For the last three years, Northwestern has had one mantra it has tried to follow. Whether a good or bad play occurs, a win or a loss, the team has to “flush it” and move on. There is always another play, another challenge and another game to conquer.
It got annoying actually hearing Northwestern players echo Pat Fitzgerald’s call to flush everything. I mean, how many weeks can you keep telling fans you are going to go 1-0?
The idea behind flushing it is a good use of coach speech. It is the idea that you cannot get too high or too low off of anything and have to be ready to move on and meet the next challenge. The players have embraced this idea.
The unfortunate part is that there has been much more to flush on the negative side. Especially lately. And especially on the defensive end.
There is a lot Mike Hankwitz and Pat Fitzgerald would like to forget on the defensive end. But what is it they say about history? If you do not learn from it, you are doomed to repeat it. And one thing nobody wants to see is a repeat of last year’s mistakes.
Experienced or not, Northwestern was never on the same page with its secondary. Outside of some solid play from Jordan Mabin and Brian Peters and flashes from Ibraheim Campbell, this year’s veteran as a sophomore, there were massive failures in a lot of areas. Miscommunication was rampant throughout the secondary and it led to the firework plays that give defensive coordinators nightmares. Hankwitz surely had a few sleepless nights as his secondary and defense made crippling mistake after crippling mistake.
It is easy to say those mistakes can be flushed. But not learning from them? That might be the biggest mistake of all.
Entering 2012, the Wildcats may be adjusting their consistent tagline on this front. Yes, they will still flush the bad and move on quickly from the good. Except this year, they are more conscious that they have to learn from past mistakes to improve, as David Nwabuisi said at Big Ten media days (h/t Chris Emma of Scout).
If you can’t learn from the past, you are ignoring it. We definitely looked at the tape and evaluated what went wrong to move forward this year. We don’t dwell on it; at the end of the day, this is a new year, new team, new defense.
You can flush it, but there’s no reason to completely flush it. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes, learn from the past.
There is a lot to learn from. And everyone recognizes it. The question is what will Northwestern’s defense do about it?
The secondary is significantly younger than it was last year. Ibraheim Campbell was a national all-freshman safety and seems to have lots of room for improvement. Northwestern also has reason to feel comfortable with newcomers like Nick VanHoose. And players can only get better (at least, if you are optimistic). The defensive line and linebackers also understand they need to improve, led by Nwabuisi, Chance Carter and Tyler Scott. There is talent there if it shows improvement.
Those seem like huge “ifs.” But they are also opportunities. That seems to be the new message as Northwestern refines its flushing techniques to improve and move on in 2012.
Each mistake is an opportunity to show growth and improve. That is something Northwestern struggled to do, letting mistakes compound and, yes, letting history repeat itself. The Wildcats will still say they are flushing away the bad, but not without learning from it.
If they do not, it could be another season wondering what went wrong on defense.
LTP N Flag Project
Steve R. puts a pair of Northwestern flags on the board in some exotic locales. Steve recently visited Castle Hill overlooking the Danube River in Budapest as well as the Belvedere Palace in Vienna. Two more flags to dot our impressive N Flag Project map (see navigation bar above). If you’ve got a photo with a Northwestern flag, send it our way and we’ll post it here and add it to the map! Simply email it to firstname.lastname@example.org .