BC Eagles + ‘Cuse’s USC Challenge = LTP Journey to ’93 Transitive Property Nat’l Title

UPDATE: Chi Chi Ariguzo has been named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week! Congrats to Chi Chi! Here is the email cut-and-paste that Scott Chipman from the B1G office sent out:

B1G Defensive Player of the Week

Chi Chi Ariguzo, Northwestern

So., LB, Gahanna, Ohio/St. Francis DeSales

·        Totaled a career-best 10 tackles and three tackles for loss in Northwestern’s 23-13 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday

·        Recorded the first sack of his career for a seven-yard loss

·        Helped limit the Vanderbilt offense to just 101 yards rushing

·        Wins the first weekly award of his career

·        Last Northwestern  Defensive Player of the Week: Quentin Davie (Sept. 20, 2010)

As I tried to dry off in the car ride home after the game, I honed in to the WGN on ESPN postgame show. Ted Albrecht was giddy in the lockerroom and rolling through player interviews.  Then Fitz came on. Albrecht, like most home team radio analysts did more gushing of stats and in statement form than actually ask our head coach a question. Fitz was more subdued than I remember him after most wins and clearly frustrated at the showing by the offense, but proud of the “D”, but tempering it by talking about how long we have to go.  He inserted his now routine “we went 1-0 this week, we’ll enjoy it for another hour or so and then we wake up, flush it and we’re 0-0 again”.  Albrecht, taking his cue, then inserted this line of statement in to his subsequent “interviews”.  As corny as this is, I actually like that the team does it. I believe they actually believe it. I know Fitz does. And that’s great, it works for them.

For us? Forget that.  We’re fans. We get to roll around in wins, cover ourselves silly with it. Smear it all over our bodies and seek out any one willing to say “what’s that giddiness you got going on and where can I get me some of that?”.  This week has already launched in to a “Trevor Siemian should start” meme (when I think what most people mean is that Trevor Siemian should be getting the majority of the snaps).  Trust me when I tell you that we’ll get to all of that. Today, we are going to bond over our fanatical way of thinking.

I tweeted this past weekend that the #1 game not involving NU that I was most intrigued by was Syracuse vs #2 USC.   I asked those of you on Twitter for your game as well. I can tell you, the most buzzed about score during the ‘Cats-Vandy pregame tailgates was the ‘Cuse game. I had seen the first half and Ryan Nassib didn’t look to hot. USC will do that to you. However, the Syracuse “D” was playing with their hair on fire and repeatedly stuffing Trojan drives. A weather delay had the game on hiatus and then, Syracuse mounted another 3rd quarter rally and entered the 4th down just 21-16.  I didn’t need any more. I felt invigorated going in to the game. Somehow, this validated all of our angst over a 1-point road win (true road win, mind you, USC) last week and gave me the mental ammo I needed to say, “let’s do this ‘Cats” as a sprinkling of Commodores’ fans entered the stadium with their thought bubbles of “we’re going to beat you because we played (the other) USC closely”.  It’s the transitive property of college football and it is as irrelevant as anything, yet we cling to it.

I was reminded of this by a few people over the weekend as I received a simple text at the end of the ‘Cuse’s 3rd quarter. It read “Cats>Cuse>USC = Cats>USC?”.  The question mark implied that Syracuse might beat USC, not that the equation was being challenged. I don’t really need to explain to this fan base what the transitive property is, but for my own simpleton edification it means if team “a” beats team “b” and team “b” beats team “c” then team “a” is better than team “c”.  What the hell does this have to do with Boston College, you might ask? Well, whenever we play them it reminds me of how we as students took pride in having a transitive property national title in 1993 thanks to the Eagles. It’s a relatively brief story that I also think is appropriate for the Northwestern students returning to campus (great turnout, by the way as it was the largest student turnout I remember at Ryan Field by a student section when school was not in session) and give them some context for how lucky they are.

Turn back the clock to 1992.  It’s September.  I’m living in RI and a sophomore at NU, but since school hasn’t started yet, I’m able to go to the week two game (our opener was at Soldier Field against Notre Dame in Gary Barnett’s first game), Gary Barnett’s first road game. I’ve got several high school friends who are at BC and I turn it in to a weekend. I’m sitting there in the NU family section, which, at the time, was the ONLY group of traveling fans to road games.  Most BC fans were nervous about us and I was convinced we’d win since we had just cracked out the black and purple unis on Notre Dame and although we lost, we looked great.  Not so much. BC waxed us. 49-0.  They never punted. Think about that. It was so bad as I was trapped with some friends’ parents who were sporting the large, round pins with their kid in uniform which clearly projected “this player is my son!” I wondered if some of them would try to sneak them in to their pockets. It was that bad. A year later, BC, was ranked #22 when they rolled in to Evanston.  We had just played at Notre Dame and had given them a much closer than the score (27-12) game so fans were intrigued. A road game at Stanford was our next game. Now, quick context. For those of you who are students, some of you weren’t even born and others were in diapers. This is when Notre Dame was a relevant football program. They were viewed in those days like Alabama, LSU or Ohio State is today. BC was also a very, very good program then. Think Michigan State-like these past couple of  years. So, BC coming in to town was a pretty big deal.

Gary Barnett was a mastermind in culture change at NU

Gary Barnett had already banned students from tossing marshmallows.  This was a signature tradition during the dark ages and you were taught as freshman how bad we were and to bring marshmallows to throw at fellow students and attempt to even land one in a tuba. Tailgates were in the east lot and the fraternities and sororities all had flags flying and owned one half of the east lot (south part) and were encouraged to bring kegs, since bottles and cans was not environmentally friendly.  No joke, there would be about 3,000 students in this portion of the parking lot.  There were no student tickets, just flash your wildcard and you could go in and out of the stadium as you pleased, until the 4th quarter. We may not have been good, but man, I challenge you to find a better student tailgate scene than that at that time. I was one of the few who would get inside in time for kickoff (shocker, right?).  On this day, many did. Barnett had done miracles in turning around the culture. Expect Victory signs were on the field, marshmallows were banned and he had gone door to door on campus for two years relentlessly begging students to help his cause.

I don’t actually remember a whole lot about the game other than the fact it was close and we were quickly becoming Gary Barnett believers. We had Len Williams at QB, a dual-threat guy with a Tebow-like body and Lee Gissendanner, our version of Venric Mark – a crafty PR/WR who was a darkhorse Heisman candidate in our minds (he would win the Big Ten MVP award that year).  The Eagles scored in the last minute to seemingly ice the game. However, on the ensuing kickoff, Eric Scott blitzed the BC coverage and nearly brought it all the way to the house. We punched it in and bedlam ensued.  Alas, it would’ve been a Laking of the Posts game, but Barnett, had reinforced the FG posts with concrete to prevent this blog’s namesake from happening. He wanted us to act like we’d been there before. So, students were flinging off the FG posts and instead, I remember a raucous night on campus.  We would go 0-8 in conference that year (2-9 overall).  Not BC, though.

In November of 1993, #2 Notre Dame hosted #1 FSU in South Bend.  It was one of those where-were-you-when kind of games as the eventual national champion Seminoles lost as Heisman trophy-winning QB Charlie Ward’s final pass was batted down. Boston College rolled in to South Bend the very next week. I had a ticket to this game to join said BC friends but turned it down as I had four papers due that Monday.  Then, one of the top five alltime college football games I’ve ever seen broke out. There was Boston College in a wild shootout against Notre Dame. The Eagles won on a last second FG kick and I can remember hearing the roars from dorm rooms as it went through. The entire campus seemed to be watching NBC. I remember the guy’s last name was Gordon as the most popular T-shirt on the BC campus became “God is good….” (front) “….so was Gordon’s kick!” (back).  Over fraternity lunches we would then go on to break down how we beat BC, BC beat Notre Dame, Notre Dame beat FSU and the ‘Noles went on and won a controversial national title (as transitive property theorists in South Bend were none too pleased).

This was one of the top two wins in my four years at Northwestern as a student. Freshmen are entering with as many wins under their belt (2) as we had that entire season. Northwestern is the only team, I believe, in the entire country that has won two games so far against teams from BCS conferences.  We’ve got BC at home and we’re favorites by 5 ½ points. Old-timers like me go in to “this is the one we’ll give away as we always lose one we shouldn’t and we just won the one that we thought we might not!” Nonsense. Don’t succumb to our cynical ways. Embrace this.  Love it. Expect Victory. Tailgate your butts off.

We’ve got three straight home games – Boston College, South Dakota and an Indiana team that just lost their “Venric Mark”, QB Tre Roberson, for the entire season.  We then go on the road to play Penn State and Minnesota. Barring some unforeseen event, we’ll be favored in all five games.  Dare to daydream. Stay positive. Look ahead. Speculate about going 7-0.  You, and we, have no real impact on the final outcome other than the crowd noise we can create to make life difficult for opponents and/or energizing our team. Let Fitz and the fellas on the team go week to week flushing it and going “1-0 this week”.  We’re fans. Take the liberty you have and use it. Be a fan. Be a Wildcat fan. Be a better version of a Wildcat fan.

The Grass Is Greener

I received a nice note from an NU student who had insights on to the home field playing surface. It was a freak occurrence based on several factors including the tarp being on Wednesday to protect the paint and a combo of rain and heat.  I’m told the field will be looking as good as new this Saturday against BC.

LTP Purple Challenge – FINAL CALL

So, I’m waiting for the results to come in from this weekend. What an awesome party Northwestern threw Saturday night under the lights. I just love night games. It feels like SUCH a bigger event.  I’m hopeful many of you were able to convert friends, family and co-workers you brought in to season ticket holders. I know reader LGIP was hosting a dozen potential newbies himself. Please email us at laketheposts@gmail.com and share your story. We’re just 15 away from our goal and I’m hoping today’s results will put us over the top.

  • JimB

    I fully expect to be 7-0 but, maybe even 11-1 on the year!! BUT let’s be real here. We will be lucky if ANY of the first 7 teams finishes the year over .500. We know we are at least a .500 team so it is dangerous to judge how good we are entirely by our record. We need to watch how well, or not so well, we play. We played much better in week 2 than week 1 and against a better opponent but, no one is expecting Vandy to win the SEC, many now discount them even making a bowl game.
    For the next few weeks our opponents are lesser and we need to dominate the teams we SHOULD dominate. We have struggled with that over the years (ref ARMY last year). How well we play in the last 5 games will be a better indicator of how good we really are. I hope we win every game but the one I really want to win is the bowl game!!
    What is real is that this was a HUGE win for our recruiting as we frequently recruit against Vandy and back to back wins over them is a huge plus. That bodes very well for the future also!!
    I generally agree with the saying “If you have two quarterbacks it means you don’t have one” but in our case I think we have two quarterbacks that are different styles. If the offense can function with both of them (and it seems they can) and we mix them in unpredictably then it may well be to our advantage to use both of them. It makes the opponents defense have to prepare for more looks.

    • wcgrad

      Agreed, if the DL/LB have to read and think about what’s going on, they’re not going to be able to just tee off and blitz. The extra split second thought of “which QB is in the game? what did we do to prepare for him?” creates a bit of hesitancy which can be used to NU’s advantage. It probably limits the complexity of the scheme the defense can prepare taking some pressure of the OL to recognize and adjust to confusing blitz looks. It can also set up plays like the one Colter scored on in the 4th quarter in which everyone gets sucked in to the misdirection causing the defense to lose contain on the cutback lane.

  • m-f-AH-di

    RE THE GRASS: There was a (wrong) rumor in our section that the field looked like that ON PURPOSE — desert camouflage to honor the military theme. I didn’t believe it.

    • JimB

      Unfortunately that is not the first time we have had this embarassment on how the field looks. Last years spring game was the same way. Hope they fix it by Saturday afternoon.

      • It should be fixed (or well on the way there) by Saturday. As I understand it, it was due to the tarp on the field scorching some spots — and that the field will return to its normal, excellent self in short order.

    • cece

      sounds like the same NU corporate speak that told us the Wrigley field mess was such a great talking point.

  • Watching and (mostly) Waiting

    Is it possible to be both very excited, but also reserving judgment, at the same time? I read messages about 10-2 and 11-1, and I cringe (sure, it’s possible, but not all that realistic). But I’m not a skeptic either. To me, the most important finding thus far: normally a glance at Northwestern’s schedule early in the season reveals games where, realistically, we have little or no chance. I realize that would have included Nebraska 2011, but for the most part we are outclassed (or at least HEAVY underdogs) at least three times a season. As I look down the 2012 schedule, right now I see one (at MSU). This is very encouraging–when this schedule was released years earlier, you would have picked Penn State, Michigan, and perhaps others. So I expect this team to compete every Saturday, and I definitely think the program is on the uptick. But before we start thinking 11-1, let’s remember any team can lose to teams they shouldn’t; while we seem great at the end of games, it’s going to happen. But even 8-4 in a year when we might have been thinking about taking a big step backward, even if it’s caused in part by the conference being down, is a huge feather in our caps. I am excited, and can’t wait for the next ten weeks, even if I’m not making Rose Bowl plans just yet.

    • DarkSide

      Flush it. Beat BC. Go ‘Cats.
      (It is scary that I am adopting the Fitz Mantra)

  • …i was at that nd v. bc game. it was like walking out of a wake/funeral. i never saw so many people that were ready to jump off a ledge. if i remember, a nd linebacker dropped a sure interception on the final drive. he might have been a joliet catholic grad(?). what a game though. my 2nd best i saw at nd. catholics v. convicts was #1

  • MKEB1GCAT

    A lot of people have commented in other posts on the great student section turnout on Saturday. I just wanted to say that it probably wasn’t as impressive as it may have looked. My friends and I are all young alums and we moved over to the student section and really it seemed like most of the people in that section were young (and some much older) alumni. Take that for whats its worth but just thought I’d shed some light.

    • students, young alums…doesn’t matter. Looked good, ton of energy. I sat next to the section and I saw quite a few students. Regardless, more than I thought.

      • MKEB1GCAT

        Absolutely. It was defintiely the most energy for a pre-classes starting game I can remember going to.

        • NUBobby95

          Bring some of that energy over to Section 127. The only time people in the upper part of the section stood up or made any noise was when they were throwing t-shirts out. North Shore Paddle Tennis games elicit more enthusiasm out of these people than a football game. Have some fun, loosen up and yell. It’s therapeutic!

    • wildcatneighbor

      There were a ton of students…maybe your too young to yet notice the difference between Young alums and undergrads, but as some one 10 years out, that was a ton of students, especially for before classes game.

  • Jim

    Dual quarterback made for Fitz Fantasy Football !

    Poor Fitz! Blessed with two talented quarterbacks and cursed by the coaching second-guessing that he has earned. Maybe we can take a little pressure off of him by diverting the NU Monday morning quarterbacks into playing a new fantasy football video game: “NUQB.” This could be heady stuff for the really hard-core
    NU football aficianado.

  • Matt

    Here we go again, with a comment from ¨wet blanket.¨ Matt, as many of you see me.

    Rather, I see myself as a realist, and not a Fitz hater, as some think I am.

    Anyway, I´m beginning to see a pattern in Fitz´s coaching: Inconsistency

    His super wins with good performances, are generally preceded by games involving bad performances, resulting in harsh criticism of him and his coaching….his conservatism, play calling, misguided loyalty to certain players and assistants, and his clock management.

    I could go back over his six full seasons and pick several examples, but I don´t have the patience. But last year contained an excellent one: the Army bomb and the Nebraska gem.

    Another glaring example: the infamous, record breaking MSU collapse of ´06, where we were leading 35-3(?) in the 3rd quarter but lost the game. Then 7 days later we beat Iowa at Iowa…..great performance and solid coaching.

    And this year, though Syracuse was a win by a hair, subject to the ¨a win is a win¨ argument, it was a miserable defensive performance. Fitz gets all kinds of criticism, and what follows, a great defensive performance by the guys in the trenches, and a super win over Vandy.

    So, what gives with Fitz? Why is his coaching so inconsistent, that is, if one accepts that it is such? Could he have some kind of problem wherein he loses focus? And when people jump him, he regains it.

    Or is not so much a matter of focus, but maybe that his fantastic, admirable enthusiasm, which IMO, is a substantial, if not the principal reason, for his 42 wins, at times ebbs?

    Indeed, why is he so inconsistent? Thus far, in his career I ¨betcha¨ that this factor, plus his closed-mindedness has cost him about 8 losses.

    His record really should be around 50-28.

    All in all though, there are two things for sure you have to love about Fitz: his loyalty to the Purple, and that aforementioned contagious, absolutely fantastic enthusiasm, which, again, is why he is where is, and we are where we are.

    Now, if only he could be more consistent, then, we could be further than we are. Maybe as far as our third trip to Pasadena.

    • wcgrad

      Perhaps it’s not the coaching that is inconsistent or the execution that is inconsistent. What I hear you suggesting is this in the case of the Syracuse game: a secondary and DL lacking depth of talent (and therefore substitutes) wilting in a 95 degree humid dome? A team in its first game of the season, with a bunch of new faces starting (or even playing) for the first time making mistakes? That doesn’t sould likely at all. It’s probably Fitz making the wrong calls, or not preparing the defense for the conditions, or not recruiting, what have you.

      I agree with you that Fitz isn’t perfect. He’s not the best coach in the B1G, and probably not even the best coach in his division. I simply the premise presented is implausible and better explanations exist. We could probably debate endlessly about what caused the 8 losses you have targeted – that’s part of the fun of being a fan.

      Occam’s razor states that the simplest explanation is usually the best. In this case the simplest explanation is that the execution and/or talent level wasn’t there by the players, and that’s OK, because they’re human and they make mistakes. Your comment assumes that Fitz has a lot more control over his players’ psychological state than he actually does (or should, but that’s just my opinion).

      Finally, I find it easy to criticize the coach because measuring their quality is so subjective. You can ALWAYS find evidence that Fitz is a good coach or that Fitz is a poor coach. Likewise you can ALWAYS exploit the grey area of subjectivity to rationalize away any facts that get in the way of a preconceived notion (either a positive or negative one). I’m actually interested in how people try to remove the subjectivity when evaluating coaches.

      In the future, I would use a litmus test of “if [insert average B1G coach’s name here] and his staff coached NU this week (and all players were the same) would we have won that game?”

    • JimB

      You have to remember he took over as HC at age 31. We knew full well he would make mistakes as he learned the job. I am very happy with Fitz but I see your view of his tendancy to be overly loyal and inflexible in the play calling at times. Generally I think his clock management is pretty good given his natural conservative approach.

  • TA

    Any word on Van Hoose?

    • Several reporting looking good for Saturday. Emma from Scout.com, Teddy G. in Trib etc..

  • Go Cats!

    BEST part of the NU-BC game in 1993 was that Barnett went for two after that late TD – at a time with no overtime a Tie w/ #22 probably would’ve seemed like a “victory” at the time to some – but he went for the win. It was a beautiful thing – especially after the 1992 at BC disaster.

  • Doug

    Regarding the optimists, the pessimists, the realists, and the purple-koolaid-drinking cheerleaders (you’re important too, Chad and LTP!), here is what I have to say.

    There is significant reason to be very excited about this team. There is also significant reason to be extremely worried about this team. Specifically, NU has won two weeks in a row while getting outplayed in both games. Thats exciting — we might finally have some winners, some guys who do expect victory. But, we’ve been outplayed, by mediocre opponents, two weeks in a row. Our offense is unable to move the ball consistently, and against Vandy was back to its stall in the red zone self. Our defense gave up 400+ through the air in week one, and then wasn’t really tested in week 2; and the D-line looked good, but really was just playing a poor opposing offensive line.

    So am I stoked to be 2-0, and does winning those games, in come from behind 4th quarter fashion, even after shitting the bed for various periods of time, make me want to believe? Of course. But I also watched a team that couldn’t stop a pass to save its life, and could barely move the ball. Does that make me think “same old mediocre NU?” Of course.

    • chartmoose

      I disagree with this — “Specifically, NU has won two weeks in a row while getting outplayed in both games”

      Against Vanderbilt, we had more yards of total offense & won the turnover battle — so what makes you say we were outplayed?

      Against Syracuse, I agree we were outplayed for large portions of the game & we made some bad mistakes. Even so, they made some really bad mistakes — like letting us scoop up their unsuccessful backward pass for a touchdown…
      We deserve credit for the good things that we did (the final drive, the punt return for a touchdown, preventing them from a 2 point conversion that would have won the game, etc).

      There is a way to determine who was outplayed in a particular game — it’s called the final score :)