cornerbacks are on a completely different page right now. The fact this has not been fixed is inexcusable. Plain and simple.

      • What I don’t get about Fitz’s “We need to execute better” comments is that HE IS THE ONE WHO GOT US THESE PLAYERS. It doesn’t make him sound much better to blame it on them.

  • Steve K

    One interesting thing about this team is that they sort of prove the fallacy of momentum. Every time they seem to have the momentum, the opposition goes on to lay 28 points on them.

  • ScottCat

    Cats are awful. Defense is just a joke.

    I’m laying this year squarely on the coaches’ shoulders.

    Can you believe what Fitzgerald gets paid for the results he’s getting on the field???? What a joke…. He is way overpaid.

    He better start doing something to fix all this.

    • Robert the Buckeye

      Fitz needs to go. Sorry, but he looks like Fickell(played during the same time as well). Guy can’t get the D right and came off as a whiny little bitch during the U of M game. At least Fickell has a massive o line and rbs to rely on. You guys are woefully still undersized to compete with the big boys to boot. How you looked so dominant in the first half against U of M then laid an egg after half time tells me Fitz can’t make adjustments

      • Lake The Posts

        Can’t fault you for your opinion but the notion we are undersized is a fallacy. From a size standpoint, we’re equal to the Big Ten big boys. It’s the coaching and execution where you are right.

    • “He better start doing something to fix all this….” or else WHAT?? You’re going to fire him??? Remember his contract.

      • DT

        Thank you for cutting to the chase!!!

  • zeek

    Spare me the out-athleted excuse.

    Some of the guys on defense who are blowing coverages consistently had offers from Big Ten schools or comparable schools and were relatively heralded at their positions.

    You’re telling me that these guys aren’t good enough? They’d be playing at places like Stanford if they weren’t on our defense. Guys like Campbell among others.

    I think our main problem is coaching on the defensive side of the ball. Too many players look like they have no idea what they should be doing on certain coverage schemes.

    • I suppose we will never know how these guys would have played at Stanford or wherever, but the point is, if they played as badly as they play here, they wouldn’t be starting because those schools have some depth. We have Mathews as a starting corner? He is five inches shorter than the receivers he covers! Fitz doesn’t have anyone better than that to play the position, after all these years of recruiting? And Mathews wouldn’t be starting corner for Stanford, I can assure you.

      • Richard

        Not saying that we have athletes in the secondary, but you need to watch some more football (not just NU). CB’s almost every where give up about 5 inches to the WRs they’re covering (CB’s need to be quick in adjusting to the WR’s they’re covering; WR’s don’t as they know which way they’re turning from the get-go, and having a lower center of gravity helps in balance).

        In fact, the differential between the height of the average CB in the NFL and average WR in the NFL is about 5 inches.

      • Marslayzee

        Mathews didn’t start this week. Dugar did. Was burned badly twice but also had that phenomenally athletic pick play.

        Also, cornerbacks are quite typically 5 inches shorter than the WRs they cover. That’s not anything special.

        Make a real argument.

  • PBR Cat

    This one is another painful loss to a beatable opponent. Iowa did not look so good as much as Northwestern looked really bad. It was as if the Hawkeyes were gifted with 28 of their points. Dan Persa made a poor decision which became a “pick six” interception (it also looked as if his throwing arm was hit as he was releasing the ball). I really question the wisdom on the first of the two on-side kicks when more than four minutes were on the clock. Probably the worse play of the night occurred when Persa was sacked and an NU line player could not gather in the fumble.

    The defense looks awful — Iowa is not that good of a team right now, but Northwestern made them look better. It is hard to envision six wins on the schedule now.

    • zeek

      The only good thing about the on-side kicks were that it shows that even Fitz had lost confidence in the defense.

      That was a Zook-like move in some respects, but at least it showed he was aware that our defense was less likely to get a stop than a 20% chance of an on-side kick working…

      • PBR Cat

        @Zeek: I was thinking the exact same thing when the Wildcats tried the first onside kick. Fitzgerald has lost any confidence in the defense making an important stop, so he is trying to have the special teams unit take charge of the situation.

        Mistakes and miscues doomed the Cats (again) tonight, but I will question why Fitz has to constantly incur the wrath of the officials by not keeping the players and coaches, including himself on the sidelines. That was a stupid and costly penalty tonight. Fitz needs to respect the sideline and stop entering the playing field so often.

        • Robert the Buckeye

          Another thing, that isn’t Fitz related, but is a big reason your program isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and that is Ryan Field, etc. If you want to get 5 star recruits to play for you, or at least a good many 3 stars you better upgrade that stadium a bit. You need to throw some money at the football program. Some big recruit isn’t going to want to play for a program with a MAC type stadium, with second tier training facilities. I totally respect that Northwestern hasn’t totally sold out to sports like the rest of the Big Ten, but if you want to win at football/basketball you better do something to attract the talent.

          • Also a problem for us: we don’t provide free tatoos. Go worry about your own program.

          • NUinNY

            The problem isn’t that Robert is from OSU, it’s that our poor-quality facilities, while a real problem, aren’t the number one (or two or three) issue.

            Particularly in a bad season, Lprof, let’s at least continue to show we have restraint and class.

          • ByebyeFitz

            Robert is totally correct. I feel embarrassed to bring friends to Ryan Field. No 5 star recruit will ever want to play at that Stadium.

            Don’t get mad at buckeye because he told the truth.

  • Mark

    Shows what I know. Before the season I thought the play of the front 7 on defense was the key to the season. Turns out that it’s the defensive backfield – I thought Mabin and Peters would transfer knowledge to their colleagues but leaving people wide open – as opposed to getting beat – has to be unacceptable.

    Also, before the season I thought this team could contend for the division if not for the conference title.

    I feel bad for the seniors as I have to believe they thought they were going to get it done this year with so much experience and talent.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      The secondary has definitely been a bigger problem than we anticipated, Mark. But I would still argue it is all tied together. The front seven has not gotten a great push on opposing offensive lines. They are getting beat there and it has allowed the quarterbacks plenty of time to throw the ball and take advantage of our weak secondary. NU has barely been in the backfield since the first half of the Illinois game. That is very concerning.

      • buckyor

        Excellent point. We are getting beat at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I don’t recall seeing a whole lot of the dreaded three-man rush last night (maybe I missed it in my alcoholic haze), but even rushing four we rarely put any pressure on Vandenberg. Contrast that to Iowa’s front four, which had Persa running for his life pretty much every down (I don’t recall Colter dropping back in the pocket much).

        Fact is, our entire defense is a train wreck right now. On SoP late last night, I had an exchange with an Iowa fan wondering how that could be, in light of Fitz’s defensive background. And I really had no answers.

  • Pen210

    Another tough loss, and after 4 straight losses it’s hard to take anything positive away from these games. However, I have been really, really impressed with Siemian when he’s played. His passes tonight were perfect; precise with tight spirals and good velocity. I know he’s only come in in low-pressure situations, but it can’t be denied how well he’s performed (as a freshman no less). I’m excited about the potential of our offense; I know it might be too soon to say, but I think the Siemian/Christian Jones combo is going to be fantastic. I hope Fitz gives him the job over Kain next year!

  • Steve

    Fitz is still my guy… I will continue to support him for the long haul. This season is clearly a HUGE disappointment when it was supposed to be one of the best of recent years. We clearly need to fix some things. Our Red Zone Offense has been terrible for YEARS. I don’t know how to fix it, but we need to hire someone at OC who does. Same with DC. Hank seemed to be doing well, but the honeymoon period is over, and apparently we suck. Jim Phillips and Shapiro seem willing to put money towards sports, so we need to spend it to get coordinators who can coach our guys up.
    Maybe it is naive of me, but I will support 51 forever. (And I didn’t start school until 2000.)

    • zeek

      I think our program will be on a negative trajectory this year and next, but Fitz is the right guy for the long haul.

      Fitz’s recruiting has been excellent the past 2 years and the class we’re putting together now. He’s getting the right kinds of kids who want to be a part of the program and understand the value of coming to Northwestern as a student-athlete (lest we forget they’re still just students looking to get degrees at our school since we’re not a football factory).

      He’s also good with the fanbase and outreach for the most part and that’s a pretty important thing to have for a program in a major city.

      He’s typically good at preparing the team and getting them ready to play.

      His biggest weakness is that the team rarely adjusts to what other teams do or what other teams change in the middle of games. He’s too loyal to strategies that he’s thought of before the game even when it’s evident that they’re failing in execution (remember the Colter-Watkins debacle in Wisconsin where Watkins would work up a rhythm only to get subbed out).

      There are obviously other things, but these are the kinds of things he never got to learn on the sideline from many years of being a coordinator at this level.

      But all of that being said, something has to be changed about our defense. It’s obvious that our defense has totally collapsed these past two years and that Persa doesn’t have the ability to cover up for our defense anymore.

      • Al

        Fitz’s recruiting has been excellent? Based on what? Our lack of a feature running back? Our under-sized O and D lines? Our stellar athletes in the defensive backfield?

        If we’re counting on Fitz to self-correct his mistakes, we’re in trouble. This guy has been told he’s the Golden Boy all of his adult life, and I bet he thinks this is all someone else’s fault, and how dare we the fans question the Chosen One. He’s become Northwestern’s Bart Starr. (Young people, look it up) Unfortunately, I think we’ll be looking at the Forty-Four-Foot Genius for 9 more years, until someone raises the cash and grows the stones needed to remove him.

        • timc

          Al, I reluctantly agree. A couple of years ago I was at Meet the Team night. I was talking to Fitz who was holding my young son. I asked him if he thought we would be getting better in the kicking game (field goals). His expression changed to a scowl, abruptly handed my son back, indignantly muttered that “there’s nothing wrong with the kicking game” and walked away. I never forgot that. I see that same guy in his dismissive comments to reporters and about the fans.

        • DT

          @Al and timc-
          I think you gents have identified a huge part of the problem. Many folks here don’t want to admit this young man lacks two of the essential qualities to succeed in life and business, being gratitutde and humility. I remember attending the the Signing Day-recruit announcement function at ESPN Zone 4 years back and hearing Pat tell a group of us who were assembled after the main presentation and Q&A that in essence, those that have never played football don’t undersand the game… His comments echoing the same view after the Wisconsin ass kicking last year and more recently his comments about “so called fans” this past week are just more arrogance and contempt for what is truly a small group of folks in the big picture who give a shit about what the guy is trying to. Obviously, he does not have the answers to the problems and all the rah rah BS is hype.. Currently, the young man stands as the emperor with no clothes.

          The experience timc talks about almost reminds me of Don Johnson’s Golf Pro character on Tin Cup…

          Net/net, young Mr. Fitzgerald will learn some healthy humility via this season and possibly a few more coming up… Also, first lesson of business being to respect your customer.. The fact he has been given a ten year contract and a high level of compensation is the real travesty here.. Phillips, should be fired for that…

          • Scott

            Sorry to hear that, but it points to something that I was ruminating about on this program for a while. That is, whether we have a “management” vs. a “leadership” issue on this team. I think we all recognize the distinction. A leader is the guy who says “it’s on me” and recognizes he needs to move and inspire the passion in his charges. A manager is one who points to a “Senior Leadership Committee” as a means to an end to achieve program morale and stability. Thoughts?

          • Lake The Posts

            @scott – when you really come down to it I think it is about the maturation process of Fitz. I am in no equating myself to Fitz other than the fact we’re both in leadership roles of an organization (my day job). Like Fitz, I was put in charge at an early age, likely way before I was ready. Early on in my career I took any criticism from clients, external sources etc, extremely personally. I evolved to be more open-minded and essentially had the break through that the best leaders are the ones who are selfless and servant and don’t put the pressure on themselves to “have all the answers” or it is a sign of weakness. When you compound this with the “old school football mentality” you get what DT and the unfortunate fan who had his kid given back for asking a question on the kicking game. I believe that the ONLY good coming out of the 2011 train wreck is that Fitz will be forced to look to the outside and those he trusts to be more vulnerable. He has to open up to new ideas, new thoughts, change in management.

            The barbs at “so called fans” is exhibit A of the need for Fitz to be more open to criticism and change. His recent interview with reporters about his want for fans to have great expectations otherwise “go root for another team” is the example of the right type of thinking.
            One of the other challenges a young guy like Fitz chases is addressing the fierce conversations he needs to have with his staff. It’s complete intuition with a tad of insider knowledge, but Fitz is loyal to a fault regarding his staff. He likely looks at making changes to the staff as a scapegoat for what he feels are personal shortcomings. In short, I get the sense he would rather put his own job on the line than fire those that report to him because he is so accountable. He has to realize that others are accountable and as the leader, he’ll have to make those tough choices. Step #1 is a mindset and mental approach to be open to critical and constructive criticism. It’s fine if he doesn’t think we know what we’re talking about, but it’s imperative that Jim Phillips, Gary Barnett and those he trusts have open and honest conversations with him about this.
            It’s a loser rationale, but I’ve flipped in to DT’s mindset (partially) that long-term program good can come out of this wretched season. Humility and a willingness to change are good takeaways.

            I’ll be giving the opus on the above this week as I fully support Fitz as the head coach of NU. I don’t support several members of the coaching staff. Chris Martin, you interested?

          • cece

            part of the problem is the NU mentality…..ass kissing. talked to a classmate who has lots of money. he talks about emailing Fitz/glowing/yada yada. I think there are folks with money and access who are allow to be sycophants. more of the country club mentality that must go. I don’t think Fitz should go, just the overall mentality that may be affecting Fitz as well as the rest of athlete land.

          • PBR Cat

            @Timc: Your comments about the kicking game may have struck too close to home — at Northwestern, the head coach is responsible for working with the special teams. This was true with Randy Walker and it is true with Pat Fitzgerald.

            Criticizing the kicking game is a valid complaint, in my opinion, since, with so little margin for error, the Wildcats need every field goal and extra point, plus all of the benefits to the defense that can be obtained from good kickoffs and punts. I cannot number the total number of losses that we have suffered when we miss a field goal or extra point. As I said, when you questioned the kicking, it looked as if Fitzgerald took it personally since he coaches that unit.

  • skepticat

    Well, it’s plenty clear what ails the Cats this year: defense. When you have a defense that can’t stop anybody, it’s tough to win games, regardless of how what’s going on on offense. It’s as simple as that. Tonight we had almost a 2-1 advantage in TOP (38:23 to 21:37) and still managed to give up 35 points (not counting the interception returned for a TD). And that’s really the story of the season so far: we’re a few defensive stops away from being 5-1.

    I don’t really know whether it’s coaching or talent. In general, I think it’s easier to blame bad coaching than to just admit we don’t have the talent to win right now. Though certainly the coaches are also responsible for the talent that ends up on the field. As I’ve mentioned, this year’s seniors represent Fitz’s first signing class after a tumultous coaching change and rough first season, so I don’t think that a drop off in talent is necessarily unexpected. I also don’t really know what being introspective or adjusting is suppose to accomplish. This isn’t an NFL team where we can plug holes with a free agency. This team is what it is, and assuming we have the best players on the field right now, no amount of schematic wizardy will make up for the fact that we have a secondary that can’t cover anybody. I don’t know that there’s much for it other than to take our lumps this season and hope for improvement next season.

    Also, have to agree with Pen210: Siemian has looked really good in the few series he’s played in. Some very promising-looking talent there for the next few years. Just wish there was as bright a spot on the defensive side of the ball!

    • vaudvillain

      Dugar /might/ be a bright spot on defense. Yes, he did get burned on at least one of the big TD passes (maybe both?) — but his interception was a thing of beauty. Not just being in the right spot to grab a wounded duck — that was a great, athletic play for the ball. I seem to recall that he was involved in at least one or two other good plays. This was his first start at corner, and he is quoted as having been confused about what coverage he was in a couple of times…hopefully that will be cleaned up, and he will develop into a solid corner as the season progresses. But one game hardly evidence of anything. But the challenge was to find a bright spot on D, so I’m trying!

  • zeek

    Well, those of you who are looking at our talent are probably going to be disappointed for another 2 or 3 years.

    Looking back at our recruiting under Fitz, he did struggle to put together classes in his first two years coaching because of the circumstances of his accession to the head coaching job.

    There’s a reason why our defense is a rotating door right now in terms of us throwing things at the wall and hoping something will stick; our classes before these past two were generally not Big Ten-comparable classes. It could take another two or three years to overcome that…

  • AntiqueCat

    The Cats were barely a bowl team last year, and certainly aren’t this. The trend of poor defense and poor scoring, and mediocre to worse line play, has been set for a while. We’re pretty predictable on offense, and haven’t had a consistent deep threat or the ability to run the ball. Persa is about 90% of last year’s Persa (no rap against him at all). All coming together for a forgettable year.

    The one thing that encourages me is that Fitz seemed to change directions a little in his recruiting over the last couple years after the Alamo Bowl, emphasizing both size and athleticism more – he made a comment after that game about speed, and if you look closely at recruits since then you’ll see a bit more emphasis on that.

    A related factor is the least covered NU athletic story of the last 12 months, the complete redesign of the conditioning staff and an apparent change in emphasis. Football now has its own fitness and performance specialist responsible only for football, and the staff as a whole seems to be taking a slightly different approach. I suspect that this is a part of collegiate athletics where NU fell behind and is making a basic move to catch up. When promising HS freshman have their own personal trainers (I mean, good grief, what is this world coming to), or a rising HS senior spends the summer at speed camp to cut 0.5 seconds off his 40 yard time, well, the world has changed. But that change won’t have much affect on football until next year.

    But this year’s performance does cast doubt on the coaching, especially at the position level, and the only way to resolve that doubt is better performance.

  • Alaskawildcat

    If college football kept the kind of stats that major league baseball does, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this was a new record for a loss by a team that had combined huge margin of offensive yards, converted 3rd downs, and time of possession. Of course last week we won the turnover margin and still lost, but that loss was arguably due to the horrid officiating. Maybe the best way to describe this season to this point is that it is an enigma.

  • vaudvillain

    I had very mixed reactions to this game. On the one hand, like everyone else, I see the chances of bowl eligibility starting to get thin. I wasn’t sold on Michigan State before; I am now. For a brief moment after the Wisconsin loss, Nebraska looked like they might be reeling, but they put it together and mounted a comeback against OSU of the variety that we have become all-to-familiar at giving up. Which means, like PRR said before, we need to find a way to beat Penn State next week. But maybe it’s bizarro season — after all, Penn State finally beat Iowa, and Iowa finally beat us, so who knows?

    At any rate, that was on the one hand. On the other — I didn’t feel like I was let down by coaching. Yes, the offense had a couple of miscues, but they were aggressive, and I liked the idea behind a couple of the plays that didn’t quite make it. Yes, the defense gave up a couple of huge pass plays, and our D line was getting manhandled in the 4th quarter. But keep in mind that it took until sometime in the 3rd before Iowa converted their first 3rd down.

    Bottom line: we had two very uncharacteristic turnovers which led to 14 Iowa points (and we were 1st-and-goal when we threw the ill-advised pick-six, so we should have had at least 3 out of that possession). Iowa had another TD that was the direct result of a short field from an unsuccessful onside kick. That is more than the margin of victory.

    We still lost, it still sucks, and for the first time this season, I am seriously doubting whether we can make it to 6 wins. We still have some huge issues to clean up. But I didn’t feel as though our game plan let me down.

    And like others, I continue to be pleased by Siemian and Colter. We might not go bowling this year (though I’m seriously hoping for a full karmic reversal of the Penn State – Iowa – Northwestern circle of fire), but the future is bright. And as much as I cringed when I read Teddy’s article and saw that the secondary didn’t always know if they were supposed to be in zone or man coverage, hopefully that’s a sign that the problem has been identified. That is, after all, the first thing that needs to happen before it can get fixed.

    • zeek

      I think the main issue right now is defense.

      The offense will work itself out when Persa graduates and everyone realizes that we either go with a pocket passer that can move the chains (Siemian) or a wildcat back (Colter). No doubt we’ll have multiple packages featuring both, but it’s obvious that Siemian is the future.

      Also, we’ve got some great receivers coming along, so pairing them up with Siemian’s arm should open up the game a lot more in the future.

      The defense could honestly take 2+ years to fix. The problem is personnel and coaching; and if we didn’t improve over last year, why are we going to improve next year when our team as a whole will get younger?

  • Scott

    Football is won in the trenches … period. No bull-dozers, no runway. No stone wall, no Gettysburg Address. You can’t have one guy (Tyler Scott) with a motor amongst all the trench hogs on either side of the ball and expect to gain a whisper of respect in the BiG, or the MWAC, or the PAL. It is the ONLY place, really, that you can “impose your will” on the football field. I’ve seen Persa throw maybe four errant passes in two years while having to be the Silver Surfer on almost every passing down as waves of defenders gnaw at his ankles … and he STILL makes it work 70% of the time. The overall problem isn’t “athletes,” they are resident in this program, I honestly believe it is the type of play in the trenches and there are smarter football people on this blog that know the reasons for the lack of production there … is it “mindset”? Are we trying to coach them to be too cerebral? Do we not recruit “kill or be killed” athletes, here? Look, MSU and OSU exposed Michigan and Illinois respectively as the pretenders that we knew they were, but we made the lines on these teams look like All Americans … reminiscent of how the Cubs make every No. 3 guy look like Cy Young.

    • vaudvillain

      Scott – in response to “Are we trying to coach them to be too cerebral?”:

      Fitz had a quote in Teddy’s article that was something along the lines of “maybe we’re trying to turn algebra into calculus.” That would indicate to me that perhaps we are making things more complicated than they need to be, and just need to try to simplify. But I’m not sure exactly what that means — I’m just a fan, not a former player/coach.

      • Scott

        Perhaps then, contrary to some other statements here, there is some introspection on the part of Mr. Fitzgerald. This could be counted as a “good thing.” Don’t get me wrong, I admire scheme and complexity … in a fine wine, or a Chopin Impromptu … but my D-lineman don’t need to be thinking about self actualization on every play (which I think I sniffed in the Army game) and play with passion and instinct. Traits which I haven’t seen in the program for a long time (on the lines) and the lack of which leaves us muttering in our oatmeal on Sunday mornings.

    • zeek

      I mentioned earlier that some of these guys were relatively heralded recruits.

      i.e. Ward was a 4 star with offers from top programs.

      I don’t know what the problem is. Our line play has been as poor as it was last year even with another year under these guys belts.

      • Scott


        No counterpoint to this other than I am as suspect of recruiting ratings as I am of celebrity endorsements … you can’t measure “heart” … yadda, yadda, cliche, cliche. Only the recruiter can sense whether his ward (no pun intended – well … maybe) has the, as ESPN’s Mark Schlereth would say, “snot bubble mentality” necessary to play these positions. That guy, incidentally, is a poster boy for what it takes … skinny Alaska kid, recruited nowhere, played at Idaho for crissakes, multiple Superbowl rings, multiple knee operations along the way, no complaints … tough to beat, ever. Admire his career and I hate the Broncos growing up a Raider fan.

        • zeek

          Well, it is hit or miss (i.e. why Notre Dame has been spectacularly bad all these years with heralded recruits, or more recently Florida State or Miami).

          But look at Christian Jones. He could be huge for us in the future and without that injury he would have been a top 4 star recruit (he had offers from all over the place that were yanked). Sometimes the analysts are right on that stuff.

          But I generally agree. We had a lot of solid 2 star recruits on our 8 and 9 win teams the past couple of years, especially on defense.

          I’d give anything to have those guys over some of our “better” recruits the past couple of years on defense that are playing like they have no clue what they’re doing.

      • DT

        God love you for your passion. That said, you can intellectualize it 20 ways to one… Problem simply is that with the level of athlete NU has in the program across the board, the coaching needs to be just that much better than the competition. It is not, to say the very least… The “Bunker” mentality developing from the Head Coach is not the way to manage the crisis either…

        That said, this team can still get to 6-6 and win a bowl… That was my goal from a realistic standpoint after The Texas Tech game…

        • zeek

          I agree 100%.

          Our #1 problem is coaching right now. Like you said, the only Northwestern will ever go anywhere is for our coaches to be better than those of our opponents.

          If our defense is this badly coached, we’re going nowhere except the bottom of the conference; it really is that simple.

          Fitz needs to recognize it and fix it. The problem is that he keeps throwing out excuses to try to deflect the blame. But it’s becoming harder and harder with how bad the defense is playing consistently.

          • DT

            I agree with you… As you probably remember, when I stated the fact I saw NU as a 5-7 team with the upside being 6-6, during the summer no less, more than a few folks swigging The Purple Kool Aid let me have it pretty good… I must admit to a bit of Kool Aid myself after The BC win. I had us losing to both BC and Army on the road in non conference to start the season. The win at BC had me thinking maybe, 7-5.

            Anyway, you are right, we are probably a 5-7 team. That said, 6-6 is still possible. I’ll continue to submit, all this stuff about growth, next level, and every other cliche about this program being Top 25 for instance in the future is on hold, until NU can win a bowl game… ANY bowl game. Much to play for on that level very much including a win in Detroit if The Cats are fortunate enough, or moreover, earn a trip via eligibility.

          • PBR Cat

            As much as I dislike calling for someone’s job security to be threatened, I keep coming back to Assistant Coach Jerry Brown’s charges never quite getting their act together. His coaching responsibilities have been changed several times over the years, but the disappointing results continue. His current assignment is with the much maligned secondary and now there are questions about whether or not these players even know what defensive scheme that they are supposed to running while the game is in progress. Egads!

  • CatInTheHat

    I’ve shifted my perspective on this season. 6-6 is within reach if this team can find a way to start playing four quarters of football. Highly questionable. We’re a 5-7 team, and I’ve gotten comfortable with that, as long as it’s a one-year regression and not a trend. Based on our recruiting and the talent we have waiting in the wings in the current freshman and sophomore classes, this program will be alright as long as Fitz addresses the conditioning problems that have suddenly become so prevalent. Let’s hope for 6-6 but be prepared to dust ourselves off and put this season behind us should we end up at home for bowl season. I maintain that this is not a program killer, as long as the obvious issues are addressed going forward and in the offseason.

    • mwmakerx5

      I think anyone who still hold hope that this team will go 6 -6 and get to the Pizza Bowl is being hopelessly naive. This is a 4 – 8 team! I am an alum and love Northwestern and it pains me to say that. But I was at the game last night and the defensive coverage was that bad. I’d love to be proven wrong.

      I’ve written more at the bottom of this thread

      • CatInTheHat

        I’m not delusional. I believe, like you, that this is a 4-8/5-7 team. However, I also don’t believe that this is a program-killing season. We have quite a bit of talent in the freshman and sophomore classes, along with the incoming recruits. Let’s try and become o.k. with the fact that this is a regression year and an ANOMALY! I think we’ll have a losing season here and then get back on the horse in 2012 and continue down the trail we were blazing between 2008 and 2010. Deep breaths, people. I say that as someone who couldn’t take a deep breath until recently.

  • PBR Cat

    Last night’s loss may well have been the “play in” game for the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in Detroit. If both Iowa and Northwestern finish 6-6 and the invitation is up for grabs between the two teams, I cannot imagine the sponsors not choosing Iowa on account of potential tickets sales. To date, only Northwestern and Purdue have ever represented the Big Ten Conference in Detroit since, in most normal seasons, the Big Ten receives numerous bowl game invites elsewhere and cannot supply Detroit with a team. Unless Iowa finds a way to finish 7-5 and is selected for another bowl, I do not see a 6-6 Northwestern traveling to Ford Field.

    It is sad that so many comments are focusing upon the Pizza Bowl as a fallback game for the Wildcats. In 2003, I was pleasantly surprised that the Wildcats were invited to the Motor City Bowl because that particular team struggled at the start of the season, but gradually improved and won some games late, including some overtime games, to qualify for bowl game. Appearing in the Motor City game was an indication that the team was getting better. In 2011, an appearance in Detroit would be indicative of how far below expectations this 2011 team has fallen. Everybody was operating on the assumption that if not for Persa’s season ending injury in 2010, the Wildcats would have probably won eight games and, maybe a bowl. Now, the Wildcats are truly struggling not to spend the offseason at home.

    • DT

      Great points and solid perspective no doubt… Let’s not forget, should NU get bowl eligible, “At Large” bids exist as well… As a Big Ten team, with a reputaton for exciting “O”, NU would be attractive to those bowl reps on that basis… What has been The Humanitarian Bowl worked on that basis for instance and had some very interesting match ups…

  • Gary68

    From the Trib article, “Cornerback Demetrius Dugar said that on certain plays, called-out “checks” left defensive backs unsure whether to play zone or man coverage.” Obviously that is a huge problem! But it’s not difficult to fix. It does explain how WR’s can run 10-20 yards free behind us.
    However it’s surprising to have something so basic continue week after week. It’s so simple and fixable.

    • DT

      Good thing Dugar was in zone on one play… Enabled his INT..

  • Jim

    Bright Spot

    -QB/WR/RB Kain Colter totaled 147 all-purpose yards-71 receiving and 76 rushing. He als-attempted four passes and threw a touchdown t-SB Drake Dunsmore. Colter set personal highs with a 37-yard rush (NU’s longest of the season) and a 32-yard reception. Colter led all NU players in rushing with 76 yards.

    • DT

      For all the talk about “Athletes” on this blog, the best one on the field last night was in Purple, wearing #2… The kid can play… A matter of finding the right fit and scheme for his talents… Kain learned a valuable lesson or two after the Army game… The question is, did the coaching staff?

      • Jim

        More on Kain

        Kain’s 44 Iowa passing yards added to his 147 equals 191 yards for the game. Our memories are short if we’ve forgotten how down we became on Kain because of his passing limitations in the Army game.
        We must give the coaches credit for the imaginative way that Kain has been used in the subsequent three games. For the season, he has 370 net rushing yards, 471 yards passing and 121 yards receiving.
        This is pretty incredible. He shows a great deal of maturity and resolve for someone his age. He brings a great chemistry to this team and will continue to grow as a great leader and performer.

  • Gary68

    First a caveat: as a fan we don’t see the practice and know a player’s mindset or maturity. But in his initial appearances, Trevor Siemian is by far!, hands down!, the best QB I’ve seen at NU! This is a critical moment for this program, and if I’m Fitz I’m considering how to get Siemian in the game. I’m tempted to start him against Penn State, but probably bring him for series of plays, trying to keep the pressure lower for him. But I want to find out if he’s ready now, because his passing is incredible.
    We have excellent receivers, and a very good offensive line. I’d love to have a star halfback, and maybe one of them will develop.
    Let’s go Fitz!! Put him in now and let’s see. He could develop into the best QB we’ve ever had (well, maybe after Otto Graham–sorry Otto).
    PS: While I’m talking to you Fitz, get the communication straight in the defensive backfield, please.

    • ByebyeFitz

      I totally agree. For a freshman he looks calm and cool in the pocket. I like him and would love for him to start next season and use Kain in for trick plays or as a receiver.

  • MF

    You’ve got to love fan passion, but let’s keep a purple focus:

    1. Our goal is to win next week against Penn State. All we can ask from the coaches and the team is to identify what we’ve done wrong and try to fix it next time we’re on the field.

    2. No one is more disappointed/invested in the team’s performance than the coaches and players who live it 24/7.

    3. Anyone who doesn’t think Fitz is the right person for this job needs to chill out. He can sell the NU brand and coach it up as well as anybody. What NU does NOT need right now is a fanbase turning on the best recruiting/marketing assets we have. Stay with the brand! Get back up and sell the sizzle!

    4. It’s amazing how quickly coaches go from genius to idiot over the course of a couple of games. Wasn’t it two years ago when we were all panicked that someone would hire away Coach Hank for a head job? Did he lose his mind during that time? No wonder the motto in coaching circles is to “stay ahead of the bullet.”

    5. Go Cats.

    • ByebyeFitz

      We need someone who can coach the team, not sell the NU brand. There is no NU brand. What is this NU brand you speak of? Smart athletes go to Stanford for Football.

    • NU68

      “Sell the sizzle” what sizzle?????? Selling the sizzle is what got the team where it is now … all sizzle and no steak.

      • skepticat

        Maybe if “Chicago’s Big Ten team” doesn’t pan out, we can use “All sizzle, no steak.” Ha, ha, just found that comment amusing. :-)

        • cece

          what do you mean “if” “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” “doesn’t pan out”?

          put a fork in that slogan last night.

    • Gary68

      l totally agree on the Fitz comments. The quality of football recruitment classes we’re getting is at all time high, and is improving each year. Fitz will certainly need to grow and learn in his job, but I think he will do that. This is a chance for the NU version of Paterno, and consistent football for decades. And there is certainly room for Stanford, NU and Duke (thinking B-ball on the latter) competing for the smart athletes–response to another poster.

  • Indycat15

    Since LTP is sleeping in this morning, I’ll do my own great/good/disappointing

    1) Great. Offensive playcalling. Quibble all you want about having Colter run the option and fumble on that third down, but we MOVED the ball, we DID what we wanted, we mixed it up with clever and bold play designs (double passes, etc.) and we kept our defense OFF the field. Kudos to McCall for his gameplan and playcalls. Save for the 10 points we gave ‘EM on turnovers, we win the game because of our offense

    2. More great. Backup QB controversy. Colter and Siemien looked fantastic and capable of moving the rock. Colter can play. But guess what? So can Siemien. What a nice problem to have. And he longer throws those two were making, were they not available with Persa in, or was he a little gunshy after the pick?

    The Good
    – no more three man rush. Criticize the coaches all you want, but we brought pressure frequently and never rushed three. Unfortunately, our LBs got stonewalled by their line or hacks almost every single time Hank was rolling the dice, it just came up snakeeyes everytime.
    -running game. Find a way or make a way, but we moved the sticks more often than not with a crew of young RBs and a backup QB. Wasn’t pretty all the time, but we made a dent with our running game despite throwing it more than 40 times.
    -WRs. They’re a pretty good crew, aren’t they?

    The bad
    –almost everything else. Our kick game wast great. Flaherty got a great bounce on his onside kicks but our coverage team got way-layed before they could get the ball…twice. Budzien was 1/2 from 40 plus…and we had a punt that went 15 yards. Not good.
    -defensive push at the point of attack. No excuses. They weren’t tired, they just got blown up. And Iowa isn’t as good a running team as Michigan or Illinois. What gives?
    – secondary miscommunication. Enough has been said about this, but 50 percent of the secondary can’t look lost 50 percent of the time.

    The disappointing
    – the season expectations. Put on your hardhats if you’re a wildcat fan, because it’s time to go to work. And it’s a salvage job at this point. No outback bowl, no chamPionsuip game. Just scrap and claw and get to 6.

    Beat Penn State!

  • Lake The Posts

    @MF – well said. @DT – the concern regarding 6-6 will be not getting the snub a la 2007. As I just posted, the fact is it appears NU would be the 9th bowl eligible team or possibly 10th if Purdue scratches out 3 wins the rest of the way. We should be rooting against Purdue as NU could very well stay at home in a 6-6 bowl eligible but more teams than slots scenario. Ten bowl eligible teams with NU at 6-6 is a recipe for disaster. If you really want to help NU, then we NEED to sellout the Indiana allotment. I was told we sold out the Iowa allotment, but it sure as hell didn’t look like it and it was pretty obvious among the striped sections. However, perhaps there was a section out of view that we packed. Our travel story is extremely unique for Dr. Phillips annual bowl marketing wizardry. Selling out every road game would put us over the edge of other potential, say, MAC teams biding for a bowl at 6-6. Bringing 10K to ARmy etc…that stuff REALLY matters. The NU offense, Fitz as a brand and a database of great road travel will be part of the Phillips road show come bowl time. However, to MF’s point, we need to win Saturday to get a signature win and stop the bleeding. Indiana, Rice and Minnesota are MUST WINS. We don’t want it to come down to being 5-6 vs Sparty on Turkey Day weekend at home. A house of horrors for us vs MSU, aka the dirtiest team in CFB this year.

    • GOCATS95!!!

      MSU is not the dirtiest team in college football. Please give me stats from all SEC, PAC 12, Big 12, etc games before you start throwing around MSU as the dirtiest team in CFB. I have friends who are Florida alums and they say Alabama is the dirtiest team. Like you however they are bias and consider only are rivals as the dirtiest team in CFB. All teams are dirty at some time or another.

      I do agree with you on selling out tickets though. Nobody will take us over Purdue…

      • GTom

        LTP, I think we’re too biased from those mid-’90’s days on this topic (I personally witnessed the WWE style chair throwing in the endzone in 1993). I have to give credit to Dantonio with cleaning things up as it relates to on-the-field play. The past several games have seemed very clean with good sportsmanship all around. Off the field… well, it might be a good idea for MSU to stop beating up its own students. Still, the Oakland Raider style chippiness has seemed to disappear from the program, at least as part of the MSU-NU games.

    • DT

      I get your points, yet in all due respect knowing “Bowls” as we both do, honestly do you really think NU’s attendance or moreover how we “Travel” to Indiana is going to mean a tinkers damn to a bowl selection group? I think not… What Dr. Phillips has going for him is his statistics on disposable income that NU Alumni bring to the table and a modicum of success in travel to mid tier bowls that require significant travel costs and commitment in going to Florida and Texas during his tenure. I’d submit NU’s “O” reputation helps on the television rating potential. All that said, the biggest hook for NU as a bowl team this year is the national attention that would be placed on a bowl offering an invite given the fact the program might win a game for the first time in 60+ years… Ain’t no wizardry from The Good Doctor Phillips on that…

      • skepticat

        Well, plus, what are there, 35 bowls now? I think mathematically that leaves something like 2-3 teams with non-losing records that won’t get bowl invites. I would imagine, if only because of being in the Big Ten, we’d get picked over some other 6-6 team from a non-BCS conference.

  • Bandcat

    Fitz is a work in progress.We all know he bleeds purple. As a former defensive player you know he is dying a thousand deaths with each defensive lapse by his players. He is still NU’s best recruiting tool in our limited “toolbox”…Cats have their backs up against the wall..Lets hope we can claw our way out.. Wonder what the conversation between him and Chris Martin on the sidlines was about.. Fitz needs to put his Stamp on his coaching staff as they are the ones who will make or break him.. Our Homecoming Game becomes the biggest of this season..PMA ala Clement Stone…Beat PSU…..

    • DT

      Nice Clement Stone reference… I’m sure Pat Ryan would like to hear that.. What’s next, Napoleon Hill?

      • bandcat

        I think that the remainder of the season requires more of a “hold on with a bulldog grip,and chew and choke as much as possible” attitude to quote A. Lincoln

        • DT

          Safe to say, Lincoln would avoid a bromide that includes the word ‘Choke” when referenced to include NU Football..

          Stick with W Clement…

  • mwmakerx5

    I was at the game last night and am finally weighing in after a much needed night of sleep. I find it ironic that LTP made reference to the 2001 season. I turned to a friend last night and said “this is the most upset I have been about Northwestern’s performance since we lost to Bowling Green State during 2001.” That was a year we were coming off the Big Ten championship and started out 4-1, but just fell apart the 2nd half of the season and ended up with a 4-7 record. Our final home game against BGSU was a replacement game for Air Force after the Sept 11th attacks forced cancellation against a game with a Military Academy. We had a lead over BGSU and our defense totally fell apart during the 4th quarter and lost the game 42-43. In fact our last six losses we gave up 32 to 59 points per game. Sound familiar Wildcat fans?

    On the offense, it’s very clear Persa is struggling with his mobility. I’d say he is about 90% of what he was last year. I love Dan and still have complete confidence in him as a leader, but we can no longer rely on him to be the “one man show” he was during 2010. Our O-line was not giving him good protection last night. Some people were upset at Persa’s pick-six, and it was clearly a bad decision on his part (should have taken a sack or grounding penalty). But once we came back and tied the score 17-17, it was a new ballgame and a new chance for the team. I don’t like the 3-quarterback scheme, but in the end we moved the ball last night and we put 31 points on the board. While improvements could have been made on the offense, we did enough to win the game.

    I think NU is going to have to make a long-term decision about Cain Colter. Is it better to have him be #2 behind Trevor Siemian next year or would both player and team be better off converting Colter to receiver or running back. Colter can play, but he’ll never have the pass accuracy needed to be stellar in a spread offense.

    My biggest annoyance is with the defense. Where do I begin? I’ll start by saying that it’s time for Jerry Brown to go. I’ve never loved Hankwitz and am not seeing any reason to make arguments about why he should stay. No matter where we go from here for the 2011 season, major changes are needed in the defensive coaching staff. It’s downright inexcusable that players are confused after the message has been sent that no one is happy with their play, especially after the conscious decision to not name a Defensive Player of the Week after the Michigan game.

    We sat Matthews down after his bad play the previous two weeks, and put in Demetrius Dugar, who looked even worse. Granted, Dugar snagged a nice INT, but his coverage of Marvin McNutt was deplorable. On the drive where McNutt was wide open and caught the TD pass, Dugar was 10 yard behind him and that was following another pass play where Dugar was no where near is receiver. Dugar is a Junior, and if this is the best substitute we have for Matthews, then we don’t have much depth in our defensive stable.

    The front seven did o.k. for the first three quarters, but in the fourth quarter they let Coker push for 6/7 yards per carry and stopped no one. They also put very little pressure on James Vanderberg, who isn’t that great under pressure.

    Now as for Fitz, I like Fitz, but let’s call a spade a spade; if he were at Michigan or an SEC school his job would be on the line based upon his record since 2006. I’m not a fan of long-term contracts and I don’t think NU would have the cahoonies to buy his contract if we continue to be inconsistent and not win a bowl game. That said, he needs to shake up his coaching staff. Just like a U.S. President needs to surround themselves with a solid Cabinet, a good football coach will fill their own personal shortcomings with a coaching staff that makes them complete. Fitz has failed to do that since taking over in 2006. And given that he was a D-man and former D-coach, it’s inexcusable that we are seeing this level of play out of the defense.

    I sort of roll my eyes in the debate about whether we have the proper level of talent or whether our guys are fast or big enough to compete in the Big 10. When has NU ever had that? This team has enough raw talent and is big enough/fast enough to do better. This isn’t about talent, this comes down to two things: The team is all over the place and is reeling, which brings me to my second point – COACHING.

    Like 2001, I see this as a 4-win season. I had higher hopes, and I really wanted to see awesome guys like Persa, Ebert, Dunsmore, Netter, Browne and Peters have a kick-ass senior season. My heart breaks for them, and I know this has to be just eating away at them.

    And I’ll close by saying we, the people who support this team should expect more for the coaching staff who needs to fix this. I haven’t and never will give up on my ‘Cats, but I write this post from a point of high frustration and a does of reality.

    • mwmakerx5

      …….that last sentence should read “dose of reality”

  • fahrer

    Although I robustly support the team, I find it truly hard to believe that people are still talking about bowl eligibility. The rest of the season is challenging, the likelihood of winning 1, even two games is questionable–if you want to seriously be realistic. I will not give up season tickets, nor will I sell them. I will still yell and scream at the games, unlike many others as you surely know. But the odds are truly against us, which is branded by the fact that there is no change in the leadership mentality.

    We don’t need a cheerleader or marketer in charge of the team. Marketing is good and Fritz is good at it, but can’t execute on the making hard calls side of the job.

    For those of you talking about bowl eligibility, much less off-label bowls for invitation, do you really think that they will choose NU, given our limited fan traveling ability, minimalist season and profile, horrid first set of games now? I wouldn’t if it were my choice. Again, I love NU and will wear my purple jersey proudly always win or lose, but that’s because I love the school, not the coaching, or football performance in particular.

  • TypeO

    To be pithy, the D stinks and the ENTIRE defensive staff needs to go with the possible exception of D-line coach. Our problem is not talent or limited experience, it is coaching. I am sick of hearing Fitz take no responsibility and blame the players. Boy, that would really make me want to play for him. This is the most disappointing season since ’01 by far.

    • Lake The Posts

      Type O – can’t argue the point of our “D”, but gotta call you out on Fitz. Find me a press conference in the losing streak where he hasn’t taken responsibility for the coaches. Every single one of his pressers has included some version of “it starts with the coaches” or..”ultimately we need to do a better job of coaching”. Indeed the fact it is a broken record each week is an indictment of not doing just that.

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