We need a break from Penn State. This is not to take away from the importance of the story, its impact on college football, society at large and so on. LTP had some thoughts from before the penalties came down and then shared his thoughts on the impact of those sanctions. There is no good way to transition away from this story.
It was a present story during the annual coaches caravan and was a question the assembled media asked Pat Fitzgerald about. As LTP stated, we are a sports blog. And sometimes it seems shallow, but we write and analyze sports. That is where I (uncomfortably) return the focus. Because football season is starting in September with or without Penn State. It is time to move on.
And for a team like Northwestern, it is hungry for that beginning to the season.
The 2011 season started with the hopes of something special. This was an experienced crew led by Dan Persa, a galvanizing symbol and leader for the program after a record-setting junior season. Obviously things did not work out. Persa was never quite the same coming back from injury and the secondary, as we know, was a complete disaster betraying the defense and unraveling the entire season.
A year that started with talks of contending for a Big Ten championship ended with a disappointing 6-7 season and another close bowl loss. It was not the way the program wanted to move forward — and, as has been noted on this blog many times, Northwestern seemed to continue a downward trend.
Despite all the recruiting accolades Pat Fitzgerald has received and the general increase in talent on the field, the Wildcats have not made the great leap forward fans are expecting. A bowl game every year is becoming a reality thanks to an unprecedented four straight bowl appearances. But fans want more.
More importantly, the program wants more. The Wildcats are not satisfied with their 6-7 season and are ready to return for 2012 with bigger dreams in mind.
Indeed, we are not the only ones ready to see this team get back to work.
A lot of players indeed have a lot to prove this season.
Kain Colter has to prove that he can take over all the responsibilities as the starting quarterback. The show is his and a lot of what this team wants to do will fall on him. The wide receivers have to show that all that depth and all those preseason accolades are worth the hype and expectation. The secondary has to pick up the pieces from a disastrous season last year. The defense has to prove its worth again too.
The task will not be easy, of course. It never is.
The non-conference schedule is as strong as ever, featuring three BCS conference schools. And the Big Ten is as tough as it always is. Northwestern has a lot of history it wants to erase and it certainly can do that with a strong season and that ever-elusive bowl victory.
It does not take much to sense that excitement and hunger to make up for a disappointing 2011. We have all wanted the 2012 season to start from the moment the Meineke Car Care Bowl ended and then once Fitzgerald announced his highly touted recruiting class. I cannot imagine what the players have been like in the Nicolet Football Center and on campus prepping for this season.
We have heard that talk before though. Northwestern went into the 2011 season hungry to make up for a disappointing end of the season where the defense collapsed and the offense struggled after Dan Persa’s injury. The team went into the offseason with much the same rhetoric. How will they hold up this time?
Northwestern is hungry to prove everyone wrong all over again.