Redemption Saturday: Northwestern (7-3,3-3) @ Michigan State 5-5 (2-4)

Northwestern (7-3,3-2) vs Michigan State (5-5, 2-4)

Date: November 17, 2012
Kickoff: 11:00 am ct
Location: Spartan Stadium (75,005) – East Lansing, MI
All-time Series: Michigan State 36-16  In East Lansing: Michigan State 18-6
Trends: ‘Cats looking to snap Sparty four game winning streak in series and win 3rd of last four in East Lansing (’05,’07)
Favored Team: Michigan State (-7.5)
TV: ESPN2 – PXP – Bob Wischusen, Color – Danny Kannell, SL Maria Taylor 
Radio: WGN 720 AM – PXP – Dave Eanet, Color – Ted Albrecht; Sirius Radio Channel 85, XM Radio 85; WNUR 89.3 FM (student station)
Twitter: @NU_SportsLIVE
Coaching Stats: NU – Pat Fitzgerald (7th year –47-39, 24-3o) vs Mark Dantonio (6th  year–49-27,29-17 )
Weather Forecast: 52 degrees, winds 6 mph, south -20% chance of rain

2-Minute Drill

If you’re a daily LTP reader you can probably recite chapter and verse how I’ll tee this one up. The ‘Cats are anxious to get back on the field and begin erasing the memory of the improbable way they lost a game that was all but over and would have catapulted them in to the Top 20 and set them up nicely for a run at the Capital One Bowl.  Instead, they find themselves in a match-up with the surprise downtroden team of the year – Michigan State – in a “woe is us” fan base mentality. The ‘Cats, legitimately a number of plays from at worst a 9-1 record must win this game to redeem themselves and gain some credibility and prove to themselves and the fans, they can finish a game. Meanwhile, it is senior day in East Lansing and a loss will ensure at best a tie for the lowest win total (7) of Mark Dantonio’s tenure in Spartyville. The Spartans have surprised me with their resolve, continuing to battle despite four B1G losses by a total of 10 points. The bye came at the perfect time for a Michigan State team that had an O-line that was a M*A*S*H unit. There are question marks about Kain Colter’s ankle and you get the sense the incredibly tough Venric Mark is really starting to wear and tear.

This game pits the two best RBs in the B1G this year (in my opinion Mark has been far more consistent than Montee Ball) and two stellar rush defenses that will be out to prove they can stop one another. Once again, it will likely come down to the shaky NU secondary trying to stop QB Andrew Maxwell from heating up with a WR corps that had the dropsies early in the year, but is coming on strong. The ‘Cats have a ton to play for as a rare 10-win season is very realistic should they “upset” Michigan State today.  No Spartan team has gone 0-4 in conference play at home in the Dantonio era, a fate that would occur today should they lose.

Headlines I’d Like To See On Sunday:

  • “‘Cats Finally Finish, Put Spartans Away In Impressive Fashion”
  • “Mark Wins RB Duel & Game As ‘Cats Punish Best B1G “D”
  • “Trumpy Steps Up & Sets Up The ‘Cats For New Year’s Day Bowl”
  • “‘Cats Secondary Shows Spartans It Can Play D Too, Propel NU To Romp”


I’m still not convinced Kain will be 100%. The good news, if he is, is you just need to look at the Nebraska game to see that this highly ranked (well deserved) Spartan D can get rolled by a dual threat QB.  I just have a sense we’ll be seeing more of Trevor Siemian in this game as he played his best game of the season in limited, but clutch time against Michigan, including a pair of NFL-level TD passes to Cameron Dickerson and Tony Jones. Make no mistake about it, my eyes, your eyes and Spartan Nation’s eyes will be on #5 in white.

Venric seems livid and ready to unleash his angry running style to once again prove the doubters wrong. You can hear the whispers “he won’t do that against THIS D” from Michigan State fans. Well, my money is on Venric. The last we saw him, he was hobbling off the field in OT after being dinged and nicked in that bloodbath of a game. This speedy D with a host of future NFL players has been dynamite, giving up just 288 ypg and only 16 ppg, yet, it usually isn’t enough based on the lack of offense. I’m really uncertain on what we’ll see moreso for health reasons, however I do believe we’ll see an uptick in Mike Trumpy touches as he has become one of the unsung heroes of this team. It’s no secret to beating Sparty – jump on them early – much like we did against Michigan and Iowa – and really establish the tempo of the game. Obviously with DE William Gholston, LB Max Bullough and DBs Johnny Adams and Isiaiah Lewis, easier said then done.


Much like Pat Narduzzi, the DC for MSU, Mike Hankwitz will likely be trying the Spartans to become one dimensional by focusing a lot of energy on the front seven stuffing the B1G’s leading rusher, Le’Veon Bell, who averages 124 ypg and accounts for 35% of their total offense. The passing game was written off early in the season, but that’s a mistake. Maxwell’s completion percentage is only around 55%, (193/356, 2138 yds, 10 TD, 5 INTs)  but the Spartans do manage nearly 220 ypg in the air. The numbers don’t do the improvement justice though, as freshman playmaker Aaron Burridge has become a beast and guys like Bennie Fowler can make plays despite starting in the backfield. The Spartans OL seems to be healing up which you’ve got to believe is enough for Dantonio to say “OK, you want to try and stop us with the run, prove it”.  Spartan fans will tell you that this offense just lacks flow as they’ve been uneven all year long.

There is one guy, however, that has kept me up this week – TE Dion Sims.  The guy is Kyle Prater in size, but a much higher frequency target and will provide loads of matchup issues for us. The Spartans, moreso than any other program we face, has produced on the play action against us, regardless of the year, the QB, and the offensive personnel. I expect it again on Saturday after a healthy dose of Bell early.

Intangibles: Again, a big caveat here based on Venric’s health, but Mr. All Purpose Yardage has become automatic for 200-yard outbursts with either a punt return or kickoff return gamechanger. I’m still pissed at the blown call last week that inexcusably took away a 96-yard KOR TD by Mark. Venric will have his work cut out for him on returns – and hopefully of lot of chances based on the Sparty offense – MSU’s Mike Sadler is the conference’s most outstanding punter, averaging nearly 44 ypp. The Spartans usually lethal return game has been below average this year. Obviously, Jeff Budzien has been near perfect and overall helps give the ‘Cats a decided edge in special teams.

Lake The Posts Factor (0=so certain you can DVR and watch late night, 10=running to Ryan Field, ripping down FG posts and marching them in to Lake Michigan): 7.6

When you’re a program still in build mode, games in November when you’re out of the B1G race can still register high on the LTP Factor. We’ve got a chance to really finish the season on an upswing against a great defense and put an end to our nemesis’ four game winning streak. Despite back-to-back 11 win seasons by Michigan State, I feel that most fans feel Sparty is a middle of the pack program lumped in with Iowa and Northwestern in most years. A win today and it’s a double-whammy as we can ensure a really down year for Michigan State and with hapless Illinois on deck, put ourselves a heavy favorite to finish 9-3 and secure a New Year’s Day bowl game. Obviously, anything short of a bowl win this season and we’re back to major disappoinment-ville, but these next three games will go a long way towards program momentum for 2013 when we’ll once again, like 2011 and 2001 have – gulp – great expectations.

Pick To Click: Mike Trumpy

I feel as though it is a given you can’t pick Kain Colter or Venric Mark as part of this game, otherwise it wouldn’t be any fun. I’ve just got a feeling like I did for the BC game that Mike Trumpy is going to really have a huge game. The Spartans will be gearing up for Venric and Kain, but Trumpy has quietly been putting up gaudy ypc numbers, its just that he’s been getting less than a handful per game.

Head to Head Stat Pack – 2012 averages

Northwestern                                                   Michigan State

30.5………………….Scoring Per Game……………………19.7

23.9………………….Scoring Defense Per Game………………16.3

22.4……………………..First Downs Per Game………………….19.2

237.6………………….Rushing Yards Per Game…………….. 141.9

5.2……………………Average Per Rush………………3.9

25………………………………Rushing TDs………………11

164.4…………………. Passing Yards Per Game……………218.5

10…………………………. Passing Touchdowns………………………10

402.0…………………..Total Offense Per Game……………… 360.4

18.9……………………….Kick Return Average……………………19.1

19.1……………………….Punt Return Average……………………..7.7

7……………………………………Fumbles Lost………………………………. 6

3…………………………… Interceptions Thrown………………………. 6

+7…………………………….. Turnover Margin………………………….+2

6.1…………………………..Penalties Per Game……………………….6.1

59.2…………….Penalty Yards Per Game………………………59.7

 29:40……………………..Time of Possession……………….32:47

47%…………………..Third-Down Conversions………………39%

36%………………….Fourth-Down Conversions……………..67%

13-14……………………..Field Goal Attempts………………….17-24

37.9……………………….Net Punting Average……………………38.0

36-40 (90%)……………Red-Zone Scores……….29-33 (88%)

Stats to Stew On:

  • Tracking Venric Mark – Mark is ascending the NU alltime lists in rapid fashion. Venric is #4 alltime in single season all purpose yards with 1,912. He is 289 yards away from breaking the record, held by Damien Anderson. He’s #10 in single season rushing yards with 1,181 and can move all the way up to 7th with with 111 yards today. He’s also 6th on the NU alltime career all-purpose yard list and will likely move in to 5th passing Ricky Edwards should he get 91 all-purpose yards today. His 118.1 ypg average is 14th in the FBS an 4th in the B1G. Venric now leads all B1G rushers with 7 100+ games this season.  Venric is tops in the B1G and still 6th in the country in all purpose yards per game with 191.7 ypg.
  • The NU fifth year senior class has already set a record for most wins in five years with 37.
  • NU is 22-4 since ’09 when they outrush opponents.
  • The ‘Cats have scored in double figures in 70 consecutive games
  • NU is 33-12 under Fitz when they score first.


How Are You Feeling For Week 11?

  • I think we rebound, win our final two games and get elusive win #10 on January 1 (52%, 228 Votes)
  • I’ve got little faith as the heart is aching too much this year on what could’ve been (34%, 147 Votes)
  • I’m looking at it solely as a build for 2013 since now that we’re out of the B1G race, our goals aren’t attainable in 2012 (14%, 61 Votes)

Total Voters: 436



LTP: Can the ‘Cats rushing attack work against the best defense (by far) in the conference? Will NU’s beleaguered secondary be able to keep Andrew Maxwell in check? This one has all the makings of a Venric Mark vs Le’Veon Bell/may the team with the higher rusher wins the game scorecard type of thing. It’s really a big game for both teams as the ‘Cats still have some really big things in their control, like a 10-win season which happens once every 40 years on average. Some late season momentum could really position NU well for 2013 and at the same time really hold down a recruiting rival of sorts on the brink of staying home for the holidays. MSU as you know holds teams to just 288 ypg of offense and 16 ppg. This game screams of first-to-20-wins. The “X factor” in this game might be the psychology of the jersey color. NU’s senior class, its winningest in history has never beaten Michigan State. That, combined with a potential 4th quarter lead could really play mind games with the ‘Cats. I’ve got a rare very good feeling about this one. Fitz’s teams perform better on the road in conference and I think the team has really got a chip on its shoulder. I’m here to channel that positive energy.

Northwestern 24 Michigan State 20

PRR: Northwestern has responded very well to its two other losses this year. The Wildcats have made adjustments and found ways to make things work. Against Minnesota, Northwestern recommitted itself to the ground game and rand down Minnesota’s throats for a win. Against Iowa, NU recommitted itself to Kain Colter as quarterback and again devoured Iowa’s rush defense. They were both nice wins and quelled our fears. What adjustment can we expect from Northwestern this week? I don’t think there will be much change. The Wildcats played well and executed against the Wolverines. They largely stopped the run last week and they have done so throughout most of the season. The question is whether Michigan State will be able to pass the ball with any effectiveness. The Spartans have not been able to do that all year, they might do better against the Cats’ pass defense but not good enough.

Northwestern 21, Michigan State 17

Other Games to Watch:

Syracuse (5-5) travels to Missouri at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU. Last week Syracuse made Louisville fear the dome, ending Louisville’s unblemished record with a 45-26 win.

Vanderbilt (6-4) hosts Tennessee at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Vanderbilt snuck past Mississippi last weekend 27-26 on Jordan Rodgers’ 27-yard pass to Chris Boyd with 52 seconds left.

Boston College (2-8) hosts Virginia Tech at 11:30 a.m. CT on ACC Network. Notre Dame strong-armed its way past Boston College last week with a 21-6 victory.

South Dakota (1-9) visits South Dakota State at 2 p.m. CT. Northern Iowa defeated South Dakota 24-21.

Looking Ahead to 2013

California (3-8) visits No. 16 Oregon State at 9:30 p.m. CT on Pac-12 Network. California met the Oregon juggernaut and lost 59-17 last week.

Western Michigan (4-7) hosts Eastern Michigan 1 p.m. CT. Western Michigan lost to Buffalo last week 29-24.

Maine (4-6) visits Rhode Island at 11 a.m. CT. Maine defeated Georgia State 51-7 last week.

  • Mark

    Heading to East Lansing. Wish NU had something like this up on YouTube: If you know anything about Spartan history you’ll see Bubba Smith (moving the line of scrimmage back 5 yards as he’s double-teamed by UofM), George Webster, Gene Washington, Lorenzo White, Plaxico Burress (you’ll laugh – I guarantee it – when you see his block on a UofM CB), etc. I have seen an NU video on YouTube but NU needs one with shots of all the Honor Roll listees at Ryan Field and All Americans in it. At any rate: GO CATS!

  • JohnnyB

    Directv says that the game will only be shown on tape delay late tonight on BTN. They have the Temple game in the 11:00 slot. Anyone have any intel on this?

    • JohhnyB

      Well, the online guide says it willl be the Cats, but the guide on my TV says Temple. I hope guide here is right!

    • CatsUnderStars

      My DirecTV says the Rutgers game is on ESPN2, not the NU game. ESPN’s TV listings say it’s the NU game and that Rutgers is on ESPN3. I got a bad feeling about this.

    • calling all toasters

      FiOS guide and Zap2it (online) have our game on ESPN2, plus the announcers just mentioned it as coming up next.
      It’s us.

  • Mark

    Some are saying NU is a “young” team. Look at MSU’s depth chart. MSU is younger.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Likely why both teams have had trouble finishing games, no?

  • CMF

    The guide on my DirectTV DVR says that ESPN2 is showing Cincinnati @ Temple at 11am. Gosh – I hope this is just a programming mistake. I live in Minneapolis and always get the B1G games.

    • SocalScott

      The Los Angeles DirecTV guide lists Cinn at Temple on ESPN2. NU at Mich State does not come up on the search until tape delay tomorrow on BTN…the penalty for losing in OT last week?

      • Old Fat Bald Guy

        DirecTV botched the sked; it was on ESPN2. I hope you got to see it, Scott. If ESPN/ABC isn’t doing a game live, it’s going to be on BTN (or a BTN extra channel — I’m not sure if you need the Sports Pack package to get those). The only Big Ten games that are subject to not being on live TV now are non-conference away games.

  • SocalScott

    Cinn does not play at Temple today; they played there last week. Its a mistake. And the ESPN website has NU at Mich St on ESPN2. Cross your fingers.

  • Wolfcat

    ESPN’s website says it will be on ESPN2 at 11am cst.

  • byebyefitz95

    Crap play calling at the 1 yard line. QB sneak could have gotten us a few yards as cushion Fitz.

  • Purple Flag on Saturday

    MSU fan club meeting is in session on ESPN. Aargh!

    • Kevin D

      I was thinking the same. Did they lose the NU game notes in the fire??

      • Purple Flag on Saturday

        And on and on and on they go. The best thing about these two is they’re not Beth Mowins.

  • zeek

    Am I the only one who thinks Kain is too injured to be going up against a defense like this?

    • byebyefitz95

      Why is he pocket passing? He looks AWFUL Pocket Passing!!!

  • byebyefitz95

    How do we miss a WIDE OPEN Kyle Prater? Good God!!!

  • TomCat

    For a team that prides itself on being academic institution first and athletics second, why do we have to make the dumbest penalties at the worst times. Yet again another 15 yard penalty to help out an opponent when they are running short on time. Thank goodness for the missed FG.

    • byebyefitz95

      Maybe teach them how to catch a ball as well. These dropped passes in the 3rd are insane!

  • TomCat

    What happened to Mark? Did he get hurt and that is why he is not playing.

    • Ron

      Yes. “Upper body injury”.

    • timc

      And ANOTHER shitty kick.

    • cece

      maybe win the game and lose the war..the bowl game…if we don’t have him. bowl competition will be much more difficult.

  • timc

    LTP, whatever happens today, your first item on the “disappointing” list better be Brandon Williams. He’s god awful!!

    • Jbonz

      God awful is right.

    • David

      He was bad today…for his career he has been pretty good.

    • SJ Wildcat

      Check his stats since the B1G started. I believe you will find his has struggled throughout.

  • ende

    can’t win football games with field goals….. come on fritz

  • CMF

    3 min left. For the record, I support Siemian coming back in and staying aggressive with pass. With Mark out, I don’t think we can get enough first downs with Colter.

    • CMF

      I also want to mention that I think Fitz made the right decision switching to Trevor in the 2nd half. I think that is the only way we could move the ball enough with Mark out. I also realize we had 4 straight 3 and outs…

  • TomCat

    Dare I say “too much time” again?

  • zeek

    Finally, Fitz stays aggressive at the end of the game. I loved how he kept Siemian in there to try to ice the game.

    And wow, our defense stepped up so much today. The hits on that final set of downs; you could hear those hits through the TV.

    • David

      Do we think Fitz went with Trevor…or might Kain be dinged up…I saw him limping.

      • Old Fat Bald Guy

        My guess is he’s dinged. It took this ESPN crew half of the game to figure out that Mark was hurt, and Tony Jones returning kicks should have been a clue.

        • cece

          and that’s why I turn down the sound and put on WGN, on radio or on the Internet. they can’t get NU correct, NW wtf, so why bother to listen to them!

          • Old Fat Bald Guy

            WGN on the net is a good idea. Does the audio sync with what you’re looking at, or is it ahead or behind? Ahead is bad; that’s why I don’t do this with a radio and satellite TV. Hearing the result of the play when you’re still watching it unfold is no fun.

          • cece

            have not done Internet this year, but, there can be timing issues. bonus, if you are multitasking you can run to the tv only when there is some big play you want to see and you hear it on radio first. making TG stuff now, so….

          • Old Fat Bald Guy

            Well, it’s certainly worth trying. Thanks for the idea, cece.

          • cece


          • David

            You just need to sync the computer and tv up at the beginning of the game…it usually involves pausing the game for 75 seconds or so…but once you initially sync, you are good the rest of the way.

          • It depends on Internet traffic between you and WGNradio Internet access point. Where I live, WGNradio tends to lag TV by about 3-5 seconds. There are some ways you can try to synchronize (e.g. finesse the DVR to have a matching lag). I tend to run the TV w/audio and keep WGNradio in the background so I can change attention as needed. YMMV

          • Old Fat Bald Guy



    We continue to make good adjustments as the season progresses. This is shaping to by a great season. I like our chances (no matter who we play) of winning a bowl. With Vanhoose back and Mark Healthy and plenty of prep …10 wins is in reach!
    Congratulations Fitz & Staff. Seniors are going to go out with a bang against the Illini. Go Cats!!

  • cs93

    Hey LTP. Nice call on the score prediction. You were only 1 point off.

  • CatInTheHat

    8-3 with sublime bend-but-don’t-break D. Also really liked the aggressive offensive play calling in the last two minutes even though we had to punt. Nice recovery!

  • cece

    gator sliders for tailgate?

  • David

    Just curious what people think of point off turnover stats…we had 7 pts off 4 turnovers today…and 7 off three against UNL. I really don’t think this stat tells you much. When you force a fumble at the one…it would be rare to drive the length of the field for a score. It is really a huge success if you get the ball out to the 25 and punt it. Also, an Int on a long pass is really just like a punt. It seems that points off turnovers in plus territory is really what is meaningful.

    • Indylib

      I think we only had five points off of turnovers. The safety is a -2 (though still better than an MSU TD).

  • David

    Kudos to Hank and the defense who withstood 4 straight three and outs in the second half.