From Cardiac ‘Cats To Soul Crushers; The Great, The Good & The Disappointing In NU’s 38-31 OT Loss

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan

I put a four hour cool it rule on myself. After Northwestern managed to lose a game up 3 and punting with under :20 to go, the tried and now tired ways of not putting teams away has cost the ‘Cats any chance at a division title. I couldn’t put in to words the frustration, anger and sorrow I felt as Northwestern got stopped on 4th and 2 in OT.  The final score read Michigan 38 Northwestern 31 and I found myself trying to find a way to comfort myself. I looked back at the title of this morning’s post “60 Minutes” and I even added “not a second less.” Boy, have I never been less happy to be that spot on.

Every team uses the woulda/coulda/shouldas in a season, but I sat there in disbelief knowing if this team had the killer instinct its coach displayed as a player we’d be 10-0. Instead, the same player who was a spark on the field in back-to-back Big Ten championship teams and led the killer instinct seemed to once again contribute to the lack of killer instinct with the play-not-to-lose mentality, yet having his players make physical errors and an unconscionable cover scheme in the waning seconds that led to a game that will be known in NU lore as the Michigan “Hail Mary” Game.

Never in a million years did I think that I could feel so empty with this year’s team at 7-3 with the ‘Cats leading in every single 4th quarter and losing to Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan. Furthermore, for the first definitive time this century I can say we’re toe-to-toe in athleticism with every team we play.  Yet, there I was, sulking like a six-year-old thinking somehow I was owed this win after spending 8 days in a hospital with a frightening infection that shook me to the core. How could I have such a traumatic real life experience yet still let the Wildcats rattle me equally to the core?

I was so proud of the way guys like Kain Colter and Venric Mark played – true warriors coming back after injury – and seemingly finding a way to overcome adversity and inch their way to a fistfight of a victory. Demetrius Dugar had been targeted all day long and was downright abused, yet came up huge with what seemed like a potential game-sealing pick. The ‘Cats were doing all of the little things and visions of an 11-win season started to dance in my head. Yet, this cloud of negativity hung up there – the weight of no lead is safe with Northwestern kind of thing.

Earlier in the day I had watched BTN’s documentary film on the ’95 ‘Cats and it put me in such a good place. Ironically, the key theme was culture and mindset. From Gary Barnett to Chris Martin to Rob Johnson to Fitz, guys talked about believing in themselves and how they indeed needed to execute on the field to back-up their off-the-field psychological makeover. This theme stuck with me as I watched a program on the field that was no different from Michigan in terms of talent. Our offensive line was dominating Michigan. Our skill positioned players were as fast if not faster than the Wolverines. Yet, there was still that aura of the Big House and Brady Hoke being undefeated at home.

Technically, Fitz played the odds after Kain Colter secured the closest first down in memory. He forced Michigan to burn all of its timeouts and maximized clock burning, but the ‘Cats failed to gain a single yard and even lost yardage. In fairness, I would’ve killed to have seen a healthy Colter on that final drive (truth be told I thought he was done for the year based on his pain factor on the play he got injured), but it was pure ultraconservative ball. Technically, it’s hard to argue with the math. However, the symbolism of it all struck me. I remembered Darnell icing the Notre Dame game with a run to the outside for 30+ yards.  Then, with Brandon Williams set to punt, we went rugby style and kicked it right at Michigan when a touchback or moon shot would’ve made it nearly impossible for Michigan (no timeouts) to even get within FG range). I screamed at the TV like most of us did. Then, Michigan’s #1 receiver somehow was single covered when it was Hail Mary time. Let’s face it, Roundtree made one of the more ridiculous catches on the batted ball, but as soon as it was complete, you could feel the air go out of the balloon. I don’t need to rehash what happened from there, but it seemed like our program had crossed some sort of karma line. We had been the cute, scrappy, Cardiac ‘Cats, known for being undersized, underdogs yet finding ways to win. On this day, we went in to the bizarro world of being equally as athletic as all of our 2012 opponents, yet after listening to our coach exhorting expectations, a fan base has them and we’ve failed to live up to them. Somehow, the karma boomerrang is swinging around. Is it the law of averages that we’re simply losing the close ones that we won so many times? Is it our go-in-to-a-shell approach to late game leads?

I reverted back to the BTN documentary and Sam Valenzisi and Ray Robey talking about reflecting upon the ’94 gamble tainted season and how close they were. The talk of guys that were now Barnett guys refusing to lose. I had to go to a place of comfort, a place that explains the inexplicable and I net out on what many will say is a cop out. Especially in a horrendous Big Ten and the 7th year of the Pat Fitzgerald era. I reminded myself of my own expectations of this season – that 7-5 would make me very happy and that 2013 was to be our year.

I can only hope. What else is there? The most infuriating thing is that I’ve failed to see Fitz and the staff learn from the seemingly same mistakes and actually correct them. What evidence is there to suggest that we can win the close ones? What evidence is there to suggest that we can adjust to other teams making changes in game? I start doing mental roster recall for the 2013 lineup to ease my pain. Colter? Back. Mark? Back. Scott, Gibson, Lowry, Carter? Back, back, back. VanHoose, Campbell, Henry? Back, back, back. You get the gist. Actually, I do almost the opposite and list the few departees and convince myself how Drew Smith will step up and replace Nwabuisi. I do this with Mulroe, Ward and Arnfelt.

The reality is we’re a 7-3 team in a major BCS conference that won’t be ranked. We seem to lose to the name brand teams that mean so much to a program always battling perception. Yet, there are three games left to try and turn our new 1994 in to a 10-win season. How will this team respond next week against a fantastic Michigan State defense? Can we respond, go 9-3 and finally cross off another major “To Do” with a bowl win? Sadly, until we prove we can put a team away, the answer doesn’t beg a ton of confidence.

It takes way more energy to just embrace this pain then to let it go and be proactive. What can we do to make sure that NU learns from its mistakes and uses this pain, this soul crushing heartache to create the base for a perfect 2013 season? I keep thinking we’re about to turn the corner, but I’m fearing we’re in a circle. The killer attitude that guys like Mark and Colter possess needs to be contagious. It needs to be a united mentality of turning to the coach in the game and saying “let’s put them away..let us go get that first down.” I can’t take this loss with me all week. Not after the hellish real world past two weeks I’ve had. It’s downright unhealthy. Let’s review and then take out our frustration on a team I love to hate – Sparty. We’re due for a 2005-er.

Let’s review.

THE GREAT

Kain Colter – Chalk one up to the stats don’t do it justice. The ‘Cats primary signal caller was a warrior, orchestrating a 248-yard rushing attack with his usual dynamics of timely pitches, gutsy keepers and some beautiful passing.  Colter had 24 car/82 yds, 8/14 96 yds, 1 TD.

Venric Mark – What a show. Venric posted his Big Ten best 7th 100-yard+ rushing game with 104 yards on the ground, which was only part of the story on a day when he posted 260 all-purpose yards. It should’ve been a bunch more as his 100-yard KOR TD was nullified by a holding call that I’ve still yet to see how it was on us as the Michigan player was on top of us. Mark nearly busted a KOR for the win on the final play of regulation. Mark was hammerred several times throughout the game and really looked in bad shape with an arm injury in OT on 2nd down. He didn’t return. I simply love this guy and the way he plays with a purpose.

Trevor Siemian – Kudos #13. The recently maligned sophomore QB put on a clinic today. He was only 6/7 but put up 87 passing yds and 2 awesome TDs. He came in cold for the final series of the first half and put an absolutely perfect pass in the hands of Cameron Dickerson for a game-tying TD to make it 14-14 at the half. Siemian also rallied the ‘Cats after Mark’s KOR TD was called back and he marched NU downfield with a thread the needle TD pass to Tony Jones with 3:59 to go to put NU up 31-28.

Jared Carpenter’s backtip – Fitzgerald Touissaint had ripped off a 50-yard run early in the game and seemed like he was weaving his way to a TD when the ‘Cats safety teed up a back-tip that sprung the ball loose from the Michigan RB and the ‘Cats recovered on a huge momentum swing.

The NU O-line – It’s hard to argue with this unit’s play which enabled NU to rack up 481 total yards of offense on the nation’s #7 total defense. The ‘Cats ran at will on Michigan and while the unit gave up two sacks, they consistently opened up gaping holes and played near perfectly on the option pitch blocks. Even when they did wrong, like Patrick Ward’s alleged illegal block in the back, the call was bogus.

THE GOOD

Christian Jones – The ‘Cats leading receiver on the day hauled in 5 receptions for 61 yards including a phenomenal grab on the ‘Cats opening drive on a 3rd and 12 that kept it alive. It would be the first TD this year that Michigan had scored on it by an opponent on an opening drive.

Mike Trumpy – You almost feel bad for #32 as he’s playing great, it’s just that he’s playing next to a guy who is a legit candidate for the Big Ten MVP. Trumpy had 42 yards on 4 carries and a clutch 11-yard reception. Trumpy barely got tripped up on a run that seemed destined for a first half TD.

Damien Proby – The ‘Cats LB had some nasty hits and led the way with eight tackles. However, the ‘Cats seemed to miss Devin Gardner time and again when they had hands on him.

Rush Defense – Michigan put up 133 yds on the ground on 32 carries, but 50 of those came on the one Touissaint fumble.  Gardner had 49 yards rushing but seemed to be much more elusive and was huge on 3rd down with his legs.

3rd Down – NU went 8/16 on 3rd down with a ton of 3rd and long situations. It was great to see Kain throw on third down, a must as we go forward.

THE DISAPPOINTING

The Final Punt – Just awful. The ‘Cats take a delay of game penalty, knowing they can kick it deep, yet go rugby style and kick it right to the Wolverines PR man who promptly brought it out to the 38 yard line.  All we needed to do was either kick a moon ball or even worst case scenario get a touchback. With :18 and no timeouts, that can’t happen.

Final Play Coverage – I don’t get it. We had three down linemen, yet seemed to be in single coverage over the top on the Wolverines best receiver. You can’t bash Jones for batting the ball down as that is textbook defense, but man, how was he in that scenario? Even when we went ultra conservative, we messed it up.

Fitz’s Antics On Colter’s Late Hit – Fitz acted as if we’d just won on a Hail Mary, Instead, it was a downright silly overreaction to Trevor Siemian getting a late hit prolonging the ‘Cats final drive.  This is the same guy who was asked not to carry Barnett out after the ND win because we need to act like we’ve been there before.

Pass Defense – Man do we miss Nick VanHoose. One of my rules is to never single out a player, but I can’t help but mention the island that Demetrius Dugar was on all day long. It was too much a part of the gameplan to not mention and it was clear he was targeted on nearly every pass. I was elated when he stepped in to get the pick as I felt so happy for him. We continue to give enormous cushions on the edge. Gardner lit us up for 286 passing yards.

3rd Down Defense – The ‘Cats were awful on 3rd down. Credit the athleticism of Gardner and the oh-so-close inability of our guys to hang on to him when they had him. Michigan went 7/10 on 3rd down.

Officiating – I thought it was inconsistent all day long. Michigan was 2-yards short on an early reception, yet got the spot. Colter seemed short, but got it. Kovacs faceguards and never turns, but doesn’t get called for a PI and Ward gets a phantom block in the back. Let me be clear, the officiating didn’t lose this game, we did, but it sure was choppy.

Lack of Killer Instinct – How many times can I say it?

Alright fans, let’s pick ourselves up and get ready for the one team we’ve wanted as much as any all off-season long. It’s time to put the hurt on Sparty, our recent nemesis and start priming for our first bowl win since 1949.

STATS TO STEW ON

  • Northwestern lost its first OT game vs a Big Ten team (7-1)
  • Brady Hoke remains undefeated at the Big House
  • Northwestern racked up 481 total yards (248 rush, 143 passing)

TEAM TOTALS                                                                 NU          MICH

Team Totals NU  MICH 
FIRST DOWNS 27 21
    Rushing 16 6
    Passing 10 12
    Penalty 1 3
NET YARDS RUSHING 248 133
    Rushing Attempts 58 32
    Average Per Rush 4.3 4.2
    Rushing Touchdowns 1 3
    Yards Gained Rushing 281 148
    Yards Lost Rushing 33 15
NET YARDS PASSING 183 286
    Completions-Attempts-Int 14-21-0 16-30-1
    Average Per Attempt 8.7 9.5
    Average Per Completion 13.1 17.9
    Passing Touchdowns 3 2
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS 431 419
    Total offense plays 79 62
    Average Gain Per Play 5.5 6.8
Fumbles: Number-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties: Number-Yards 8-75 2-26
PUNTS-YARDS 4-164 3-154
    Average Yards Per Punt 41.0 51.3
    Net Yards Per Punt 35.2 41.3
    Inside 20 2 0
    50+ Yards 1 2
    Touchbacks 0 0
    Fair catch 1 0
KICKOFFS-YARDS 6-362 6-373
Average Yards Per Kickoff 60.3 62.2
    Net Yards Per Kickoff 36.3 32.8
    Touchbacks 1 2
Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD 3-30-0 1-23-0
    Average Per Return 10.0 23.0
Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD 4-126-0 5-119-0
    Average Per Return 31.5 23.8
Interceptions: Number-Yds-TD 1-22-0 0-0-0
Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD 0-0-0 0-0-0
Miscellaneous Yards 0 0
Possession Time 34:28 25:32
    1st Quarter 5:53 9:07
    2nd Quarter 7:23 7:37
    3rd Quarter 11:13 3:47
    4th Quarter 9:59 5:01
    OT  Quarter 0:00 0:00
Third-Down Conversions 8 of 16 7 of 10
Fourth-Down Conversions 1 of 2 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances 4-5 5-5
    Touchdowns 3-5 4-5
    Field goals 1-5 1-5
Sacks By: Number-Yards 1-2 2-21
PAT Kicks 4-4 5-5
Field Goals 1-1 1-1

 

Individual Statistics

Individual Statistics (Final) 2012 Northwestern Football                     Northwestern vs Michigan (Nov 10, 2012 at Ann Arbor, MI)

 

Northwestern
Michigan
RUSHING No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg.
Mark, Venric    23 111 7 104 1 30 4.5
Colter, Kain    24 106 24 82 0 18 3.4
Trumpy, Mike    4 44 2 42 0 21 10.5
Riley, Tim      3 11 0 11 0 5 3.7
Siemian, Trevor 1 5 0 5 0 5 5.0
Vitale, Dan     1 2 0 2 0 2 2.0
Jones, Tyris    2 2 0 2 0 2 1.0
Totals… 58 281 33 248 1 30 4.3
RUSHING No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg.
Toussaint, F.   18 97 5 92 0 50 5.1
Gardner, Devin  9 49 2 47 2 17 5.2
Rawls, Thomas   3 2 1 1 1 1 0.3
TEAM            1 0 1 -1 0 0 -1.0
Hayes, Justice  1 0 6 -6 0 0 -6.0
Totals… 32 148 15 133 3 50 4.2
 
 
PASSING Cmp-Att-Int Yds TD Long Sack
Colter, Kain    8-14-0 96 1 23 2
Siemian, Trevor 6-7-0 87 2 21 0
Totals… 14-21-0 183 3 23 2
PASSING Cmp-Att-Int Yds TD Long Sack
Gardner, Devin  16-29-1 286 2 53 1
TEAM            0-1-0 0 0 0 0
Totals… 16-30-1 286 2 53 1
RECEIVING No. Yds TD Lg
Jones, Christian 5 61 0 21
Vitale, Dan     2 30 1 23
Jones, Tony     2 24 1 15
Dickerso, Cameron 2 20 1 19
Fields, Demetrius 1 21 0 21
Riley, Tim      1 14 0 14
Trumpy, Mike    1 13 0 13
Totals… 14 183 3 23
RECEIVING No. Yds TD Lg
Gallon, Jeremy  7 94 0 42
Roundtree, Roy  5 139 0 53
Toussaint, F.   1 28 1 28
Dileo, Drew     1 13 0 13
Funchess, Devin 1 8 1 8
Smith, Vincent  1 4 0 4
Totals… 16 286 2 53
 
PUNTING No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB
Williams, Brandon 4 164 41.0 53 2 0
Totals… 4 164 41.0 53 2 0
PUNTING No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB
Hagerup, Will   3 154 51.3 57 0 0
Totals… 3 154 51.3 57 0 0
  Punts Kickoffs Intercept
ALL RETURNS No Yds Lg No Yds Lg No Yds Lg
Dugar, Demetrius 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 22 22
Mark, Venric    3 30 17 4 126 40 0 0 0
Totals… 3 30 17 4 126 40 1 22 22
 
  Punts Kickoffs Intercept
ALL RETURNS No Yds Lg No Yds Lg No Yds Lg
Gallon, Jeremy  1 23 23 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dileo, Drew     0 0 0 1 12 12 0 0 0
Norfleet, D.    0 0 0 4 107 37 0 0 0
Totals… 1 23 23 5 119 37 0 0 0
ALL PURPOSE Rush Rcv KR PR IR Total
Mark, Venric    104 0 126 30 0 260
Colter, Kain    82 0 0 0 0 82
Jones, Christian 0 61 0 0 0 61
Trumpy, Mike    42 13 0 0 0 55
Vitale, Dan     2 30 0 0 0 32
Riley, Tim      11 14 0 0 0 25
Jones, Tony     0 24 0 0 0 24
Dugar, Demetrius 0 0 0 0 22 22
Fields, Demetrius 0 21 0 0 0 21
Dickerso, Cameron 0 20 0 0 0 20
Siemian, Trevor 5 0 0 0 0 5
Jones, Tyris    2 0 0 0 0 2
Totals… 248 183 126 30 22 609
ALL PURPOSE Rush Rcv KR PR IR Total
Roundtree, Roy  0 139 0 0 0 139
Toussaint, F.   92 28 0 0 0 120
Gallon, Jeremy  0 94 0 23 0 117
Norfleet, D.    0 0 107 0 0 107
Gardner, Devin  47 0 0 0 0 47
Dileo, Drew     0 13 12 0 0 25
Funchess, Devin 0 8 0 0 0 8
Smith, Vincent  0 4 0 0 0 4
Rawls, Thomas   1 0 0 0 0 1
TEAM            -1 0 0 0 0 -1
Hayes, Justice  -6 0 0 0 0 -6
Totals… 133 286 119 23 0 561
 
FIELD GOAL ATTEMPTS
Budzien, Jeff 3rd 03:57 34 yards Good
FIELD GOAL ATTEMPTS
Gibbons, B. 4th 00:02 26 yards Good
KICKOFFS No. Yds TB OB Avg.
Flaherty, Steve 6 362 1 0 60.3
KICKOFFS No. Yds TB OB Avg.
Wile, Matt      6 373 2 0 62.2

 

 

  • Peter S

    Does anyone have Fitz’s record when up 10+ in Big 10 play? It has to be a losing record, right?

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      It’s now at least 6 losses in last 14 B1G games.

      • Beardown

        again – give me one other Big Ten contender that would keep a coach after all these chokes – and keep all the assistants – the whole package. Not even Indy or Minney would. We will forever be a 6-6 or less team unless we truly demand more and stop with the :its ok, we were gonna be really bad this season” or they “:we have come so far from the 80′s” crap. All you apathetic Cat socialist fans get what you all deserve – just like the Obamanationers!!!!

        • byebyefitz95

          I totally agree. Maybe because I graduated from NU 7 years ago, but I am sick of this “Let’s just settle for 6-6 since we should be thankful for 6 wins.” Settling = LAZINESS!!!! My friend yesterday said “You should be happy you’re bowl eligible.” I am happy we are, but with games left to play I want more wins, a ranking, a better bowl game, etc. I thought we would be 7-5 this season…however I didn’t think we would be 7-2 and then lose the last three (possibly). Also…I will never get over our coach jumping up and down like that on a penalty call on national TV. I just shook my head when I saw that. He needs to go.

          • beardown

            Good to hear from you Byebye. Firefitz was trending on twitter yesterday. I miss Walker…….he was a better coach by far. He would have never made these mistakes. Fitz was too young when he took over – and quite frankly – still doenst have enough experience
            WAKE UP YOU FITZ WORSHIPPERS!!!!!

            HELLO PHILLIPS!!!!?????
            How ta gonna raise $250mm after this…..Im keeping my checkbook closed til then get rid of those assistants!!!

          • trophyman

            You guys, be patient, this program is better than stable, probably one of the best teams of recent past, its got some great players, some still developing staff, just get Phillips to hire a special teams coordinator…please. Its on TV every week getting coverage that others beg for. Fitz will fill the bill. This MU game was a BIG TEN BAILOUT officiating wise…BTN did not even cover Marks return…what a shame….with OSU and PSU off on vacation, do we really think the B10 is really going to let part timers fill bowl positions to lose with limited fan turnout? really…you know its all about the money. Face it, NW is a smaller institution than most DII schools and it just cannot get the kind of support that institutions with a 60k enrollment has. As to the $250M, you do it for to be current and competitive particularly if you expect the B10 to determine outcomes like this one. The the pressure is on…anyway who is going to come with the facilities we have?The best thing to expect now is a bowl win and we can do it with this team!!!They proved its no longer about finishing, its about winning.That’s a big step.

          • PBRCat

            After witnessing nine consecutive bowl games losses, I desperately want to see Northwestern collect a trophy, any trophy, before I expire.
            Expectations have been raised. The team has been marketed much more heavily, but there is a justificable sense of frustration that the team has not managed to reach the next level. I was patient for the first five years, given the circumstances under which Fitzgerald assumed the helm (I still cringe when I recall that Dave Eanett once mentioned Brown as Walker’s possible successor), but the apprenticeship period ought to be over. The coach should be farther along by now. I think that he has had much better talent than Walker had most of the time.
            This was the Wildcats year to reach Indianapolis. The team has talked about “finishing” after tough losses for the past few years. Enough already. Go and get it done.
            I am frustrated at the offensive play calling and the clock management issues. Of course, if the punt had been properly executed yesterday, this conversation would be moot and the Wolverines would be grumbling. The Wildcats have to keep putting up points in the second half without fail (remember the epic fail against Michigan State when a thirty plus point lead was insufficient) and stop clock watching. The fourth quarter conservatism has been maddening. Yes, protecting the football is important, but the offense cannot be shut down for fear of committing a turn over.
            I think that it is too easy for opposing defenses to prepare for Northwestern. Our offense is quite predictable despite our playmakers, this is especially true in the fourth quarter. I wish that we could open up the playbook and catch the opponents off balance with a trick play or two more than once every three years.
            Fitzgerald took time out for a jog through the North suburbs today, so maybe we need to calm down too. I am done venting.
            I hope the Wildcats can take it to both Michigan State and Illinois, but I am not holding my breath as to the bowl game (location, opponent and outcome).

          • beardown

            you – my friend are a CAT APOLOGIST.
            And part of the problem in this nation as a whole
            I expect victory
            I expect people to get off food stamps tooo

          • http://profiles.google.com/davidrgaines David Gaines

            Not interested in your irrelevant OT opinions regarding food stamps, people who voted for Obama, or socialism.

            Two things I consistently never see brought up in posts/comments on these websites:

            (1) The fairly obvious observation that Northwestern is nothing like any of the other schools in the Big Ten. Medium size, academically world class, private university sitting on top of one of the three major cities in the United States…….why would ANYBODY be surprised that NU has a 40,000-seat stadium that’s typically half full and not a 100,000-seat stadium that’s typically sold out, or that more fans for visiting teams show up to all the home games? News flash…..there’s nothing to do in Lincoln, Nebraska or University Park, Pa. or Champaign, Ill on a Saturday afternoon……plus those places have gigantic alumni communities that have been obsessively focused on football for decades.

            (2) NU has a comparatively tiny student body, which produces a comparatively tiny alumni network, which – to a large degree because of said aforementioned academic standing – focuses its interests/efforts/activities on a whole lot more than football. In addition, the city of Chicago and its metro area provide almost countless activities to compete with college football on Saturday afternoons in the fall, particularly a program that only very recently has been consistently competitive. And the fact that NU is now competitive at all against collegiate behemoths like Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, etc. is remarkable.

            Stop hyperventilating and remember that, were it not for a penalty here, a mental mistake there, and a bad line judge call over there, we could not inconceivably be 10-0 instead of 7-3. And what would you all be saying about the coaching staff and administration in that case?

    • JM

      5-6 up 10+ in the second half of B1G games in last two seasons. Amazing.

  • cebpd

    Lol. Don’t act like none of us expected this to happen. up double digits? Check. Ranked? Check. Game actually means something? check.

    How many times are we going to see this awful defensive coaching staff destroy the team?

    We’ve been calling for Jerry Brown’s firing or resignation, RIGHTFULLY, for 2 years now. our best corners are a freshman and a transfer? are you serious? Ibraheim doesn’t look for the ball, or he could have intercepted that LONG throw to Gallon. Corners have NO CLUE how to play. It is pathetic. pathetic. Pathetic. If there was EVER an indictment of Jerry Brown, that HAIL MARY was it, BY FAR. It is so pathetic to watch this team lose the same way every single time.

    but nope. Fitz will talk about lack of execution, blah blah blah. Guess what Fitz. when you have single coverage on a hail mary pass with 20 seconds left, something is wrong. when you dont tell Brandon to kick the ball high or out of bounds or whatever, something is wrong.

    Fitz is the best head coach in the country off the field, but on the field, he has NO CLUE what is going on.

    What did Brady Hoke when he got to Mich? he surrounded himself with great coordinators, and assistant coaches. He focused on the GAME, the feel, the flow of it. and it worked.

    Fitz still runs punt coverage or punt return or whatever it is. so guess what? every 3rd down, he has to organize all the players and make sure they are ready to go. he loses track of what goes on in the game, which leads to poor management, missing play calls , etc etc.

    until Fitz gets SERIOUS about hiring effective assistants that can help him win, NU will still be the JOKE of the Big Ten. for YEARS to come.

    not to mention this schedule was ridiculously easy this year. wait until we have OSU and Wisconsin on the schedule

    • PBRCat

      I am getting tired of Northwestern’s propensity to shut down the offense in the fourth quarter and playing not to lose and getting exceptionally conservative on offense play calling as the team tries to run out the clock. One more first down, one more punt, one more tackle, but I digress.
      I also think that Fitzgerald needs to demonstrate greater self-control on the sidelines. I am not criticizing his passion, but he needs to show some more maturity. Other teams and opposing fans have started to make fun of his sideline antics. I cannot see how such behavior helps fire up the team either.

      Could Brown simply retire? He is the last assistant coach from the Barnett era and the only one who did not seem to be in demand when the others left Evanston for new positions elsewhere. His assignments and duties have been changed regularly, but his units seem to be the most disorganized on the team.
      The Wildcat players put forth a great team effort today, but it seems as if Northwestern has to play perfect, error free football, or a lesser opponent prone to making more mistakes in order to win. None of the seven wins that the Cats have posted have come against quality opponents.
      I am beginning to doubt the coaches. The players are expected to “Trust” each other, but can the players trust their coordinators?
      I have attended every bowl game since 1995, but I am weighing the possibility of sitting this one out. As much as I have enjoyed traveling to Texas, I have been there five times already.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      I feel your pain, but JOKE is a bit strong, don’t you think? How do you think Illini or Iowa fans feel? Agreed, we’ve got major issues on our “D” coaching and also depth issues in the secondary. We need instant impact DBs badly..hope the open door to start as a frosh will work on the recruiting trail.

      • cebpd

        no. I don’t. I never want to be compared to Illinois or Iowa. I want to be compared to Mich, OSU, and nebraska. and to do that, we need to expect victory and expect that coaches do THEIR JOB. We have to get out of this mindset of settling for mediocrity. “oh well we are 7-3 thats better than we expected” blah blah blah. it is Bullshit. Jerry Brown is such a pathetic JOKE of a coach and we’ve seen it for nearly 3 years now. what more do we need to see? Wisconsin fires its O line coach 2 weeks in. guess what? they are in Big Ten Championship game.

        Fitz believes in continuity. Well when the continuity is doing horribly, we continuously get horrible results.

        every loss, we’ve had the opposing QB be big ten player of the week. I mean how often can we see the SAME problems week after week?

        The best Corners are players that havent been in the program long! its really unfair to the rest of the players on the team who make plays and do well to deal with the same problems every week.

        Brown not only is a bad coach, but he instills a lacksadaisical attitude in the majority of the defensive backs. Carpenter(ok he played great today, overall hes done very poorly), Dugar, D. Jones, Justan Vaughn, David Arnold, Fleming, Mabin(he never lived up to the hype that people thought he was good), all those guys have not made plays and have been reliabilities on the team. it’s a whole pandemic of this team, and it starts at Brown.

    • PBRCat

      The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Northwestern punter was supposed to have punted the ball out of bounds. For whatever reason, that did not happen. As a strategic decision, such a punt would have negated the big punt return, so it may have been poor execution. As for the rugby style kick, I have never liked that approach.

      • http://twitter.com/buckyor Bucky

        I just read that article. Interestingly enough, it simply says that Williams failed to punt the ball out of bounds “as instructed.” There’s no attribution for the assertion that Williams was so instructed; it doesn’t say Williams admitted it, nor does it say the coaches claimed it. Odd.

        Clearly that was a big play; setting Michigan up near the 40 rather than on the 20 was a huge difference. But accepting a delay penalty just before the punt also contributed; if we want to keep it out of the returner’s hands, a punt from the 44 would likely do the trick even if it did not go out of bounds. And of course, there’s that dreaded three-man rush, which allowed Gardner the luxury of winding up to throw the bomb to Roundtree.

        This is just the mark of a team that does not know how to finish; does not know how to manage end of game scenarios.By my count that’s 5 double-digit leads blown in the past two years. That’s quite a few. It’s almost as if we count on a team giving up, like Minnesota and Indiana have done (and Iowa in recent years); if a team is willing to fight us til the end they’re likely to prevail.

        • PBRCat

          I am with you on the delay of game penalty before the punt. You are correct that the Sun-Times provided no attribution for the statement that the punt was supposed to be kicked out of bounds, but the article made the claim nonetheless.
          Not that it matters, did anyone else wonder why Fitzgerald did not signal for a two point conversion after the final NU touchdown?
          Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Man, did this loss hurt!

          • matt

            In the press conference, Fitz said the punt was supposed to go out of bounds.

  • zeek

    What’s our biggest win of this season? Minnesota? Syracuse? Hard to really make an argument that we’ve beaten any good teams this year.

    And we won’t get a chance to beat a good team until the bowl game.

    These final two games are just for bowl positioning now. There’s no statement to be made by beating a 5-loss Michigan State or the worst team in the conference (Illinois).

    We absolutely need a bowl victory this year.

    • David

      Vandy is 6-4…with losses to #4 Fla, #5 GA, #8 USC (by 3) and NU. Vandy will be favored in their next two games. Syracuse is up to 5-5, with a 20 point victory over top 10 Louisville.

  • Nate

    We’ll all eventually get over this loss, just as we got over the Nebraska and PSU losses, and ALL the tough bball losses before them. But I must ask because it’s something that has been nagging at me for a little more than a season now and is often discussed in these comments sections esp. after bad losses.

    How do we know that the NU administration really cares about the state of their athletics, specifically the revenue-generating sports? Maybe they are content with above-average fball and bball programs, but I am not. I look at the success enjoyed by other academic equivalents and feel like we’re left out of the party time and again.
    I didn’t decide to join this fan base roughly a decade ago because I thought 6-7 win fball seasons were cool. I joined because I saw the potential for a consistently great fball/bball program when they slayed perennial powerhouses like Michigan (St.), OSU, Wisconsin, etc. I’m optimistic that the powers that be in Evanston are looking out for the best interests of NU, its athletic programs and fans, but sometimes I question whether they REALLY do. Which leads me to my final point.

    Does Fitz need help during games, like an adviser or someone on his staff to assist him on the fly, because the coaching decisions today at the end were atrocious. Trev was ballin’ today and it killed me not seeing him in the OT session when a TD was necessary. I feel that to re-establish the “killer instinct” LTP mentioned above, Fitz needs someone in his ear making sure he’s coaching in the team’s best interests.

  • NUARANINETYFIVE

    I brought up this idea on ‘inches away’. I will bring it up here as well. We all love Fitz representing our university. We could not find a better individual to run a ‘clean’ program and connect with the younger generation of recruits out there. The consensus is building that he lacks the game day tactician experience needed to win the big games. Worse–his teams do not reflect the ‘killer instinct’ on defense that he instilled as middle linebacker in ’95 and ’96. I was at the game in Michigan in ’95. I told everyone before I went we were going to win. I had no doubt. When you are watching a game with 18 sec left and the opponent has the ball on the their own 38 yardline….and you still think there is too much time on the clock. This is a problem. I have a solution. Hire Ron Vanderlinden to be our Associate Head Coach/DC with the understanding that he is next in line to be HC. Hire Gary Barnett as our Associate Head Coach/OC. Have them (not Fitz) decide who best to keep of the current staff and hire whomever they believe is best to bring NU to the position of ‘Leader’ -in the Legends division. Trot Gary on the basketball court and have him committ to WINNING the Rose Bowl. I believe we have ourselves a “Bill Snyder” situation here. With this scenario–Fitz stays and is put into a ‘box’ to focus on his core talents as CEO/Head Coach/Face of the Program/University—and let Gary and Ron do something that few could—put NU into a National Title discusssion.

    • PDXCat

      I think having Fitz as a figurehead, where everyone knows Vandy and GB are doing all the real work, would just lead to a lack of respect for Fitz. If we want coaches that can make the team win/play more effectively, we don’t need Fitz. He could be the Shon Morris of the football team. An ambassador, a symbol of the hard-working NU athlete, but he doesn’t need to be on the sidelines. Think Joe Pa in the last few years. Also, Vanderlinden is, what, 20 years older than Fitz. When’s he going to take over? When he’s 70?

      • Old Fat Bald Guy

        The ’95 team blew a 17-point lead and lost to a MAC team. Just sayin’.

        • NUARANINETYFIVE

          Yep. And the ’95 team beat Notre Dame, Michigan & Penn State as well. Just sayin’

          • Old Fat Bald Guy

            And the ’96 team beat Wisconsin because Dayne fumbled when the only way Northwestern could win was if Dayne fumbled — ditto the 2000 game against Michigan, and of course, we could go on. This stuff happens when it’s college football and your grizzled leaders on the field are 22 years old. It happens more often when your best corner is an injured freshman and your best safety is a sophomore, which is where NU is right now. (Although Carpenter has been good lately, maybe he’s the best safety.) It’s the emotional “fire everybody” response that I find fault with, and NUARANINETYFIVE, I’m not talking about your reaction because I understand it’s more nuanced that that.

        • PBRCat

          What do the two losses have in common? Lack of proper execution on special teams as the games were nearing the end.
          Yesterday, the Wildcats suffered, in part, due to a lousy punt.
          In 1995, a special teams miscue in a punting situation contributed to defeat also. The snap was sailed over the punter’s head and the ball rolled forever and help set up Miami’s winning field goal.

        • CML

          Big difference. in ’95 our deep snapper got hurt and the sub couldn’t get the ball to the punter.

      • NUARANINETYFIVE

        Clarification. I am not advocating for removing all ‘game day decisions’ from Fitz. What I am advocating is a ‘shake up’ of coordinators. Vanderlinden is only 56. Bill Snyder is currently leading KState to the Nat. Title game at 73. I don’t see Fitz coaching past 2022. Gary and Vandy could put NU over the top in terms of competing with Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State. Also, I do believe the program is going in the right direction…but ‘more’ is needed. Gary and Vandy are available. Why not?

      • jph98

        YES!!!!!!!!!!! If we keep this horrible game coach and figure head – SURROUND HIM WITH GENIUSES!!! FIND THEM AND PAY FOR THEM HANK AND BROWN MUST GO!!!!

    • jph98

      FIRE FITZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • David

    I don’t think this was a lack of killer instinct. NU overcame a significant number of bad calls to be in a position to win this game. I think they were showing killer instinct when they were throwing Gardner to the turf in the endzone and he flipped the ball to no one. The next two plays when NU put them in a 3rd and 17…I thought they showed killer instinct. I think they showed killer instinct breaking up the 3 and 17 pass…before the official bailed UM out with a horrible PI. Despite yielding the lead…Venric showed Killer instinct housing the subsequent kickoff…until the flag signal popped up on the screen as Mark crossed the 20 with no one near him. I thought the CATS showed killer instinct when Semian came in after the Colter injury and threw lasers to recapture the lead. I thought the D showed killer instinct when Dugar stepped up an made the huge pick. This team seemed to show killer instinct when they went for it on 4th and 1 after forcing UM to use all of their timeouts. I think the team was smart to run three times to take the clock as far as it could go….a pass would have been the wrong call…just ask Kevin Sumlin. You have to like the odds of giving the ball back with 18 seconds…A&M was going to give Bama 40 seconds. The game was lost on a poor punt decision and a fluke tipped catch. This team battled and overcame significant setbacks, which would have caused other teams to fold against a top 10 defense. I think it is unfair to this team to blame this loss on a lack of killer instinct. As an injured Colter and Mark were in on the drive following the int…

    • David

      To finish my thought…an Injured Mark and Colter scratched out a 1st down to seemingly seal the win. It was a loss…there are many reasons…but it was not for lack of killer instinct.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      David – the 3rd and 17 was an interference on Dugar. Cats had plenty of chances on that very same drive to stop them, up 10, but failed to do so. Penalties didn’t lose that game, we did.

    • TexasCat

      The article and this comment are both right. The problem is, Hind sight make it easy to throw this game into a bucket with many game that DO feel very similar with regards to the end result. Not alot left to say that hasnt been said. No one left to blame that hasnt been blamed. It does feel like we constantly find ways to blow these games. “Not a second less” indeed. This loss was soul crushing beyond words. I got nothing.

  • David

    To all the Fitz haters…or non Fitz haters who think we went conservative on the final series and that cost us the game…I have a question. If Fitz had called a pass play on 3 & 8 and it had been dropped….so we give the ball back to UM with 60 seconds remaining on the clock and Gardner leads a 5 play 60 yard drive to set up the tying FG….would you be defending Fitz decision to throw the ball…because he was showing killer instinct? I think we all know the answer to that question.
    I seem to recall that in the Nebraska game when Fitz threw the ball to pick up the first down on the final drive…but Vitable was unable to make the catch leaving us with a 53 yard FG attempt….many of you screamed that Fitz was stupid not to run the ball to gain three extra yards to make the FG easier. Never mind that JB had never hit a FG from more than 45. If Fitz had called a run…and JB came up 3 yard short on the FG…you would have complained that Fitz should have known it was out of his range and he should have passed for the first.

    It is always easy to know which decision not to make after the play is over.

    • Old Fat Bald Guy

      I agree, David. This one really stung, and I’ll admit that unlike the first two losses, I actually thought this one was put away in the W column. But there was nothing wrong with that last offensive series except the pitch on third down, which was a stupid risk but worked out OK. “Playing not to lose” would have been punting on the fourth down Colter converted. The last punt was poorly executed, the fact that Daniel Jones had no help on Roundtree on that last long pass was bad. But personally, I expected this season to be pretty bad, and this team is overachieving by a bunch. Depth and experience are major issues on defense, and NU isn’t “as athletic as all of our opponents” until the guys who are out there on special teams don’t have you worried every single time. The answer is to keep upgrading the recruiting classes, and Northwestern has the right coach to do that.

      • ruserious

        fuck your “expected this season to be pretty bad and this team is overachieving”. thats such a fucking lame ass mentality. get the fuck out

        • jph98

          Agree FIRE FITZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • DenverWildcat

            Fitz it the best thing we have going for our program. Not many coaches out there can do so much with the modest “talent” we bring in

          • byebyefitz95

            @2a4b66670e7046e2589c83b2086daf46:disqus Wow. What are you on?

          • DenverWildcat

            Tom Waddle made the comment on ESPN 1000 that he talked to a number of college insiders/coaches that felt Fitz IS the primary reason we have the solid record we do, especially considering the talent deficit we suffer from in the recruiting process. And in response to your “question” I must be ON the same stuff as Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State who all offered Fitz their head coaching jobs in the last five years….

        • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

          Please don’t attack other commenters with that kind of language. Keep it clean.

    • Mark

      Agree with you on NU’s plays at the end of regulation. But what did you think of going to prevent defense in last 18 seconds and getting beat over the top? (The whole point of prevent – avoid getting beat deep. So Gardner gets all day to throw and there is no one deep except the guy covering the receiver.) And how about the very last NU play in overtime? Demens blew that play up – we handed off to a sub instead of keeping the ball in our playmakers’ hands.

      • David

        We should have tackled every receiver at the line of scrimmage a couple of times and let them try a 60 yard FG.

        • DenverWildcat

          This is true. At the Denver game-watch we were all wishing we would have committed a pass interference on the hail mary. Then they wouldn’t have had enough time for another pass then field goal try.

      • David

        Also…Fitz didn’t call a dive on the final play…it was a triple option. You had Jones, Colter and Trumpy in the backfield. Colter who is pretty spectacular at running that offense thought the hand off up the middle was the correct read. Fitz put it in Colter’s hands….but the UM defender made a great play.

        • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

          I thought for sure we were going Trumpy, upon watching the replay I think it was there.

    • Doug

      Yes, I will defend EVERY aggressive coaching decision because it has been obvious to me for 5 years that NU cannot successfully execute a conservative game plan. Whether its the end of the 1st half last year, or the end of games this year, NU has gone into a shell game and actually won only ONE time that I can remember since Fitz became head coach (Nebraska, 2011). So yeah, every time we go for it on 4th down, every time we RUN THE OFFENSE instead of just running it up the middle into a stacked box in the 4th quarter, I will defend the agressive play calling. Even if it results in an interception, trying to WIN, instead of not lose, is the only acceptable way to play.

      • DT

        Well said…

      • David

        I am not sure where you specifically came down on this issue…but one time when Fitz was showing killer instinct…all of the Fitz haters piled on him because it did not work. We were up 28-3 against Iowa..we had a 4th and 2 at Iowa’s 40. The offense was rolling and Fitz went for the first…seeking another score to lock up the game. We failed to convert…Iowa went down the field and scored. Fitz was blistered for giving Iowa life and not punting the ball away. We have a core group of posters who win…lose, close…blow out, disciplined…sloppy…….the solution is always fire Fitz.

        • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

          I loved that call and still do. Monday morning QBing is easy to do, but the punt and the coverage on the Hail Mary are both unacceptable.

          • Timc

            Exactly. Especially the punt. Do you remember Griese saying “they should rush 2 extra guys. There’s not going to be a return here”. Put it in the end zone and we (even we) probably win as they start at the 20. Then we take a penalty and go back 5 yards more. Still having nightmares about that play which was SO strategically do-able. REALLY bad coaching.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      Very good and valid point, however, I would argue that the FG situation was different then yesterday. Again, Fitz played the odds on that final drive in a way that few could question, however, the runs were designed to kill time and not actually to be aggressive, except for the third down pitch. Your points are valid. I feel as though a healthy Colter out there, or at least Colter pre leg injury equals a different gear.

    • CML

      I have no problem with the offensive play call for the most part except the final 3rd and 9 from the 39. We line up with everyone tight and strong to the right telegraphing to Mich that we are runnng that way – loss of 4 or 5. Why not spread the field and at least give the illusion of a possible pass? Cain does his best work in space. Fake the hand off to a single back and send him over the middle. If the LB picks him up Cain runs a QB draw. If he doesn’t then there is the possibility of an easy toss over the middle. I wil take the chance on Cain scrambling any day. Option right on that play was doomed to fail. Take a chance on getting the first and FINISHING it. LSU made the same mistake vs Bama last week and it cost them…and there was plenty of time in that game. That said, the punt probably cost the game.

  • fred

    Colter’s late hit (resulting in Fitz’s “antics”) was actually a late hit on Siemian, who deliberately fell down (a la final drive at Syracuse) to draw the late hit flag. If Siemian doesn’t intentionally fall down, it would probably have been a no call (it wasn’t that hard of a hit). I think Fitz’s jubilation was motivated, at least in part, as a reaction to the intelligence and creativity of Siemian in drawing the foul, especially since Fitz had just possibly lost the services of Colter.

    • David

      I believe he was simply making the point that we finally got a call. It was directed at the official on the spot.

    • DenverWildcat

      I had the impression that Fitz was sort of mocking the refs after a game of terrible and very Michigan-biased calls

  • DarkSide

    Time to get up off the canvas. We are defined by how we respond to adversity. Balls to the wall. Destroy Sparty. GO CATS!

  • TK98

    Livid at yesterday’s outcome so attempting to crunch some numbers to make sense of what the hell is going on with our Wildcats – specifically whether Fitz is taking us in the right direction. Knowing, yes, all about Fitz’s “stats are for losers” act. Afraid this doesn’t offer as much clarity as we’d all like, however. First, a comparison of the NU head coaching records for Gary Barnett, Randy Walker, and Fitz:

    Barnett (7 seasons): 35-45-1, 23-33 – good for 43% winning percentage overall (44% minus bowl losses), 41% in B1G. Two B1G winning seasons (95,96), two B1G championships (95,96).

    Walker (7 seasons): 37-45, 24-32 – good for 45% winning percentage overall (47% minus bowl losses), 43% in B1G. Three B1G winning seasons (00,04,05), one B1G championship (00).

    Fitz (6+ seasons): 47-39, 24-30 – good for 55% winning percentage overall (57% minus bowl losses), 44% in conference. Two B1G winning seasons (08,09), zero B1G championships.

    No surprise at Fitz’s non-conference record – up until this year they’ve largely been cupcakes. I am, though, more than a bit surprised that Fitz owns a better conference percentage than his predecessors. This may have much to do with the teams those wins came against (I didn’t look that deeply! – someone else please feel free!). I guess my impression is that the comparison is a wash when you consider we haven’t been anywhere close to a B1G championship under Fitz, even though our overall conference record is “better.”

    Next topic – Fitz and fourth-quarter leads. By my count, NU has been tied or leading going into the fourth quarter in 29 games and we’ve won 16 of them (55%).

    Here are the wins:

    06: IL, IA

    08: IA, MI, IL

    09: PU, IO, IL, WI

    10: IN

    11: IN, NE, MN

    12: IN, MN, IA

    The losses:

    06: MSU

    07: MI, PU, IA

    09: MN, PSU

    10: PU, MSU

    11: IL, IA

    12: PSU, NE, MI

    Again I suppose it would be interesting to look more closely at the teams we beat vs. those we didn’t – feel free! I also didn’t dive deeply enough to look at double-digit leads though that’s certainly a topic that’s been brought up here before.

    So as I said, I’m not sure any of these numbers provide much more clarity about our Wildcats – where they’ve been or where they’re headed. I personally still feel like we’re just treading water. Go ‘Cats.

    • Pittsburgh Wildcat

      I took your Big Ten W/L records of the 3 coaches, but subtracted their 1st year, and also updated to include a .500 Big Ten season (4-4) as opposed to having to be 5-3 or better.

      Let’s face it – what Barnett inherited was, in a word, brutal. Walker inherited a team that went 0-fer the Big Ten in GB’s last year. And of course the circumstances of Fitz’s becoming head coach were tragic.

      So allowing for 1st season issues and getting things settled, here are the revised records:

      * Barnett (1993-08, final 6 seasons): 32-37-1, 20-28 Big Ten, 2 years at or above .500 in B1G (95-96)

      * Walker (2000-05, final 6 seasons): 34-37, 23-25 Big Ten, 4 years at or above .500 in B1G (00-03-04-05)

      * Fitz (2007-12, most recent 6 seasons): 43-31, 22-24 Big Ten, 2 years at or above .500 in B1G (08-09); need to win 1 of final 2 games to make it 3 years

      I think it absolutely confirms what you said at the end of your original post: treading water. Yes, Fitz is obviously doing better in nonconference games, but with a split of the final 2 games (and at the bare minimum we better beat Illinois), Fitz’s Big Ten record over the last 6 years is equal to Randy Walker’s, with not as many seasons at .500 or above.

      The great news is that we should have 7 of the last 13 years of being at least .500 in the Big Ten. Without fact-checking, I would imagine that hasn’t happened for the ‘Cats since the 1930s/40s. So at least the program is stable, and that also is something we haven’t been able to say at any other point.

      But it also shows that we’re no longer improving.

    • http://twitter.com/CheechPDX Steve Klopcic

      I have a friend that runs a completely unbiased analysis website. Read this for an outside perspective on NU:

      http://cfbmatrix.com/portfolio/northwestern/gallery/big-ten-conference/

      Poke around and look at the comparison between talent levels of teams in the B1G (of course you have to buy into the premise on the site) We get caught up in the hopes and dreams as good fans do. But we have to admit we’re myopic. It boils down to talent and what the coaches do with the talent. NU is improving, and Fitz (on average) gets a lot from the talent he’s able to bring in.

      I personally agree that the defense needs (and has needed for some time) a shakeup because I want to win every game and yesterday was *so* winnable. But winning every game is not realistic for this program as it stands today – but improvement is not only realistic, but is slowly happening under Fitz. ‘Slowly’ is painful – but noone wants a flash-in-the-pan Auburn program with purchased players and monumental collapses (or do we? I don’t).

      Steve

  • Purple to Pasadena

    I agree with several commentators above that this loss was not due to a lack of killer instinct. Going for it on 4th and 1 on our last drive showed that we were in fact going for the jugular. As for the final punt, in light of what I saw on TV and read in the Sun Times article, it appears that the instructions to Williams were to (1) get rid of the ball asap to avoid a block, and (2) kick it out of bounds. Probably with his unfamiliarity with rugby style punting and getting the ball out that fast, he simply missed his assignment. The better call by Fitz might have been calling a timeout with 1 second left on the play clock, not taking the 5-yard penalty and telling Williams to kick it out of the end zone. But we would have been vulnerable to a punt block in that scenario. So I see his reasons for doing what we did. I believe it was a simple case of lack of execution.
    Bottom line, that was a game between two evenly matched teams, both dealing with one major injury (Robinson, VanHoose), and Michigan made a great (and somewhat lucky) play at the end of the game to win it. As LTP mentioned, our ability to pull out victories in those crazy back and forth games, especially those that went to OT, used to be as reliable as death and taxes. Not anymore.

    • CML

      I agree with your assessment of the instructions on the final punt, but here is the problem. I was sitting toward that endzone at the Big House. I too figured UM would go for the block and was praying we would just get it out of there. But when they lined up I could clearly see that UM was not going for the block. They had two men deep and another spread wide. We should of recognized that and “audibled” to a straight punt or called timeout. Instead, we get a bad hurried punt and the rest is history. Or kick the damn ball OB.

  • Joel

    While I generally agree with many of the folks here re: Fitz and finishing games and the philosophy of coaching, i want to point out that this was maybe McCalls’ best game of the year. i, as have many, have been critical of McCall’s playcalling and gameplanning and adjustments in the past, but on the road in the big house, he stuck to his guns and rolled up 400+ yards and 30+ points against a strong defense. His flow with Colter and Simien was good, his playcalling (save maybe 3-4 odd calls) was consistent and effective, his throwing/running cadence with Colter was good. For all the grief McCall has gotten over the past 2-3 years, it is important to note his great game.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      Well said. McCall has taken a ton of heat and the ‘Cats “O” played very well.

    • NJCAT

      Agree for the most part. Hwever, NU should have continued running the option until UoM could stop it. I dont understand why we abandoned what was working.

  • KatMan

    @ LTP…It was Trevor who drew the late PI call on the late hit out of bounds not Colter.

    • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

      Indeed..thanks for the correction.

  • CMF

    I am still hurting badly from what transpired yesterday. Yes, the coaching staff should have made a secondary change early in the game and reminded our players that a PI penalty at the end is not the end of the world, but that isn’t helping me get over this loss. Instead, I will state that for the first time in many years, I do feel that the collective talent on this team as a whole is as good as it has been in a long time. Other than the fact that we are razor thin at CB, we have the players on Offense, Defense, and Special Teams to compete with anyone on our schedule. I think that is what makes this season so maddening for fans like us. We aren’t used to having talent on par with the likes of Nebraska, Michigan, and Penn State – so we want to capitalize on it when we can. Yes, the B1G is waaaay down this year, but I still feel this team could compete with a lot of teams in the top 25 – maybe not the top tier SEC teams, but I also wouldn’t be scared to play #3 ND. Having the talent puts extra attention on the coaching staff on both wins and losses. I really do love Fitz as our coach for everything he brings to the table, but there is also no denying he needs to do a better job with in-game management. I do feel that he has made some improvement in aspects of being more aggressive (i.e going for it on 4th down) – but the 1 thing that is holding him back as a coach is his loyalty to players and his staff. He mentioned earlier this year that he was too loyal to seniors at a fault last year. However, when certain players are being exposed to an opponents game plan, he doesn’t make a change to either the personnel or our own game plan. He’s too loyal once the game begins… I think his loyalty to Trevor going into the Penn St, Minnesota, and Nebraska games because that was our game plan going in also hurt the team once it was apparent that sticking with Colter for the majority of the snaps was better. He did recognize a change was needed the week of the Iowa game, but again, he did so outside of a in-game situation. I rambled for quite a bit, but the positive thing is we have the players to compete and the needle is only pointing up as far as our youth and future commitments. Once Fitz is able to make in-game personnel and game plan changes – this program has the ability to get over this incredible long and frustrating hump. The question that remains is, can he? I still have hope.

    • Nate

      I have hope too. Just look back at tape from the ’03-’06 seasons, and it’s obvious that NU was over matched across the board, but sneaked up on a few opponents en route to upset wins. That’s not the case anymore. The talent Fitz and co. are recruiting is as good as it has ever been, and I feel that the arrow is pointed up in Evanston. But until the ‘Cats can put opponents away a la ’95, I will still have my doubts. I need to see it happen. Whether that means Fitz needs more assistance on the sidelines during games is up for debate, but I am confident that the future of Wildcat football is very bright.

  • Pittsburgh Wildcat

    I’m trying to really wrap my head around being disappointed at 7-3, 3-3. But I am, and I think it’s simply because of the realization of what was there for the taking.

    There’s only 1 truly elite team in the B1G this year: it’s ineligible (OSU). And arguably the 2nd best team (PSU) is also ineligible. Within our own division, neither Nebraska nor Michigan is dominant, while Sparty and Iowa are both down.

    I think one characteristic common among a majority of NU alums is the desire to achieve the maximum possible results and realize the full potential in whatever field/endeavor is chosen.

    And certainly one lingering feeling of mine is that this team will not realize its full potential. The question is why? And of course we all have opinions on that, but that lost opportunity may be the most disappointing part of this season.

    It’s also very possible that Fitz/Bielema will be the longest tenured active B1G head coaches come next season as I have to believe the vultures are circling in Iowa City, especially if Iowa ends up 4-8, 2-6 and in last place in the division. Bielema has 2 Rose Bowls so far, and will have a shot at a 3rd straight one.

  • David

    Food for thought…How can the CATS ever bee a good team? As some of our more vociferous posters point out…this team only beats teams that we should beat, which makes us the softest 7-3 team in the country. However, Good teams don’t lose to team they should beat. Now…if NU beats a team that should beat us…it seems that they would cease to be a good team…because they lost to a team they should have beat. Seemingly there is no path by which NU can be a good team.

    There are too many on this board that act as if no other teams have struggles.

    • Mark

      The Cats are a good team. Are they an excellent or great team? No. But when I watch them play they play hard. Watch Mark accelerate into guys who outweigh him 50-125 pounds. This team is made up of gamers. Even the guys who are overmatched play hard. Interesting to see the defensive stats where the leading tacklers are the linebackers rather than, as in the last few years, the safeties. That tells you something about the guys – better physical talent, especially speed. I thought last year was going to be a great year.

      • David

        I agree…I am simply pointing out the double standard that some our fans use to knock our team.

  • Jim Kalinowski

    I follow NW as an extension of my wife graduating from there (not my team but I root for them). People in the forum are criticizing Fitz but not talking about the critical no calls by the refs at the end of the game. Although I can’t defend Fitz for not going for the throat when he had an opportunity, the players should have taken the PI on big catch. Just an unfortunate bounce. I watched the go ahead touchdown and the Cats following OT possession and was aghast at the two biggest non calls of the game. I paused the picture on the DG touchdown run on third and goal and you could see full extension of the Michigan OL’s arms into the back of the Cats tackler on DG (no call that would have resulted in a 3rd and goal from the 11). The no call on the Colter horsecollar was atrocious as the action was the definition of the penalty. This puts the Cats first and goal inside the ten. Fitz should freeze these shots and send them to the Big 10 (I did and they are obvious calls). The calls against Mich. St. vs. Nebraska and Penn St. vs. Nebraska this week make me wonder about the Big 10 refs wither being totally incompetent or on a payroll. It seems like both Michigan and Nebraska are being propped up in the division to ensure a team who can fill the Championship game will make it in. After all, the third worst team in the other division will be playing. Just some observations from a Cats follower… not exactly a loyal long time fan.

    • PBRCat

      Over the years, I am convinced that the officials in the B1G conference are in collusion and favor the “contenders” in many contests and play favorites. Michigan has been the beneficiary of so many cheap calls and missed penalties in games against Northwestern over the years that it makes me ill.
      The only time I thought Northwestern seemed to get the benefit of the doubt on a few calls was in 1996 and 1997 while Barnett was still the head coach and the Wildcats were newsworthy. Once the Cats fell in the standings, it was back to business as usual. Michigan was barely penalized yesterday.
      Nonetheless, I think that Fitzgerald needs to keep his emotions in check. You can have competitive fire, but as Barnett said “Act like you have been here before.” Sometimes, Fitz behaves like he is still a player rather than a coach. The team does not need to be penalized for his constantly leaving the sidelines to enter the playing field.
      I am feeling empathy for the player who tipped the ball to the Michigan receiver after seeing the photo in the Tribune. If Jones had not touched the ball, it would have been an overthrown, incomplete pass. Bad luck.
      It is a shame since the Wildcats played good ball for fifty-eight minutes.

  • CMF

    On a lighter side, it’s pretty cool to see Wootton and Nick Roach starting on the NFL’s best defense. Well, Wootton doesn’t start, but he plays as much as a starter. For as much angst we have had with our defense over recent years, it’s funny how almost all of our NFL players end up on the defensive side of the ball.

    • David

      After Wootton’s TD last week if you paused the DVR there was a shot with Wootton, McManis and Roach all on the screen at the same time…probably the first time three Wildcats could be seen at the same time in an NFL game.

  • PMac

    I’m as upset as anyone after that loss, but some of your posts are absurd. For morons saying Fitz needs to be fired, please take into consideration that the only reason we are competitive is because he can recruit, develop, and motivate players at a school with top academic standards, below average facilities, and a fan base that is non existent. I go to all our games and often bring friends who have never attended a game and their first two remarks are: 1) this look like a high school stadium, and 2) there are more fans from the other team here. The only respectable thing about northwestern football is the coaching staff and players. That being said, I am optimistic. I thought we would get 7 wins max this year and we have that. Our recruiting classes are stronger every year, our facilities are planned to be revamped in the coming years, and we have one of the best coaches in college football on our side. In my opinion, the only thing to frown upon about northwestern football is our crappy fan base.

  • nwildcat

    We’re all down here. We understand how we’ve won and lost. Fitz and Co. are average at best. Cain and Mark are good football players. I refuse to watch the MSU game. It will be ugly. MSU 14 Nu 7

    7U

  • Jimgocats93

    Waited to watch the replay yesterday on BTN. You guys are right:
    Fire Fitz
    Fire Hank
    Fire Jerry
    Just hire Ditka he never takes the pedal from the metal (heard he was on Central last week thinking it was Chestnut but he was yelling “Put your hands in the air”)

    And get Gearge Allen as DC he won an NFL championship for the Bears way back when (I know he’s dead, but Ditka wouldn’t work with Ryan again no matter what)
    And let’s fire Phillips too and get Al Capone as AD. Then we could bring our own officiating crew and not worry about phantom holds or missing players who were “blocked in the back”.

    NoCatsno!

    NU 31
    MI 28
    Officials 14

    • DT

      @c92ee7ca46483b98f02281fbad8f1c04:disqus– Jimgo… You are on fire, dude…. Monday Morning and talking about bringing back the ghosts of George Allen and Al Capone… Knowing a thing or two about the history of both those gents, safe to say Allen would have not repeated the same mistake that Greg Colby and Mike Hankwitz did in retaining Jerry Brown… In terms of Al Capone, safe assumption that he would have had as much tolerance for Fitz and his hyperbole as he did another Chicago Irishman, Dion O’Banion…
      In that you are obviously on a roll, maybe one of the high points of NU spitting the bit next week against Sparty will be your inclusion of other dearly departed folks in key roles at NU… Lombardi, Halas, Charlie Luciano? Maybe, if a bad call goes against us, you can channel the ghost of Arnold Rothstein cooking up some skullduggery with the officials to job NU again in East Lansing!
      WhoaCatsWhoa….

  • Leither

    How about on 3rd and short we DON’T start shotgun. Can anyone help me understand why NU kept doing this against Michigan? I was at the game and witnessed several Michigan fans question the coaching motive on this one.

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Nebraska3000
Minnesota2100
Iowa2100
Illinois2100
Wisconsin1100
Purdue1200
Northwestern 0200

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Penn State3010
Maryland2100
Ohio State2100
Michigan2100
Michigan State2100
Indiana1100
Rutgers2101