Brian Peters (with an assist from Jack?)
BTN’s moving feature that brings to light the amazing connection between Jack Marshall and Brian Peters is back up above in all its glorious high-quality online presence. I had the pleasure of connecting with both families after the game and their respective phones were lighting up like Christmas trees from folks around the country. Dave Revsine’s intro read like an LTP post intro reminding fans amid all of the icky things going on in college sports right now, there is a ton of good being done. This serves as exhibit “A”. I forgot to mention that Jack had predicted a Brian Peters pick on a deflection (no joke, his mom told me yesterday) because of the club hand. Let’s get on to the game.
Brian was unreal. He had 11 tackles, a forced fumble and recovery, a sack and the game turning interception off the Jack-called deflection. That’s the good news. The bad news is that our safety was having to be the last line of defense on a day when the D-line got torched by Minnesota’s O-line up the middle. More on that later. Great game Brian!
Mark provided the spark plug factor we needed out of the gates with a pair of “THAT CLOSE” near returns to the house on kickoffs. Both of his explosive returns set us up with great field position which we promptly converted in to TD drives. He tiptoed along the sideline and his momentum caused him to step out of bounds on what was sure to be an opening return for a TD. Great job Venric, that spark was exactly what we needed.
The ’96 Team Getting Honored– How great was it to see Gary Barnett and what little crowd was there, gave an enthusiastic ovation and rightfully so. We’ll go more on the ’96 team this week which had several key players, including Darnell Autry, as no-shows. It would’ve been nice for the PA announcer to at least acknowledge Fitz, who was busy coaching the team at halftime. By the way Gary, we need to get you some purple to wear! Barnett was lobbying today on Fitz’s behalf to Teddy Greenstein regarding the push for on-campus facilities. This will get quite a bit of attention in the coming days. Check it out HERE.
Red Zone Short Yardage Plays – Considering when it is within five yards of the goal line you know Northwestern is going with the long side option pitch. The fact we seem to convert it for 6 nearly every time is a testament to execution. It doesn’t matter if it is Penn State, Michigan or Minnesota, we convert it. I keep expecting defenses to figure it out, but Treyvon Green and Jacob Schmidt both put up TDs on this identical play once again today.
Brandon Williams’ 77-yard punt – Yes, it was incredibly aided by the wind, but it’s rare you get to see that kind of a punt. Considering Minnesota’s punter shanked a pair with the wind at his back, it shows it isn’t that easy to take advantage of it. Kind of funny as I saw Paul Burton, the punter from the ’95/’96 team, and instantly think of that, what was it, 80 yard punt vs Indiana in ’95? It’s like word association. Williams had three punts on the day (47,51) for a 58.3 ypp average.
Dan Persa – A ridiculous wind was in his face half the game. Receivers dropped pass after pass. He had pressure all day. Yet, on a day when he wasn’t his best, Persa did what it took to win racking up 212 yds on 22/31 with 2 TDs and 1 INT. His crucial first down pass on 3rd and long to start the fourth quarter to Rashad Lawrence deep in our own territory exemplified how clutch he can be. He even had us all holding our breath on a couple of releases that he took whallops he was slow to get up from. Persa Strong was in full effect.
Jordan Mabin – The senior CB had a huge break-up of a game-changing TD and held the Gophers primary lethal receiver, Da’Jon McKnight to 59 receiving yards on two catches.
Jacob Schmidt – His stat line won’t cause anyone to do a double-take, but Jacob’s 69 yards (13 carries) were the definition of clutch. When we desperately needed to get first downs, there was Jacob late in the game grinding out money carries to move the chains. Mick McCall did him little favor predictably running the same play on first down of every drive (Minnesota caught on quickly).
Fitz’s Go-For-It Attitude – Perhaps it was weather-induced, but the general attitude of being more aggressive late in the game gets my two thumbs up. NU was 3-4 on 4th downs including a beautiful TD pass from Persa to Fields in a stiff wind.
Bend But Don’t Break “D” – It’s hard to argue with 13 points on the day given up by the defense, but man, did we get gouged up the gut on the rush by MarQueis Gray and Duane Bennett. Gray torched us for 147 yds on 26 carries and that includes at least three plays where we had a hand on a jersey for a TFL that turned in to a 10+ yarder. Minnesota owned us on the line of scrimmage and thanks to Bennett’s 127 yard day we gave up an eyesore of 269yds rushing on 51 carries (5.1 ypc) which will make Sparty salivate.
CROWD – We’re going from bad to worse, gang. For mid/late November this is as good as it gets for weather and yet, a paltry 26,215 for a Big Ten game. A bowl-clinching game, no less? Really? The game was admittedly flat, but the crowd was worse. I just don’t get it. After all the build-up of the ticket base it appears we lost a lot of fans despite the now 4-game winning streak. If this gets pointed out as the reason we don’t get picked for a bowl or worse, get jumped by a team that isn’t as good, we share this blame (with the NU team for losing to Army). Step up, fire up and let’s get some purple to pay tribute to the senior class that will go down as the group with the most wins in the history of the program.
Offensive Flow – After the first quarter, we had none. I haven’t gone back and checked the stat line yet, but man, did we rush on EVERY first down in the second half? All day long it was 2nd and 8 and we were playing against the averages all day. I felt we were pretty predictable on offense on a day when an opponent finally figured out how to double team/bracket Jeremy Ebert (only 62 yds receiving (6 rec)).
Not Taking The FG on Final Drive – I’m usually the biggest proponent of going for it, but not when you’re up two scores with two minutes and, even with a nasty wind, have a relatively good shot at putting the game away with a 3-score lead (we were up 15).
Pass Defense – Thank God MarQueis didn’t throw more and better yet, that the Gopher receivers bailed us out. Minnesota dropped several WIDE OPEN passes including a pair that would’ve been TDs had they simply caught the ball. MarQueis’ running at will tilted the playcalling as he looked pretty good tossing it today. The 9/21 124 yds passing don’t give the day justice.
STATS TO STEW ON
- Total Yards – Northwestern: 368 Minnesota 398
- First Downs – Northwestern: 23 Minnesota: 22
- Rushing Yards – Northwestern: 152 Minnesota: 269
- Passing Yards – Northwestern: 216 Minnesota: 124
- Penalties – Northwestern: 0 Minnesota: 5
- Third Down Conversions – Northwestern 8/16 Minnesota:7/15
- TOP – Northwestern: 28:26 Minnesota:31:34
Here’s the Tribune recap of the game. CLICK HERE.