Bad News First
Before we get in to the meat of our main post, we have some bad news to report and its thanks to the Northwestern injury report. Nick VanHoose is officially out for the Michigan State game. Also, LB Collin Ellis is out as is safety Hunter Bates. Total bummer.
Top Ten Random Word Associations: Michigan State Edition
I can’t think of a better opponent the week before we get in to Hate Week against Illinois then Michigan State. The Spartans are right up there with Illinois and Iowa as my personal favorite teams to despise. When you consider during the Fitz era that Michigan State is starting to invent new inconceivable ways to beat us year after year, it only makes it easier. I’m a little overzealous on the historical context of each week’s opponents, but so be it. My new favorite weekly feature is the Top Ten Random Word Associations for each opponent. It’s a mix of the obvious and the obscure, but usually incorporates many of the key games, moments and wink, wink insider stuff that diehards will tell you makes you a card carrying member. So, without further ado, let’s bring it on.
10 – Demetrius Eaton’s Rumble – The year? 2005. The setup? Northwestern enters East Lansing fresh off a soul crushing last second loss to Michael Robinson’s Penn State squad. The Spartans were favored to win and led by Drew Stanton. After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, Northwestern terrorized the Sparty QB, picking him off three times (Shout out Herschel Henderson!) and scoring 49 straight points in the third most enjoyable B1G blowout in my fandom (#1 ’95 Wisconsin, #2 Iowa ’96). Early in the game, Northwestern was already up 14-7 and Sparty was driving. As the ‘Cats converged to sack Stanton, the ball squirted right in to the hands of DL Demetrius Eaton who rumbled, stumbled and eyed the oxygen tank on his way to a lineman’s dream – a touchdown. It symbolized a day when everything went right for Brett Basanez and the ‘Cats en route to the 49-14 rout.
9 – Nick Roach’s Broken Mojo Leg – You know where this one is going. Fitz’s rookie year, 2006. MSU student fans had painted their bodies with “F-I-R-E-J-O-H-N-L-S-M-I-T-H”. Northwestern fans thought it might happen during the game. Just like the previous year, Northwestern was rolling on Sparty, up 38-3 in the third quarter. Michigan State was driving and then our star LB, Nick Roach went down. Stayed down. The cart came on to the field and you knew it wasn’t good. Nick Roach had broken his leg and it was an extremely long stoppage of time to attend to the pained linebacker. When play resumed it was like a light switch. You know the rest – Sparty somehow managed to mount the single biggest comeback in FBS history. I’ve spent a lot of shrink time to erase what happenned that day, but Nick’s broken leg is indellibly etched in my mind.
8 – Tom Izzo endorsement – I’m double-dipping from the same game as #10, the 2005 whooping, but it’s still that prevalent. Once the rout was on and the game was in hand (again, this was pre 2006, so 35 point leads were insurmountable at that point in history), ESPN started scrambling to fill garbage time. Tom Izzo had the longest sideline interview I can remember in a football game and it ended up being a recruiting infomercial for Northwestern. The always Northwestern-friendly Izzo went on and on about the NU football program and basketball program seemingly trying to ease Spartan fans minds and explain how this could be happening. Obscure, yes…memorable, you bet.
7- The WWE Event That Broke Out In East Lansing - This one was ugly. It was 1991 in East Lansing. The ‘Cats were still under Frances Peay and really shocked the Spartans with a pretty big upset in a game where WR Mark Benson shined. The ‘Cats escaped the game with the win, but after the game a fight broke out with fans, Michigan State players and Northwestern players. The game wasn’t televised or this image would be seared in fans heads forever. I remember Dave Eanet describing the disaster as players were swining helmets and the fight seemed to escalate up in to the stands. Michael Senters from NU found himself in the middle of the fray and from all who saw it live, they still say it was one of the scarier and sadder moments they’ve seen.
6 – The FG Robbery – When you talk about plays from 20 years ago, the legend and lore of the moment, especially when it wasn’t televised, becomes exaggerated significantly. So I thought was the case back in 1993 when the ‘Cats were going toe to toe with Sparty at Dyche Stadium in the Lenny & Lee era under Gary Barnett. The ‘Cats were in Cardiac ‘Cat mode before the moniker came to fruition. Down one point, we scrambled and moved the bal in to FG range with just seconds to go. Northwestern placekicker Brian Leahy set-up for the game-winner. There we were in the student section thinking OH MY GOD WE MIGHT BEAT SPARTY. The kick was blasted and you knew it was close, but it was high, really high. It looked good, it felt good, the ‘Cats players were celebrating and all eyes were on the refs. They started marching forward each one looking at the other with no signal as if to say “I think it was could, what do you think? Well, it was tough to tell, but it was close and this is Northwestern and that is Michigan State”. At least that’s what I imagined the thought bubbles said. Then, they crossed their arms. Well, now I have the proof to show you. I still can’t believe they haven’t raised the upright bars or at least used Sportvision technology (First and Ten Yellow Line company) to have a way to account for this. I’ll go to my grave thinking that was a win. Go to 14 minutes on the 1992 highlight below (thanks to Northwestern Highlights!)
5- Anwaun Jones – It was one of the few bright spots in a majorly disappointng year. 1997. Coming off of back-to-back Big Ten titles, NU finally had nearly every game packed with purple and fans expecting to win every game. It was surreal. Yet, all the close wins seemed to turn to equally close losses. The big time recruiting influx was putting a lot of stock on freshmen and sophomores and, well, the season turned in to a train wreck. However, the ‘Cats hosted Michigan State in Evanston and NU riding a four game losing streak that included a home loss to Rice. Yes, THAT Rice. Michigan State got the ball back, down 19-17 and mounted a drive that put them in to position for a relative chip shot for the win with a few seconds left. Northwestern’s Anwaun Jones timed his jump perfectly and swatted the FG and the homecoming crowd went insane. I still think it was payback karma on the same FG posts from Leahy’s kick just five years earlier.
4 – Dantonio’s Cheese – Michigan State entered Ryan Field in 2010 at #8 in the country and 7-0. The ‘Cats were 5-1 and Dan Persa was ON. NU jumped out to a 17-0 first half lead that Sparty trimmed to 10 before the half. Early in the fourth, NU was up 24-14 and held Michigan State on third down around the 40-yard line. Dantonio proceeded to take a delay of game penalty to back-up, presumably to get more space to pin the ‘Cats. We were getting the ball back with a chance to put it away and you could taste the Top 25 for NU and a national headline win. Then, well, you know what happenned. Sparty faked, Jordan Mabin turned the wrong way and just like that Bennie Fowler and MSU had a first down. They promptly converted a crazy tip catch, cut the lead to three and went on to score two more TDs in the 4th to stave off NU 35-28 in what we then thought was a heartbreak. Funny, that one doesn’t even crack the top three from this year. Ok, maybe it gets ahead of Penn State, but you get the gist. In the postgame on field interview Mark Dantonio, using a Cheshire cat smile, chuckled as he said “we got them to take the cheese”. It’s a moment fans from both sides haven’t forgotten and you get the sense Fitz at some point will use some trickeration to pay him back.
3 – Peterman’s jailbreak – It really was CJ Bacher’s day in 2007. He set a then school passing record with 507 yards in the air in NU’s wild 48-41 OT win without the services of Tyrell Sutton. However, there was one TD that became much like Jeremy Ebert’s 2011 TD at Nebraska which became NU fans “Exhibit A” to anyone that talked about the ‘Cats lacking speed. CJ threw a post pass to Peterman for about 10-yards and Eric was between two defenders with his back to them. He turned, pivoted, split the defenders and then put on the jets to leave the pair of speedy DBs in his wake for a 50ish yard TD. It’s the play I always associate with that game and with that player.
2- Brendan Smith’s knee – Man, 2005 gets a ton of love in this countdown. I remember Brendan Smith picking off Stanton in the ’05 game as it was pour it on time and Drew Stanton clearly was frustrated. The QB made a beeline for the DB and dove helmet first at his knee. Smith got hurt, I got ticked off and this one stuck in my craw as yet another example of Sparty playing unsportsmanlike.
1 – Victory Waz Right – We dedicated an enitre post to the 2001 finish yesterday, so this should be no surprise. I even used your suggestion for the title. The ‘Cats had :16 left and were at their own 10ish yard line. The ‘Cats setup Victory Right, just like at Minnesota and Kustok unloaded a bomb that got tipped and somehow caught by John Schweighardt on an incredible sliding catch. This setup a David Wasilewski 47-yard game-winning FG attempt which he promptly drilled as time expired. It marked the third lead change in the final minute of the game. It’s the single most underrated GAME in Northwestern history in the past 20 years and as we discussed yesterday, seems crazier every time you revisit it. After last week, it’s fun to remind ourselves how many times we’ve pulled similar games out of a hat.
What will you lobby for that I overlooked? Bring it on!
Men’s Soccer Magic!
Kudos to Northwestern men’s soccer for advancing to the NCAA Tournament second round after pulling out a 1-0 win over Western Illinois last night in Evanston. Senior Nick Gendron netted the lone goal in the 62nd minute and the ‘Cats move on to play at Marquette, a #7 seed, in round two.
Recruiting Loss, Recruiting Gain?
Northwestern lost out in a head-to-head recruiting battle with Stanford for the services of 3-star WR Taijuan Thomas from Louisiana. On the flip side, Northwestern offerred 2013 potential cornerback recruit Marcus McShepard from Cleveland Heights, Ohio. McShephard just received the offer on Wednesday according to Louie Vaccher at WildcatReport.com. McShepard’s high school coach strongly implied Northwestern is Marcus’ top choice, without actually directly stating it. The rising senior is being recruited heavily by Penn State and Illinois as well. As you might suspect, Northwestern has been putting a big focus on trying to secure DBs with the few remaining slots for the 2013 class.
Purple Mafia Member Has Important ESPN Story Premiering Today
ESPN producer, Willie Weinbaum, a regular in the LTP community has a story premiering today that will be yet another plot point on the most significant threat to football in our time – concussions. Weinbaum’s piece will reveal “significant information” from the disability cases of Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Webster and others is scheduled to air today, Fri., Nov. 16, 3p E, on ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
After the show, a version of the report is to be posted on espn.com to accompany a text column that’s to be posted on ESPN.com this morning, as well as additional video material from the interviews.
Some of the material is also scheduled to be featured on The Sporting Life radio show hosted by Jeremy Schaap, online stream on ESPNRadio.com & Sirius/XM – – today @ 9p E /Saturday @ 2a & 5a E / Sunday @ 4a E (and also on ESPN Radio affiliates throughout the country at various times the next three days). Be sure to check out one of your fellow diehard Wildcat fan’s work.
More Purple Mafia Media Members Emerge – Fitz Files Postscript
On Wednesday, we posted the NFL Films feature that Northwestern Highlights was so kind to track down and post on his private site. I begged you to view it as it offered the most complete look at Pat Fitzgerald I have yet to see and I was shocked I hadn’t seen it yet. It was done as only NFL Films can do things – incredible access, bountiful poignant moments and never-before-seen visuals all neatly wrapped up in what I believe should be MUST SEE viewing by any recruit’s parents or guardians BEFORE they meet Fitz. Well, not surprisingly, the feature was produced by a Northwestern alum and diehard Wildcat sports fan, James Weiner (’93). I know James from our WNUR days when moments like “The Comeback” in ’92 were our lifelong memories we thought would never be bested (how many of you under the age of 30 even know what I’m talking about?). Congratulations James Weiner, an NFL Films senior producer who set the gold standard on Fitz profiles. Well done!