Northwestern’s Gator Bowl Win: The Great, The Good & The Disappointing

Let’s kick things off with a 16-minute video highlight diversion, thanks to our pal, Northwestern Highlights which you can see by clicking here and typing in the case sensitive password BowlWin.  Pretty much anything of even marginal importance is in the highlight package and you get the added benefit of hearing Dave Eanet’s play by play call. While you are there you can also hear Fitz’s emotional postgame interview with his former teammate Sam Valensizi. Plus, Fitz’s pregame speech can be seen here:

Let’s dig in to the details:


Quentin Williams – The departing senior went out in epic style with a tone-setting pick six in the first minute of the game, but kept on going with a monster hit on MSU’s RB for a 5-yard loss for one of his two TFLs and he also registered a sack.

Pass Defense – We won one of the major keys to the game by shutting down Tyler Russell thanks to four interceptions and consistent pressure all day. Russell went just 12/28, 106 yds, 2 TDs with a long pass of only 18 yards. What sweet irony that the secondary stepped up to help us win this game when the offense struggled for part of the day.

Trevor Siemian’s 3rd quarter drive – There is no way to sugarcoat it, Kain didn’t have his best game. His pair of INTs forced some indecision in his game, but he still obviously made some huge plays throughout the day. However, how about Trevor Siemian’s 3rd quarter drive after MSU tied it up at 13? It was the game-changing drive of the second half as all the momentum was in the cowbell holders.  Siemian scrambled on 3rd and 10, avoided a sack and launched a fantastic pass to Rashad Lawrence for the first down. Siemian followed it with a pair of great passes, highlighted by the 37-yard strike to Dan Vitale. I couldn’t believe they kept Siemian in on first and goal as Mick McCall had his call of the day which would put us up 20-13.

Mick McCall’s call on 1st and goal with Trevor – Raise your hand if you yelled out “what are you doing?!!!” I did. Siemian trotted out to QB at 1st and goal from the four and I was stunned. Well, tip of hat to Mick McCall for stunning everyone with the QB option keeper to #13 who waltzed in to the endzone untouched.

The Postgame – We reviewed this at length yesterday, but man, it was really a “you had to be here” experience. The fans singing exiting the stadium, everyone so darn happy and stunned and already fired up about 2013. The concession folks had Gator Bowl Champion t-shirts and NU fans were gobbling them up.

3rd Down Defense – We held MSU to just 1-11 on third down and came up with seemingly clutch play after clutch play from the D.

Dan Vitale – The freshman tag is a misnomer at this point. Dan Vitale, my pick to click, made me look somewhat intelligent for the first time in awhile. Vitale led all receivers with 7 rec/82 yds including the awesome 37-yarder. He is such a counter-threat to great secondary units that he will be giving B1G coaches fits for years to come. It’s just hard to stop that man coming out of the backfield when DBs are forced to make split second decisions on who to cover, especially in man coverages.

New Friends – One of the benefits of coming to a bowl game is the bevy of new people you meet. I met so many new people it is impossible to remember all the names, but guys like Glenn Geffner and family, Todd Martin, Sam Skinner, Jon Shainman, Louie Vaccher and dozens of folks who found out I was LTP and we had great conversations.  It’s what makes the bowl experience.


Discipline – NU earned only two penalties for 20 yards which became critically important compared to several mental errors by MSU, who had six penalties, but they also seemed to be crucial.

Adjusting With Siemian – Give Dan Mullen credit. His defense really held the Kain Colter and especially Venric Mark show in check. Instead of waiting, Mick made the move and put Trevor in after halftime to exploit the lack of all-everything CB Johnthan Banks, who didn’t return after injuring his foot.  McCall let it fly and played to win the game the rest of the way.

Jeff Budzien – He should likely be in the “GREAT” category as he just has set the bar so darn high. Jeff had another perfect, ho-hum day, drilling a 34-yarder and 37-yarder.  He finished the year perfect on PATs as well and is the nation’s best kicker in my book.

The O-Line – They were just awesome in pass protection. The only stat you need to know is “0 sacks”.  Wow. They struggled at times with some interior blocking, but it was a tad unfair since MSU was loading up on us. Northwestern ended up with 161 rushing yards.


2nd Quarter Conservsatism – The ‘Cats were dominating MSU and went in to the second quarter up 13-0.  It was gas on the pedal time and then Mick McCall seemed to go very conservative and play the clock management game. The lowpoint of this was back-to-back Trumpy hand-offs up the gut which went nowhere. Thankfully, McCall adjusted at halftime and let it rip.

The Stadium  – It was pretty poor. The half-empty stadium, which recently hosted a Super Bowl, couldn’t handle the lines as fans trying to get to the club level had to wait in long lines for two elevators, only to find out you could walk up througha back door.  The food options were terrible and they ran out of several food items, including hot dogs by halftime. The sightlines were solid in the stadium, but it just felt very dated. I heard the press box had standard def old school monitors making it near impossible for reporters to see replays.

The Band’s Audio – There was a pretty strong wind on Tuesday and the great folks in NUMB were in the corner facing the other side of the stadium. The net result was few of us could even hear a hint of the marching band, but instead were faced with MSU’s band which seemed to play every single moment.

The Cowbells – They were indeed loud and sounded annoying as heck in person. The joke of the day was the Mississippi State administrator doing a PA announcement saying he expected to respect NU and not play when we had the ball. Yeah, right.



Mississippi State
RUSHING No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg.
Josh Robinson   7 91 0 91 0 59 13.0
L. Perkins      19 91 7 84 0 20 4.4
Dak Prescott    2 20 0 20 0 12 10.0
Chad Bumphis    1 3 0 3 0 3 3.0
Tyler Russell   4 11 23 -12 0 11 -3.0
Totals… 33 216 30 186 0 59 5.6
RUSHING No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg.
Colter, Kain    11 73 2 71 0 31 6.5
Mark, Venric    13 60 4 56 1 22 4.3
Siemian, Trevor 2 14 0 14 1 10 7.0
Jones, Tyris    6 14 0 14 1 4 2.3
Trumpy, Mike    3 7 0 7 0 6 2.3
Riley, Tim      2 5 0 5 0 3 2.5
TEAM            3 0 6 -6 0 0 -2.0
Totals… 40 173 12 161 3 31 4.0
PASSING Cmp-Att-Int Yds TD Long Sack
Tyler Russell   12-28-4 106 2 18 3
Dak Prescott    0-1-0 0 0 0 0
Totals… 12-29-4 106 2 18 3
PASSING Cmp-Att-Int Yds TD Long Sack
Siemian, Trevor 12-20-1 120 0 34 0
Colter, Kain    9-16-2 76 0 24 0
Totals… 21-36-3 196 0 34 0
Arceto Clark    3 36 1 18
Chad Bumphis    3 18 0 9
Malcolm Johnson 2 24 1 14
Chris Smith     2 24 0 13
Adrian Marcus   1 7 0 7
Josh Robinson   1 -3 0 0
Totals… 12 106 2 18
Vitale, Dan     7 82 0 34
Jones, Christian 5 39 0 11
Fields, Demetrius 2 41 0 27
Lawrence, Rashad 2 18 0 12
Prater, Kyle    2 7 0 5
Mark, Venric    2 3 0 2
Riley, Tim      1 6 0 6
Totals… 21 196 0 34
PUNTING No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB
B. Swedenburg   5 216 43.2 50 0 0
Totals… 5 216 43.2 50 0 0
PUNTING No. Yds Avg Long In20 TB
Williams, Brandon 5 217 43.4 64 2 1
Totals… 5 217 43.4 64 2 1
  Punts Kickoffs Intercept
ALL RETURNS No Yds Lg No Yds Lg No Yds Lg
Nickoe Whitley  0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0
Johnthan Banks  2 21 12 0 0 0 0 0 0
Robert Johnson  0 0 0 1 21 21 0 0 0
Denico Autry    0 0 0 0 0 0 1 27 27
Jameon Lewis    0 0 0 4 68 20 0 0 0
Totals… 2 21 12 5 89 21 3 27 27
  Punts Kickoffs Intercept
ALL RETURNS No Yds Lg No Yds Lg No Yds Lg
Jones, Christian 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Mark, Venric    1 -2 0 3 61 27 0 0 0
VanHoose, Nick  0 0 0 0 0 0 1 39 39
Ariguzo, Chi Chi 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 12 12
Williams, Quentin 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 29 29
Totals… 1 -2 0 3 61 27 4 80 39
Josh Robinson   91 -3 0 0 0 88
L. Perkins      84 0 0 0 0 84
Jameon Lewis    0 0 68 0 0 68
Arceto Clark    0 36 0 0 0 36
Denico Autry    0 0 0 0 27 27
Chris Smith     0 24 0 0 0 24
Malcolm Johnson 0 24 0 0 0 24
Johnthan Banks  0 0 0 21 0 21
Chad Bumphis    3 18 0 0 0 21
Robert Johnson  0 0 21 0 0 21
Dak Prescott    20 0 0 0 0 20
Adrian Marcus   0 7 0 0 0 7
Tyler Russell   -12 0 0 0 0 -12
Totals… 186 106 89 21 27 429
Mark, Venric    56 3 61 -2 0 118
Vitale, Dan     0 82 0 0 0 82
Colter, Kain    71 0 0 0 0 71
Fields, Demetrius 0 41 0 0 0 41
Jones, Christian 0 39 0 0 0 39
VanHoose, Nick  0 0 0 0 39 39
Williams, Quentin 0 0 0 0 29 29
Lawrence, Rashad 0 18 0 0 0 18
Jones, Tyris    14 0 0 0 0 14
Siemian, Trevor 14 0 0 0 0 14
Ariguzo, Chi Chi 0 0 0 0 12 12
Riley, Tim      5 6 0 0 0 11
Trumpy, Mike    7 0 0 0 0 7
Prater, Kyle    0 7 0 0 0 7
TEAM            -6 0 0 0 0 -6
Totals… 161 196 61 -2 80 496
Devon Bell 2nd 04:48 27 yards Good
Devon Bell 3rd 10:37 47 yards Good
Budzien, Jeff 1st 04:49 34 yards Good
Budzien, Jeff 2nd 14:48 37 yards Good
Devon Bell      5 269 1 1 53.8
Flaherty, Steve 7 442 2 0 63.1




  • DanMan1976

    Thanks for the recap and the great coverage throughout the season. Yesterday was a great day to be a Wildcat! I saw via Dave Eanet’s Twitter that the team will arrive at Ryan Field between 12:30 and 12:45 today. I’m looking forward to heading up there to welcome home our Gator Bowl champs!

  • zeek

    That 4th quarter set of plays to ice the game and take several crucial minutes off the clock was incredibly gutsy.

    A lot of us have complained in the past about our propensity to put up 3 runs and a punt.

    But the play calling was downright aggressive right there (even staying up tempo to try to get 1st downs as opposed to burn all the clock possible); Siemian’s pass that threaded one of the tightest needles to avoid a pick 6 that I’ve seen in a while was a thing of beauty even as it was an incredibly risky play.

    • Thanks for catching my oversight. Indeed should’ve given props. We all nearly had a heart attack on that 1st down conversion, but I will continue to advocate a play to win mentality down the stretch every time. I’m glad we are continuing that trend.

      • zeek

        I really can’t think of a close game other than the @Nebraska game last season where I felt that the coaching staff had their fingers on the pulse of the team quite as well as yesterday.

        It’s a world of difference from when we were first adjusting to the eventual post-Persa era a bit early and trying Colter/Watkins in 2010.

        I’ve been as much a critic as any during the growing pains for this team, but Fitz and the coaching staff has really started to put it together.

        As an aside, I know some Ohio State folks who are already circling that date in Evanston on the calendar. I don’t even want to start looking ahead but the schedule next year is going to be juicy with the team that we’re returning.

        • skepticat

          Great. If you thought Tressel liked to run up the score on us….

          On the other hand, much of the preseason lamentation focused on us having a rebuilding year in the face of a tougher schedule. So who knows? If you want to be the best, you gotta beat the best. Bring them on.

  • NUMBalumDave

    Well, LTP, a great post, but I have to disagree with you in a few regards, if I may.

    First, the stadium. From my perspective it was a very nice stadium and all the stadium personnel I met were very professional and helpful. I didn’t get the long lines you got. The confusion about where and how to get to club level – agreed on that point.

    Second, the band. And here I am going to go negative. Not on the band, per se. You know I loves me my NUMB. But those in charge should have known that (believe me, they SHOULD HAVE) that we in the stands would not be able to hear them. They ONLY turned to the fans ONCE. ONCE. And playing away to the pressbox – COMPLETELY – throughout pregame and halftime – not cool. Jeers.

    Third, Jeff Budzien. GREAT.

    OTOH, the cowbells. It was almost as bad as I expected it to be. That was a lousy thing to deal with, and for that reason alone, I hope we never play MSU again.

    • Indeed the personnel couldn’t have been nicer. Great point. The band audio was indeed a major miss.

    • Ron

      Well, now you know what it feels like to sit in the East Stands at Ryan Field. We’ve long ago learned what it’s like to be irrelevant to the band.

      But that’s for another day.

      I agree with those who pointed out how fun it was that NUMB was the only band to be heard through ESPN, and that it sounded as though MSU’s fight song was cowbells.

      • NUMBalumDave

        Ron, please complain to the athletic dept about it. Back in the day (yeah, I’m turning that old guy) we would purposefully play to both sides, pregame, halftime, and at away games. It wasn’t much compared to playing to the pressbox, but some, and a lot more than I’ve seen recently. Let them know. Please.

  • Alum Dad

    Congratulations to the entire Wildcat football family. It will be hard for Pat Fitzgerald to have a more memorable day. Hopefully a future trip to Pasadena is in the cards. I am ready to add two new season tickets to my current four. Days like yesterday don’t come along that often, so I’m going to savor this one for awhile. Go Cats!!!

    • Well done Alum Dad! i believe we’ll have a pretty big turning point in attendance for purple this season. All we need now is a B1G title to get us that 47,130 mark every game.

      • NUMBalumDave

        On the drive back home last night, we were listening to Newradio 780 (I love doing this at night – clear as a bell in Baltimore). They mentioned that ticked sales are already shooting up as fans grab more tix for 2013. Everyone kept saying “See you in Pasadena” after the game was over. EXCITEMENT!

        • NUMBalumDave


  • Alan Casey

    Concessions running out of food – ‘Cat fans should feel right at home :)

    • Alum Dad

      Agreed! Great comment.

  • jross96

    So proud of our team and our school. Props to the WNUR alums in Section 143 (Row R, I think) for the hilarious running commentary during the game. (“You can’t catch with cowbells on your hands…”) My wife and I were at NU from ’85 to ’89 and witnessed few football highlights. That made this milestone all the sweeter. When MSU turned it over on downs with a minute or so to go and the game was in hand, my wife and everyone in Section 143 just started cheering and singing. I’m still hoarse. What a day.

  • timc

    In retrospect, with all the back and forth this season regarding who should play QB, you realize what an incredible luxury it was, and still is to have both Kain and Trevor. With most teams and games, the pattern is established early as to who has the upper hand-our offense vs their defense and vice versa. It was pretty clear early on that MSU was shutting down the Kain/V train. Switching to the more traditional passing game with Trevor made the ultimate difference and won the game. Lucky to have them both as different as they are.

    • Great point!

    • NUMBalumDave

      Two-QB rotations often don’t work. The Cats have it down. What a team!

  • SJ Wildcat

    Simply stated, it was a great experience at Everbank Field with family and friends as we watched the Cats make history. No complaints here. Nothing but happy thoughts. Go Cats!

  • SJ Wildcat

    Also, to Adam Paoli, Steve Kaiser and the folks at the Northwestern Gridiron Network and the Football Parents — Thanks for setting up such a tremendous pre-game and post-game tailgate. It made it very special to celebrate the win!

    • Well said. I need to do a post on some of the off-the-field successes there. i’m bummed I missed that tailgate as I heard it was 400+ strong with TVs and the works! The NU Alumni tailgate in the basketball arena was fantastic as well. Best one I’ve been to.

      • CM

        That would be a great post, LTP! The NGN/Steve Kaiser tailgate was incredible. Huge NU crowd with great food and drinks. TVs were tuned in to all of the games as the party continued well into the evening. Awesome time!!

  • ’84 Grad

    Yesterday is tied as my best NU football day with the NIU game in 1982 when we finally won a game to end the 34 game losing streak. Winning the Gator Bowl — and not just squeaking by — was such a joy.

    I was moved by the post-game award ceremony. Fitz is a classy guy — and not just publicly. While I’m an alum, I’m not famous, I’m not on the Board of Trustees, and I don’t think Fitz knows me from Adam. Yet about an hour before the game, when my wife and our 8-year-old son and I were walking around the stadium soaking in the atmosphere, we saw Fitz, who was alone with an athletic department employee. There was no one else around, just the five of us. He had a million things to do and no doubt had a million things on his mind. Yet he greeted us with “Go ‘Cats!” like our being there for the game was the most important thing in the world.

    I actually didn’t think the cowbells were as annoying as I was anticipating. I think the two PA announcements did put a damper on it.

    I agree on the stadium as a negative. While the stadium personnel was helpful and polite, the food options were not great (not as good as last year’s bowl at Houston’s Reliant Stadium), and the bathrooms were not clean and were inadequate. I expect more from a destination — and for $125 a ticket.

    • What a cool moment that must have been!

    • NUMBalumDave

      Fitz did the same near our tailgate. He walked through so quickly shouting “Go CATS” that we stood there saying, “Hey is that Fitz?” He was gone in a heartbeat, and it took us a few minutes to hash out that it was him. I was just showing someone else a program from the Rose Bowl season with Fitz on the cover that I had saved (along with my Rose Bowl programs). Fitz is awesome. I love that guy.

  • Cletown Joe

    The Great-LTP and PPR’s coverage of Wildcat Football this year….thanks for all the insite you guys provide.
    The Dissappointing-is it just me or are the sleeves on the undershirts a slightly different color than the actual uniforms? I though we had fixed the various shades of purple issue?
    Hey, if that is all there is to complain about, we truly have reached a new day NU football.

    • NUMBalumDave

      I used to be the guy that bought the band t-shirts. You would be stunned at how many shades of purple there are.

  • We sang “Go U Northwestern” so many times I forgot there were any cowbells in the stadium!

  • skepticat

    Ironic that you mention the band, because I thought they were very audible on TV, to the point that I remember thinking, “Wow, you can actually hear the band for a change!” Maybe they miked them for TV? Although I don’t recall hearing the MSU band; were they even there? Now the cowbells on the other hand…. along with one vuvuzela.

    • NUMB mom

      From the couch at home, I loved that you could hear both bands well. Knowing the NUMB repertoire made it easy to pick them out, that and they kept playing “Go U”!

    • NUMBalumDave

      I’ve heard the band from all perspectives, including from inside. After getting home this morning and seeing some highlights I was grateful that the tv mics picked them up well.

      FYI, two NU alums in the row behind us had vuvuzelas. They were great folks, but they could have left those plastic abominations at home and I would have been grateful.

  • I was not able to find the link to the post game interview between Fitz and Valensizi. Did I miss it? It was not in the highlight package. Is it available anywhere else?

    • skepticat

      You need to look at the other posts on the blog. There’s now also a video of the team’s return to Evanston.

  • NG

    If anyone had trouble finding the link for the Fitz postgame interview with Sam Valensizi:

  • Flo

    Back from Jax after spending an extra day celebrating the win. I sure picked a good time for my first bowl game. I knew we were going to win when my wife returned from the bathroom during halftime and told me she had just met Colter’s mom and sister. (We were sitting directly behind the players’ families). Couldn’t have asked for a better early birthday gift.

  • Db

    An outstanding result…After all the nonsense surrounding such an irrelevant stat like bowl record, I came around that we needed to win one. But going forward if anyone thinks the ‘better matchup’ is more important than the bigger game, you are nuts. Not that corso tee’ing this game up as ‘no one will be there’ wasn’t inspiring, but….I’ll take the result, momentum, and celebrate.

    Also hoping our quarterback gets to play most of the game next year. Pretty amazing this team was good enough to throw away possessions and bring in a guy dead cold off the bench and still win. Option football is cute against Illinois and Indiana, but if our passing offense is sprint receivers long to open up qb running lanes…that’s a play, not an offense. I have no idea if kain can throw or not, but the coaches who watch thousands of reps have spoken with their play calling.

  • cece

    the great….the game. the good…..Jacksonville (really!). the disappointing….the pep rally….gotta raise money, but come on!