Northwestern Hungry For Return After Disappointing 2011

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.

  • Jersey Cat

    It’s good to hear that the team was disappointed with last year. I think anyone who follows the ‘Cats closely was also.

    There has been a good deal of optimism lately…recruiting, potential of a guy like Prater, etc. However, nothing generates optimism like wins. I know we look at the world at times through Rose (Bowl) colored glasses, but the bottom line is this: there is absolutely no game on the schedule in the first seven where you would be surprised if NU won. None. This means expectations are and will be high.

    I was at the game at West Point, so I know we certainly have the potential to lay eggs at times, but if this team is worse than 7-5, we all should be disappointed.

  • cebpd

    same stuff different day. we all heard the same thing last year, and until we see the entire team play like they did against NEB, we will continue to be disappointed.

    toughest non-con slate in a while? I mean yeah you dont have all the creampuffs, but i’d hardly call SU, VU, and whoever else a tough game.

  • Cardiac_cat_fan

    i think the players are hungry and I’m sure they’re disapointed. my only concern is the in-game coaching. after seeing two straight seasons of blown leads, i think we would all like to see that hunger transfer over to a “step-on-their-throat” mentality. Let’s hope Fitz puts it all together this year with his coordinators.

    NU has a great shot to start hot out of the gates, let’s hope the ‘cats take control of their season early!

  • cece

    defense. interested in what will happen with that. saw too many opposition shirts headed to our end zone last year and wonder what will happen this season. believe the LB group is a good one and will be good for years to come. wonder what others think on the defense side.

    • DT

      It is about the “D”… You are being kind in saying “too many opposition shirts headed to the end zone last year”… Actually, pretty much every year sans 2008 in actuality..

      Many folks question Colter as being “The QB”… That said, the kid is one of the very best athletes in the Ten as proven last year at Nebraska… Needs some help at running back and and “O” line proficient at both run and pass block.

      That said, if the defense is not better (and why should it be given top players leaving and the same coach?), Colter and The “O” will need to score 30+ PPG to win six games… No wonder Fitz voted “yes” on allowing 6-6 teams to remain bowl eligible.. 5-7 is more probable…

      • NU68

        First couple of games will tell the story. Start recruiting PSU’s defense … That simple.

  • dolphin146

    The sked gets a lot tougher in 2013 and 2014, too, with Wisconsin and Ohio State on and PSU and Indiana off. While the non-league sked is challenging in 2012 (Vandy in particular is better than many think) ‘Cats need to take advantage of a slew of winnable games in 2012 and get the bowl monkey off their backs before what could be rough seas ahead (check out the 2014 schedule, ohhhh boy). I don’t think it’s obvious that the defense will be any better so I hope Mick and the boys put the pedal to medal on offense and win games like NU did in 2000, 54-51 if they have to. And they might.

  • Mark

    How bush league to send a bunch of your coaches to stand around outside the PSU football building to talk to players – yes, I’m talking about Illinois. At least some schools had the dignity to communicate directly with the PSU head coach and state they were going to try and recruit players. This is just a continuation of the warped value system of big time college sports. (And I love college sports but more thoughtful people, like my wife, just see the hypocrisy and greed.) As they say in Mexico: No tienen verguenza. (They have no shame.) I’m glad I have a job where I don’t have to lower myself to that kind of conduct.

  • GreenLantern411

    Tomorrow is UA day!

  • timc

    I just can’t understand the hold-up on the Kyle Prater situation. Why the 11th hour? Could it be possible that we’ll be in camp still waiting on a decision? You’d think a guy leaving a sanctioned program and coming to a clean one like NU would be a feel good story in this blackened news cycle. This is a head scratcher.