Rebound Time: Win Over Sparty Much Needed To Save Season, Set Nemesis Up To Be Home For Holidays

As fans, we’re not beholden to silly coaching cliches or player protocols. We can look ahead on the schedule all day long. We can hang on to wins until next year, and sulk after losses as much as we please. However, the pain of Saturday’s Hail Mary Victors loss to Michigan is one of those that, like Nebraska, will sting for years to come. I believe the Michigan and Nebraska losses are in the Past 25 Years House of Pain Top Ten list that includes the likes of Miami (OH) ’95, Wake Forest ’96, Iowa ’00 and of course the Michigan State ’06 game which cemented our school’s name in infamy for blown leads. Here we are some six seasons later and it seems like we’ve come full circle – from losing a 5 TD third quarter lead against Michigan State – to now needing to beat Michigan State to help bury the pain of a third double-digit second half lead in one season. So, I’m choosing to put my head in the sand about last week and look ahead. A win over Sparty and Illinois and we’ll be Gator Bowl bound. A loss to Sparty and win over Illinois and we’re headed to Arizona for the BW3 bowl game. Considering Ohio State has been a given loss all but one year on our schedule in my lifetime, the two other teams that lead the Northwestern annals of “most tormenting” have been Penn State and now, thanks to the last half decade of pain, Michigan State. How nice would it be to roll in to East Lansing and pay back the pain and suffering they’ve caused us by putting them on the brink (currently 5-5) of staying home this bowl season (Minnesota is their finale) and delivering a nice double-digit loss to the team that is so easy to dislike?

As we do most weeks, it’s time to give you some historical context on the opponent at hand – Michigan State – the most formidable defense we’ll have faced all season – by a long shot, in my opinion. We’ll spend much of this week on the strategy going in to this game as there is no word yet on Venric Mark’s health, Kain Colter’s leg and the fact that running on Sparty has been next to impossible.  For now, let’s brush up on all the reasons of late why I want this win so very badly.

Series Capsule Alltime Series: Michigan State leads 36-16
Pat Fitzgerald Era: Michigan State leads 5-1
Since 1995: Michigan State leads 8-5
Favorite LTP Win:
2001 “Instant Classic”
Least Favorite ‘Cats Loss:
The All-time “Bad” Comeback -2006

Magic ‘Cat Moments

2001 – “Instant Classic”Annually I rank this doozy as the most underrated game in Northwestern lore. Perhaps the major disappointment of the 2001 season clouds us from good memories of that year, but this is the craziest finish in the series history. The ‘Cats entered the game ranked #16 facing a #23 Michigan State team at Ryan Field. Amazingly, Michigan State returned two kicks to the house in the final 4:42 and still lost. After the ‘Cats went up 24-20 with under :30 to go, Herb Haygood busted and 84-yard KOR for a TD to put Sparty up by two. And in one of the most underrated plays in NU lore, Napoleon Harris blocked the PAT. Northwestern got the ball with :16 left and promptly hit the “Victory Right” button once again. This time the Hail Mary was caught by Jon Schweighardt on a tip from Kunle Patrick at the Sparty 33. David Wasilewski drilled a 47-yard FG as time expired and the ‘Cats moved to 3-0 and #14 in the nation with the 27-26 win.

1997 – The Anwaun Jones Game One of the few bright spots in the ‘Cats disappointing 5-7 ’97 season was a 19-17 homecoming win over Sparty. The Spartans entered the game ranked and appeared as if they’d pull out a last second win as they had a chip shot for the win, but Anwaun Jones got his hand up and blocked the potnetial game-winning FG.

2005 – The Sparty Beatdown On October 18, 2005 Brett Basanez led the ‘Cats in to battle in East Lansing against yet another ranked Spartan squad. Michigan State was #22 in the country so when Sparty marched downfield to jump out 7-0 you thought “here we go”. Brett Basanez may have had his best passing day of his career as he was 24-30, 331 yds and staked NU to a 21-7 halftime lead. You kept waiting for the Spartans to retaliate, but NU capitalized on mistake after mistake and another 100-yard Tyrell Sutton performance made this team look much like the current Spartan team. Northwestern romped 49-14 in one of the most enjoyable Big Ten games this NU fan has ever had as blowout wins are so rare. Demetrius Eaton’s rambling for an 86-yard TD off a Drew Stanton fumble is the indellible image in this game.

2007- The CJ OT Game

NU entered the September 29, 2007 game limping without Tyrell Sutton and a 2-3, 0-2 record. CJ Bacher was brilliant setting several school records (later to be broken by Mike Kafka in the Outback Bowl) including a 520-yard day in the air and tying a school record with 5 TDs. Omar Conteh stepped up in Sutton’s absence and NU needed overtime to finally put Sparty away in the 48-41 OT win (Conteh caught the game-winner). The ‘Cats blew two opportunities to win it in regulation including a missed 36-yard FG by Amado Villareal as time expired, yet persevered and escaped East Lansing with a “w” in an offensive thriller.

The 2000 Blowout This game is so far off the radar even I forgot about it before looking it up in the media guide last season. Again, Northwestern faced a ranked Michigan State team that was 3-0 in East Lansing. Just one week after our thrilling OT upset of #6 Wisconsin at the Madhouse in Madison, NU entered Michigan State with most of us sensing a letdown game. The ‘Cats promptly put up 200 yards of rushing – in the FIRST HALF – and Damien Anderson simply torched the Spartans for 219 yards on 25 carries (how far away does THAT seem from our offense these days?) and NU cruised to a 37-17 laugher.


Sparty has had its fair share of pleasant moments in recent years, but there are a couple of games that stick out for me.

The (Bad) Comeback – 2006 As NU fans we get very sensitive anytime you bring up a game, event or occurence that wakes the echoes of the Dark Ages. Fitz’s first homecoming as head coach turned in to just that. Northwestern was up 38-3 midway through the third quarter when Michigan State promptly capitalized on the enormous momentum swing of Nick Roach breaking his leg and as if a switch went off, the beleagured John L. Smith-led Spartans put on a comeback show like nothing we’ve ever seen before. I’ll never forget constantly doing the math while looking at the scoreboard. We continually did quick time of possession calculations (“let’s see, we’re up 21 now, if our average drive is 3-minutes, will they be able to…)to see if it was even possible for the comeback and painfully it was. Northwestern added another futility record to the books with the largest blown lead in NCAA history. Sparty wins 41-38.

The 2008 Fizzle NU was off to its best start – 5-0 – in my lifetime and Michigan State entered Ryan Field undefeated as well. The ‘Cats were ranked #22 and Sparty was #19 and the ‘Cats got the ABC late afternoon coverage slot which seemingly set-up a great day. The ‘Cats looked much like they have in big games not named Iowa under Fitz as several miscues inlcuding a fumbled kickoff return by Sherrick McManis and a pick thrown by CJ deep in our territory which aided Michigan State to jump out to a 17-0 1st quarter lead. NU battled back on the shoulders of Tyrell Sutton who posted a 139-yard rushing day including a 66-yard buster to set-up a TD. Bacher threw – get this – 61 times – in the 37-20 loss in which many walked away with the same feeling we had after Purdue last year under the lights – we folded under the pressure of the big game.

The FG Robbery Game A year after getting a big upset at Michigan State (16-13 in 1991), the ‘Cats Halloween hosting of Sparty in 1992 was a mean trick. The ‘Cats were down 27-26 and Len Williams led NU to a seemingly game-winning drive. Brian Leahy kicked a FG sky high over one of the uprights and the refs looked at one another while walking as to say “what do you say – it was too high up to judge…” they shook their heads “no” and the ‘Cats lost 27-26 as many of the students had started to run on to the field thinking it was good. Sparty wins 27-26.

2010 – “They Took The Cheese” Game

Northwestern had ’em. Dan Persa was his usual masterful self and helped the ‘Cats jump out to a 17-0 lead over the #7 undefeated Spartans. Kirk Cousins was putting up yardage in the air, but NU was able to keep MSU in check and headed to the lockerroom up 17-7. The ‘Cats seemed to be in control all day until one play turned the tide. After being held in NU territory, Michigan State was pondering going for it on 4th down, but took a 5-yard delay of game penalty and elected to punt. Well, fake punt, that is. Northwestern allegedly was screaming for the fake punt as Michigan State was near our 40 and the entire nation had seen what Michigan State did to Notre Dame earlier in the season to win. However, Jordan Mabin turned the wrong way and Aaron bleepin Bates hit Bennie Fowler on a floater that went for a first down. MSU scored on the next play and momentum shifted for good. The ‘Cats had the ball down one with under two minutes to go, but a nasty wind kicked in and Persa was picked and the ‘Cats left homecoming heartbroken. Mark Dantonio was giddy and seemed to relish winning the cat and mouse game as he told a national TV audience that they were hoping we would “take the cheese” and we did. Man, do I want to beat Sparty badly this year.

I left out last year’s game, which seemed to be going our way until Treyvon Green fumbled inside the five sparking a last two minute rally for the Spartans, who had clinched the division and seemed to be sleepwalking. Their cadre of receivers promptly lit up our secondary and their D-line overpowered our line, frustrating Dan Persa who spent most of his day staring at the sky after getting piledrived in to the ground.


  • JM

    Agree this game is huge. The way we’ll look at this season if we win our last two games to go 9-3/5-3 is quite different than if we lose to a mediocre MSU team and finish 4-4 with no quality conference wins. Win this week, take care of a terrible Illinois team and carry some momentum into a Jan. 1 bowl game. That sounds good to me.

    Lose this week, and ending the season with a win versus a hapless Illinois team will be of little solace. A .500 conference record in the weakest B1G ever is not a positive. And neither is the fact that we’ve lost three games in which we held double-digit second half leads (and six dating to last season).

    The fact that poor game management likely cost us a spot in the B1G Championship Game is still very hard to swallow, considering we could have a better team with a worse record against next year’s tougher slate.

    • Nate

      Agreed…gotta win this one to feel positive heading into the bowl game…if NU could find a way to slay the dragon and have a 10-win season, it would be a huge stepping-point heading into next year with a good recruiting class and a maturing team. The arrow is definitely up esp. if NU wins out.

    • DT

      “A win against a hapless Illinois team will be of little solace”… Tell you what, a loss against a “hapless” Illinois team could be a disaster…

      A couple things to remember… It’s a rivalry game and throw out the records… For all NU’s assumed superiority to Illinois in the last couple years, we are 0-2 against them… Another fun fact to remember, they are 2-0 in the last couple bowl games they have played beating Baylor and RG3 and UCLA… That’s double the wins NU has ALL TIME, the last two years…

      If Northwestern does not learn to close games and plays 3.5 quarters of the game for instance– they could very well go 0-3 to end this season… Don’t think for one minute, particulary with all the BS made between the programs related to “Chicago’s Big Team”, that Illinois would like anything better than to derail any good momentum Northwestern might have trying to end this abysmal bowl losing streak while at the same time laying claim to being Chicago’s Big Ten team, as decided on the field of play… ON that basis, they are very dangerous and whatever happens with Sparty, a huge game…

      • PBRCat

        One of these decades, you and I are going to have to drain a few beakers of firewater together!

  • Nate

    If Kain and Venric are not 100%, then it may be smart to start Trevor and go all ’07-’11 NU out there offensively, chucking it around the yard. He was on fire last week (I feel he should’ve started the OT session), and although the MSU secondary is tough as nails, so is their run D. I don’t like NU’s odds with a hurt Kain and no Venric (no offense to Trumpy, but he’s a better short-yardage back), attempting to run the ball. What I saw from Trev was the confidence and ability to make big time throws, and I’m wondering if going with a pass-heavy gameplan to build a lead and then bringing in Kain to run the clock out wouldn’t be the best route to take.

    • Even with a healthy Kain, if Venric isn’t 100%, I’d opt for a Trevor plan.

      • PBRCat

        I second the motion. I wish Trevor had played overtime at Ann Arbor given the fact that Kain seemed dinged up and Trevor had a hot hand that same day.

      • Db

        Playing kain on one leg with mark on the bench was another case of the moment being too big for our staff. I guess I don’t blame them for being deflated, but that was just short sighted at best. And what happened to Kain the selfless martyr that pulls himself out when he knows he’s hurt? Takes a different spin when on national tv and your competition is throwing bee bees for touchdowns. And if you don’t think he was hurt, check how many times he has EVER given the ball up on 4th down, to Jones on a dive no less.

        • David

          Stop….I am not going to call you an A** Hole…But that is an A** Hole remark. You are going to come on here and imply that Kain made a decision to hurt the team, simply to subvert Trevor….Please. First the Syracuse game was also on ESPN. Second, we had to drive the field and his SHOULDER was injured…he could not pass. Third…Kain’s position was less secure back then. He does not need to worry about losing his job…Minny, Nebraska and PSU insured that. You should think about retracting your comment. It is uninformed and inflammatory.

          • db

            Perhaps there is some confusion. What Kain did this week is what every football player worth their salt would have done. They would have wanted to be on the field to decide the game. It is the coaches job to realize the guy isn’t moving and get him off the field, especially when the tailback is down, their other QB is throwing well and Michigan is weak over the top. What I take objection to is the lionization of Kain “pulling” himself from the Syracuse game. That was completely over the top and unbecoming. And frankly I dont even believe it.

            And yeah, he does need to worry about his job if he can’t move the ball. It’s why he lost it the first time, and you are being naive to think it wont happen again. If he throws the ball well (and they let him) god bless, but if he is only a running qb he will make Indiana look silly and get clobbered against real teams.

            Minnesota is your benchmark? Did we score in the last 3 quarters? That usually doesnt work.

          • David

            You are helping make my point. Trevor was ineffective against Minny, PSU and UNL. That is why we are back to Kain at QB. I like Trevor…but the only way he gets a majority of the snaps is if Kain is hurt.

          • Db

            You realize Trevor played about 7 snaps against minny, all on 3rd and long right? So kain effectively played the whole game and yet that the last points we scored were at the beginning on the 2q on a 50 yd mark run right?

            Siemian looked bad in a couple apots this year, but other than that he has been literally spectacular despite getting run on the field cold in random spots. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a magic potion to convert all 3 rd and 12s. I do believe they need colter to play and if a team can’t stop him I don’t know why they get away from it. But facts are facts and outside of several quarters this year colter has had a tough time getting in the end zone against real teams.

            And back to the original point, which you now seem to agree with, if colter is hurt, you play Trevor. Period. Especially against a swarming Michigan defense when your tailback is down.

      • This is nuts. It’s one thing if Colter is not healthy, but if he is, you gotta play him as your starting QB. Dicking around with this is one reason behind the PSU and Nebraska losses; do it again and you’re likely to lose to Michigan State as well.

        • Have you seen MSU load up the box? If we do start Kain, he’ll have to throw much more than he has been. Playing Kain and running 80% against this “D” is a recipe for disaster. i love our rushing game, but this “D” on the ground is far superior to any one we’ve faced. At least in the 4-5 games I’ve watched.

        • Db

          I love how people think kain can magically weave his way through 8 in the box. Especially against this team. If he doesn’t throw it, or Trevor doesn’t throw it, we won’t score a point.

  • DarkSide

    Forget the past.
    “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.”
    In other words, ‘time to get medieval’ on Sparty.
    GO CATS!

    • DT

      Johnny Drama from Viking Quest?

      • DarkSide

        Shakespeare, Johnny Drama the gist is the same-CRUSH green, TRAMPLE white!

        • DT

          Fair enough… VICTORY!

  • DT

    In the interest of accuracy, history has shown that Jordan Mabin did what he was told to do on the fake punt in 2010… You might remember some confusion in the aftermath of that game and play in that Fitz said Mabin went the wrong way, et al in a presser after Sparty made us look bad AGAIN.. Fitz changed his story in the next 48 hours, when Jordan rightfully stuck to his take– that he did what he was told to do… Thus, I’d ammend your synopsis of that 2010 game, in saying Mabin turned the wrong way at the direction of the Special Teams Coach, one Pat Fitzgerald…

    • God forbid you miss out on a chance to point out a Fitz mistake….

      • DT

        I’m shocked you seemingy admit he made a mistake.. Fact of the matter there were two mistakes made by Fitz… 1 The coaching of Mabin… 2- Throwing the kid under the bus for 24 hours…
        Take your pick, Chad…

      • DB

        He has to keep occupied with something. His Mike Leach for President and savior to Northwestern bandwagon just got derailed again.

        • DT

          Good to have you back and certainly has not been The Pirate’s best moments recently… I’ll give you that…. That said, when does your annual littany regarding Carmody start and what odds do you give on Fitz having his monkey on the sidelines of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in a few weeks?

          • cece

            oh, please, no monkey!!!!!!!

          • DT

            My guess is that The Monkey is being fitted in new Under Armour as we communicate– awaiting the bowl invite so Polisky can sell a patch on it to Buffalo Wild Wings… Potential revenue opportunity…

          • PBRCat

            Watch the monkey get hurt! Shock the monkey!

          • db

            February and 3:2

          • DT


  • UVA Cat

    Looking at MSU’s stats this year, it’s no mystery that Maxwell hasn’t been particularly accurate at a 54% completion rate this season. However, there are two games that seem to stand out–12 of 31 vs. Iowa and 9 of 27 vs. Nebraska. Is there something that Iowa and Nebraska did, in terms of defensive strategy, that helped cause this poor completion percentages? Just wondering since I didn’t watch enough of those games to know. If there is something in terms of defensive sets/schemes/strategy, let’s capitalize on it, force MSU into 3 and outs, and thereby wear down their very strong defense by keeping them on the field.

  • Watching and (Mostly) Waiting

    Thanks LTP for recalling the “FG Robbery” game in ’92. I thought of it Saturday. We had Evanston ticket neighbors over to watch the Michigan game (a good idea for about 59 minutes, then the host lost his cool), but as I was ranting after the Hail Mary, one of my guests tried to calm me: “We’re not in OT yet. Maybe Michigan will miss the FG.” And as I blurted out “That’ll never happen”, I suddenly had another, longer-term focus. In my 40+ years of watching NU FB, has there ever been a time when the opponent missed a FG that determined the game? The NU examples abound:
    * Demos vs. Auburn, Miss #1
    * Demos vs. Auburn, Miss #2
    * The “FG Robbery” in ’92, when the two refs looked at each other endlessly (which in most circles means “it was inside my upright”, “inside mine too”, and thus the kick is good, but somehow they took it away from us)
    * Budzien vs. Nebraska 2012, admittedly a tough make but nonetheless THIS close

    Of course, we’ve made a few too (the Gowins double-make vs. Michigan, etc.), but can anyone recall a last-minute missed FG by the opponent that gave NU a victory? No one has missed more of those in its history than Michigan (see “Ten-Year War: Bo v. Woody”), but history told me this kick was going right down the middle. And it did.

    • I’d point to the ’97 MSU game as the only one I can remember and it was blocked by Anwaun Jones. Good points though…we’ve had more than our fair share of misses. Had some clutch makes. Often overlooked is Tim Long in ’00 at Wisconsin to force OT.

      • PBRCat

        I was there for the game and, sadly, the team’s victory actually produced a Cardiac case. An important Assistant State’s Attorney suffered a fatal heart attack after watching the Wildcats win on the blocked punt. People were shouting like a movie for a doctor and there was one present, but I wanted people to exit the stadium and clear the aisles. The man passed away later at Evanston hospital. True story.

        Although I attended the overtime victory in East Lansing in which C. J. Bacher and Omar Conteh performed magnificently, my favorite NU win was when John Schweigert caught a pass to help set up the winning field goal in 2001. This was a more improbable finish than what happened in Ann Arbor last weel

      • PBRCat

        Sam Valensizi and Brian Gowins set the benchmarks for other Northwestern kickers to follow. Jeff Budzien has been compiling some impressive stats in 2012. You are absolutely correct about Tim Long’s contributions in 2000. In addition to the Wisconsin game, he connected four times to keep the Wildcats in the Instant Classic game against Michigan. For the remainder of Randy Walker’s tenure, the kicking game was sometimes problematic to say the least. Fitzgerald has been somewhat more fortunate since Budzien has improved so much.


      I hate to recall the missed extra points that have proven costly too. There have been too many to mention (Sun Bowl, Alamo Bowl, etc.). The one that really hurt took place in our second visit to the Alamo Bowl as the Cats may have won the game in regulation, but for that one missed XP.

      • northwesternfan9

        One of the greatest kickers in NCAA history in terms of FG percentage (93% or something like that) missed a 44-yard FG at the end of regulation to allow tht Alamo Bowl game to go to overtime. Even though it did not lead to a victory, it is still an example of a big missed FG that benefitted us. But other than that, you are right. They never seem to go our way. Maybe MSU will miss one this week :)

    • UVA Cat

      The other NU FG field goal misses that I remember were the 2 in OT vs. TCU on the Thursday night game in early Sept 2004. That was the game Basanez passed for 500+ yards and we lost…

      However, as bad as those missed field goals were, I can’t imagine what it must have been like in 1996 when Ron Dayne fumbled the ball and we recovered with less than a minute to go and subsequently scored to win the game…especially when they really didn’t need to run a play at all.

      And, speaking of missed FGs, remember the 1995 NU-Michigan game where Michigan took a 13-6 lead, and then Dave Beazley fumbled the next kickoff. Then Michigan took the ball into the end zone for a TD, but the TD was called back due to a holding penalty. Ultimately, Michigan came up empty as they missed a 30 something yard FG. From there, NU took momentum on the next drive with a TD. So, while not at the end of a game, that missed FG definitely played into the flow and outcome of that memorable victory.

      Bottom line: I tend to agree that it seems we have missed more than our share of last minute FGs, but negatives sometimes stick in our memories more than when history goes the other way…

      • Watching and (Mostly) Waiting

        THANKS UVA for another reminder, this one a wonderful memory I will never forget. I was in Madison in ’96 when Dayne fumbled, and three plays later Schnur hit Bates in the corner of the end zone for the game-winner. I agree we remember the negative, and in fact that’s why I asked the Q. Appears, though, we have not had opponents miss many critical place-kicks. Wouldn’t it be ironic if MSU (probably the team with best history of placekickers in the league) did so on Saturday?

    • rawr-rawr-rawr1stdown

      If I remember correctly, Mike Nugent, who won the Groza Award in 2004 and plays on Sundays now, had what might have been the worst miss of his college career in overtime of our ’04 win over Ohio State. We ended up scoring a TD on the ensuing possession, so it didn’t technically lose the game for OSU, but it changed the game to a just-don’t-screw-it-up-now situation for the ‘Cats.

      I got a kick out of this, as I could rattle off the same NU misses mentioned here (as many of us could, I’m sure), but this was the only opponents’ miss that came to mind. The losses sure do leave a deeper mark.

  • sidelinecat

    I knew the fake punt was coming, I was screaming “watch the fake”. I knew MSU was tricky like that. I knew they were thinking about the 4th down attempt and then BATED FITZ by taking the delay. All too obvious. DANtonio didn’t fool me, but he sure fooled the hell out of Fitz. Another example of Fitz being an awful in-game coach.

    • PBRCat

      Everybody in the West grandstands knew the fake was coming!

      • DT

        Certainly everybody within five rows of me knew!

        • Everyone in the entire country knew the fake was coming, except for those on our coaching staff. Hell, I was 1500 miles away watching on TV and I could see it.

          • DT

            Yep… Gotta think if they were tuned in on the space shuttle, they could see “Cheese”, particularly if they had access to a television and saw Sparty vs. The Irish a couple weeks previous… So very obvious sans the folks you mention…

  • cebpd

    LOL x10. “oh this game is so important for perception, bowl game, blah blah blah”. Guess what? we had that against PSU and NEB and Michigan, and we blew them all. My guess? Same story, different game. or, we get blown out by a motivated MSU team, as Dantonio does not overlook NU like other teams on our schedule.

    • No one said this game was important for perception blah blah blah..just that it would feel good to finally beat Sparty.

    • Nate

      I disagree…going into the bowl game 9-3 (let’s just assume the Illini game is a W) with the opportunity to end the drought while finishing with 10 wins for the first time since ’95 would be a huge accomplishment for this program. Do the lost leads suck? Absolutely…this season has been one of the toughest to feel good about despite being 7-3 thus far. But a pretty damn rewarding end to a season with a very young team would be to beat a team that’s probably better than NU in a sunny Jan. 1 Florida bowl game…let’s hold on to a late lead first, something I envision will happen Saturday.

  • Wildcats99

    I feel very strongly about this so I had to comment. I love the Wildcats more than anything and I have been heartbroken this year 3 times (attending all 3 games in person) but this one was just bad luck and a great play by Roy Roundtree. I think of this game as “Reverse Victory Right.” How many games have we won that we never should have? Unfortunately, some just don’t go our way. It is the law of averages. Please stop calling for the end of Fitz. It is not his fault. In fact, I want to commend Fitz being more adaptive.

    From day 1, I believed that Trevor is the long-term answer at QB and that Kain is too one-dimensional to win against the good teams. The coaching staff paid attention and tried to make a switch at Penn State but unfortunately it just didn’t work. They tried it against Nebraska too and again Trevor had just lost the magic. He was very nervous I suspect, threw lots of passes high and made some very questionable decisions. After the Nebraska loss, Kain basically publicly blamed his “benching” as the reason for the two losses, declaring to that NU had lost its offensive identity. Fans too, completely reversed course and demanded Kain. Some coaches might have benched Kain for insubordination, but the team leadership (including Venric) seemed to agree based on press commentary and Fitz went “all-in” with Kain/Mark for Iowa. I’m pretty sure the team made a decision for Michigan that they were going to “love or die” behind Kain/Mark and Fitz (to his credit) let the team leaders choose how they would determine their fate. For the entire 1st half at Michigan, Trevor seemed entirely certain he would not see any action in Ann Arbor. He was relaxing on the sideline, joking with Zach Oliver wearing a baseball hat nowhere near his helmet. And then all of the sudden Fitz walked by him very casually and told him to stop messing around and warm up. He immediately got on the phone to upstairs and then started throwing.

    Something miraculous happened, he thew perfect strikes and generally aimed low so nothing sailed on him like @ Penn State or against Nebraska. Most likely because he was relaxed and never thought he would play. I’m sure that’s why Fitz went with Kain in OT (the team decided to live or die with Kain). However, Kain was injured and probably could barely run by the time OT was finished. I would say that this is why Fitz is considered a “players’ coach.”

    I think sometimes as fans we look at everything as bad decisions, but I think in Football (as with many things in life) things seldom go as planned. I’m pretty sure Williams didn’t intend to kick the punt to Gallon. I’m also pretty sure that the scheme was intended to have more than single coverage on Roundtree. However, at the end of the day players have to make plays and pretty often they just miss things. I think as fans we just don’t appreciate how hard it is to make the right play in game critical situations. What I appreciate about Fitz is that he’s been adaptive this year and has tried different things. At the end of the day (as traumatic as it’s been), NU is 3 plays away from being undefeated and in the running for the national title game. I understand that those 3 plays puts them A LONG WAY away from that but we have to put things in perspective. Excluding ’95 (which was an aberration) what season could we ever say that about? Even in ’96 we had one total meltdown game against Penn State and a loss to Wake Forest.

    We need to put this in perspective guys (& gals). This is ONE OF THE BEST SEASONS IN NU HISTORY! Period. I’ve been crushed by the losses as much as all of you, but the sky is not falling for NU, it is getting brighter. We just need to keep pressing forward and getting better. Who knows, maybe these close losses will get us on the right track to go 12-0 next year with largely the same players. We’ve had the chance to win EVERY game and have only been 1 play away in the losses. Let’s be thankful for that and hope that from now on the bounces start going back our way.

    • DT

      One on one isolation coverage enabled Roundtree’s gift from God, 99… Is so very obvious to the football novice, fantasy stud, or Madden Legend, NU was not prepared in an optimum way… Ask the Michigan QB if he thought it was bad luck… He checked his reads, saw the one on one and let it rip against a smaller slower DB…Should have never been in the situation in the first place…
      While I dig your passion and loyalty, heart on the sleeve, Rah, Rah stuff of this nature is going to keep NU right where it is… And if you truly feel a Big Ten record of 3-3, having spit the bit on at least 2 of those losses equates to
      ONE OF THE BEST SEASONS EVER”, then you have the bar placed right where the rest of The Big Ten wants it for NU… C’mon… Demand better, dude… You are a well meaning guy drunk on Koolaid..

      • Wildcats99

        DT, I definitely expect more. I’m one of the few NU fans that only knows a winning program. My freshman year was the Rose Bowl season and I remember how good it feels for the team to be dominant. I totally understand the concern about single coverage argument, but Michigan has two other great receivers as well (Gallon & Dalio (sp)). From my perspective at the game it appeared to me that there were actually 3 NU defenders in the vicinity but two of them were out of place (sort of playing zone) so that is why there was only 1 defender. I think it was also largely an execution failure more than a play call. That being said, I hate the prevent defense. I strongly favor blitzing the hell out of the QB.

        I am very unhappy about the loss, but we can either spend our lives sad about it or just have a positive view and realize that we went to to toe with Michigan in the big house where they have NEVER lost under Brady Hoke. Yes, this is absolutely a season of missed opportunities but we are very close to being great. You have to give credit where credit is due. The main reason we’ve had the improvement in recruiting, the new facilities plan, etc. is because of Fitz. Without Fitz, we would be nowhere. Or even worse, we could be WSU & Mike Leach where he abuses his players.

        • DT

          You make some great points and I don’t question your passion, loyalty or commitment… Still, I feel your emotional outpouring about how this is one of the greatest years ever for NU misplaced, purely on the basis of a .500 record in The Big Ten 3/4 of the way through the conference season… We can debate how and why Roundtree was isloated one on one like he was until the proverbial cows come home… Fact of the matter, he was, and made a play, with the end result being continuation of a disturbing trend where Northwestern University can’t finish or hold leads in big game situations… I’ll leave it at that..
          In terms of Pat Fitzgerald, I beg to differ in that I personally feel numerous coaches could be as productive as Fitz… I say this on the basis of a losing record in The Big Ten conference seven years in, and the fact to date, Pat has yet to win a bowl game… I would say a public relations and brand spokesperson of his ilk would be difficult to find given his history with the University… That said, again IMHO, a self described, “knucklehead”, proficient in coach speak is not the most eloquent individual available either… Fitz is the beneficiary of a college fooball landscape that lends itself to parity… Moreover, the walls were broken down by Gary Barnett and to a lesser extent Randy Walker in terms of proving that Northwestern could compete at The Top 20 level in the modern era of 85 scholarship — BCS level football… To say that “We would be nowhere without Fitz”, borders on hero worship and is at the very least inaccurate and a value judgement that does not hold water… Moreover, if anything, Northwestern has underachieved under Fitzgerald.. Save me the grades, admissions and facility stuff…
          Finally, you are pretty quick to take the word of a disgruntled player (Wilson) at Wazzou who broke team rules and policy and in essence let his team down as possibly the most talented player on the squad at that.. You are probably a big fan of Craig James and his Son as well, and know exactly what happened in that case as well? I would say, Leach’s comments this year have been inappropriate (“They played like walking corpses”… The Offensive and Defensive lines play bordered on cowardice”) on occasion and certainly have not been motivational for kids he inherited for the most part from a culture of losing under Paul Wulff.. That said, my money is on Leach to have Wazzou in the Top 25 in two years having affected a successful turnaround despite the difficulties of his first year and some of the stuff he created for himself to fuel the fire from guys like yourself… Love him or hate him, he remains one of the most innovative and successful D-1 coaches of the last 25 years…..

          • Wildcats99

            DT, I think as fans you and I just have different objectives. I want NU to win so badly, but I’d rather accept a few losses than have a coach that abuses the players represent the university. Yes, I agree that I am accepting one side of the story but one instance (i.e. James) is a mistake, two is a trend. I’m not even going to dispute Leach’s ability to win games here, but our program represents more than just winning games. If that is al you care about, you should just watch the NFL. I don’t “worship” Fitz, but I admire his ability to bring honor to our university and turn our players into great well-rounded individuals. 99% of these guys will have football for 4 more years and then they will need to join the real world. They represent our university and I want representatives that reflect more than just a “win at all costs” mentality. Would I like to see us in the national championship game? ABSOLUTELY. It would be the highlight of my sports fanship life, but I’m ok being patient. It would hurt me more to learn of a new scandal at NU Football more than it would ever make me feel good to win a championship. I guess I am an NU alumni first and then an NU Football fan second.

          • DT

            No go, 99… Now your narrative from 24 hours ago becomes a referendum on Mike Leach, and the tried and true NU refrain and justification for mediocrity that NU is “above” all the evil of the so called football factories represented by the sinister and abusive Leach in this case… Please… Your high level of patience you point out is impressive as well, in that you have tried and hung Leach declaring a verdict and subsequent “Trend” before WSU, and a solid AD in Bill Moos, have even got an investigation going in earnest… Further– you are arrogant and condescending to even suggest that student-athletes at Washington State, Texas Tech, or 118 other FBS member institutions are not well prepared for life beyond football or the real world as you call it– and Northwestern is something special pursuant to that process… Give respect, get respect, 99… And folks wonder why “Fans” from outside Planet Koolaid Evanston and those that don’t have an NU degree don’t embrace the program as “Chicago’s Big Ten Team”?…Exhibit one- Wildcat99… Fact of the matter in the case of Leach, in his time at Texas Tech, academic and graduation rates went up among the highest of any public insitution in Division One… The man has a law degree from Pepperdine… I’m sure he loses sleep at night not having a BS in Communications from NU as well.. Whatever, Wildcat 99 has tried and hung him for abuse… Bad guy… Done.. Heck, I thought we were talking about Roundtree cherry picking shitty pass coverage on Saturday and how you think a .500 Big Ten season is cause for celebration and validation of Pat Fitzgerald as a quality football coach? I get it now…

            You are right, 99… We do have different objectives as fans… I’d say this in short… As you seem to think I’m better suited for the NFL, I see you being much better served by supporting a D-3 program or possibly, NAIA… The Ivy League might be a bit competitive for your comfort zone on the gridiron…

    • ravenswoodcat

      This, this, a thousand time this.

    • Nate

      You make some good points my friend, but I need to see NU control a game in the 4th Q before I’m truly all in. The fact that they COULD (and probably should) be 10-0 frustrates the hell out of me. I see the progress; on the field, on the recruiting trail, and with the fan base (albeit a slow growth), but they have to finish off the prime games on the schedule first…winning-out this year, including the bowl game, would be a step forward.

  • SocalScott

    Time to get over Saturday…to help flush it, listen to the attached and get psyched for next Saturday.

  • PBRCat

    The beauty of the Anwaun Jones blocked punt game was that Michigan State was still coached by Nick Saban that year.

  • SWK

    Another reason to hope for a win vs. Sparty. Our two likely opponents in the BWW bowl, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, are ranked #1 and #4 in passing yds.

  • Db

    My solace: our program, at least the modern era, was founded on games that turned on plays worse than that one. And those plays turned into big ten championships, and why many people even care about the program today. To think the Dayne and Thomas fumbles, victory right, etc. wasn’t going to even out at some point was naive. We had to pay for it at some point.

    • SocalScott

      Anyone in the Casino Industry knows that given time, probabilities normalize…yes, we have been on the right side of a lot of those freak plays that determine wins; perhaps more than our fair share. Agree with the sentiment that we are naive to think that with improving talent we always will be.

      Also note there is a reason that it is hard to win on the road in the Big Ten; the officials favor the home team. Without that edge, NU had Mioch beat this weekend. Just look at the number of penalties called on each side. But just like probabilities, that is life.

      Flush it. On to next week.

  • nwildcat

    First off, Go Cats! That said, we will be on the down side come 3 p.m. As much as we hate losing to Sparty, The players and coaches just are not up to the task of winning a game like this (my sense is that Colter and Mark will be less than 100%). What bugs me is how we go down to defeat. I guess we have next season to look forward to,

    • timc

      Seems we need to go with Trevor vs MSU. They are tops against the run and we are a run team. Kain will likely be less that 100%. All this points to Trevor and a passing game with V and Trumpy splitting running duties. Somehow I’m thinking this will not be the case.


        If Trevor starts, it is important to have Kain in the backfield early on and have him throw the ball off a hand off or toss from Trevor. Force Michigan state to be prepared for two quarterbacks in the backfield and it could open up some lanes.

        • timc

          Love it! From your mouth to the knucklehead’s ear!

  • Just win against Sparty. Don’t care how. Just win.

    Go Cats!