The Great, The Good & The Disappointing

I find myself just staring at the B1G West standings and smiling. Northwestern is alone at 2-0 and it’s hard to believe that it’s the first time we’ve started that way since 2000.  After assessing the rest of the conference play and looking at our schedule it is very hard not to dream about this season which was such a nightmare such a short time ago. Headscratching of epic proportions. With that in mind, let’s get to it.

THE GREAT

Godwin Igwebuike – For the second time in two weeks a redshirt freshman making his first start on defense stole the show. Safety Godwin Igwebuike racked up three interceptions -the first time a Wildcat has done that since 1973 – and that was only part of his stellar play. Two of Godwin’s INTs came in the endzone, killing Wisconsin scoring attempts and shifting momentum in the game. His game-sealing INT flexed just how athletic this kid is.  After watching the game on tape, his eight tackles were equally impressive as the picks. The lick he put on Tanner McEvoy early in the game to prevent a first down exemplified just how physical he and the young guns are.

Justin Jackson – #28 had that breakout game we knew was coming. Justin was sensational again after initial contact and grinded his way for 162 yards on 33 carries – the most carries by an NU running back since 2007 (Tyrell Sutton).  Fitz is not one to lean to heavy on one back, but Justin made it impossible for him to not keep going to the well. He has an incredible knack for pushing the pile and getting an extra three yards on a carry.

NU O-line – Perhaps the most impressive turnaround is the NU offensive line. This line was getting pushed around by FCS Western Illinois just three games ago. For the second straight week they gave Trevor all the time he needed, while opening up consistent lanes for the NU ground game. Wisconsin was averaging just 89 ypg on the ground as a “D” and NU punished them with 203 yards on the day. Even in the short yardage situations when NU used Warren Long, the line created the push necessary to get the win.

Coaching Staff – From Fitz to Mike Hankwitz to McCall to the line coaches – everyone was under extreme criticism, and deservedly so. Now, it’ time to give them the props for reversing course. The aggressive gameplan on defense which was to make Wisconsin beat you through the air while trying to manage Melvin Gordon. On offense, we played with tempo, we played aggressively and we let it rip. Fitz went for it twice on fourth down early and McCall used a quick change play after the Jimmy Hall INT to go with the successful TD reverse to Miles Shuler. They cleaned things up on special teams and this team had its hair on fire from the word go.

Wisconsin Band – I love NUMB, but you can’t compete with the numbers of the Badgers band. #jealous (ed note: seeing as this commentary is dominating the comments section a few thoughts: 1) this was meant specifically to call out the volume of opposing teams’ bands that dominate the audio of Ryan Field 2)NU’s halftime show was fantastic 3)I am no judge of musical talent from a technical standpoint and I believe you all that we are superior in the intricate nuances of what makes a great band 4)I just wish we were double in size – that’s all!)

Tony Jones’ catch – He had only one deep ball, but man was that a beauty. Let’s hope it is a sign of things to come next week when Tony returns to the site of his first collegiate catch – a 47-yard TD bomb from Dan Persa.

THE GOOD

Trevor Siemian – Fitz stated that Trevor is at about 75% on the ankle and on a miserable day like Saturday, there were a few balls that sailed. That being said Trevor did enough to get the win going 15-29-1 TD and no turnovers. You look at plays like the TD pass to Vitale and some of the downfield throws to Prater and you see the Trevor of the past. A few misses (Buckley, Carr) but definitely you can see this offense starting to take shape. Once again we spread the wealth with eight different receivers making grabs.

Kyle Prater – Kyle had 5 receptions for 55 yards but everyone seemed to be clutch. Kyle is becoming that possession go-to guy when we need sure hands.

Special Teams – After a horror show at Penn State, Northwestern cleaned things up nicely this week. Jack Mitchell went 2-for-2 on FGs, Chris Gradone had some very good punts again inside the 20 and our kick coverage team was very, very good.

Atmosphere – Yom Kippur played a role in this not being a sellout (about 43,000) which is too bad schedule-wise. Northwestern obviously has a large Jewish population and nowhere was this more evident than the lone empty spot in the stadium – a chunk of the student section. That being said, it was a very good atmosphere as the fans were on their feet throughout the day.

Nick VanHoose – Nick played an excellent game again this week. He made a fantastic PBU, he came up and levied some big hits on Gordon and was a nuisance all day long in the passing game. Great job.

THE DISAPPOINTING

 Lack of holding calls – This isn’t sour grapes. After watching the tape last night it was frustrating to see so many holds not get called. Ifeadi in particular seemed to get no help. In fairness, the refs let both sides get away with a few but when it directly affects the outcome of the play you’ve got to make those calls.

Explosion runs – You knew Melvin Gordon was going to get his yards, but three runs totaling more than 150 yards isn’t good. The ‘Cats are lucky that Godwin has wheels and was able to track down Gordon to prevent him from TDs. Only one of the three huge runs resulted in a TD drive.

ESPN2 Announcers – Yech. They were pretty off. Lots of dead air, too many mistakes to count (including naming at least six wrong intended targets) and lacked energy.  The in-game stats were pretty far and few between as you had no context for Justin Jackson’s day.

  • Bob Parkman

    I like the dynamics that have been established for this team: humility and hard work. This can take them far.

  • cece

    we can talk football forever, but since you included the band, the great was the NU band. be totally jealous of the NU band halftime show.

    numbers may well be in the Wiscy band, but it is not a good band. there is no depth in players….it’s basically horns and drums and 5 saxophones which has a flat tone…. and their play was cringe inducing at times. their formations were just ok. opposed to the NU band which made the most of their small numbers, sounded fantastic, and had formations that were so intricate that it was amazing.

    fully expect to see that NU halftime show again, and should. NU band awesome.

    • Tubaman

      I totally agree. The Wiscy band has huge numbers and hits you with a wall of sound. The unfortunate part is that wall of sound is way out of tune and has no feeling or musicality. And the way the march….yech. Being a 4 year NUMBer, we were all about sounding good and looking good. Tonality and musicianship always win the day over pure noise.

      • wildcat6

        Being an NU music grad, I agree with this wholeheartedly. My teacher was a principal in the Chicago Symphony under George Solti, an orchestra which may have been the best in the world during the 70’s and 80’s. No disrespect to the Univ. of Wisconsin, but numbers aside, no one in Madison can match our world-class music professors.

        • hoverlow

          I don’t know when u attended NU but I always thought NUMB was made up mostly of non-music major types. Almost all music performance majors wanted nothing to do with it. NUMB was time consuming hard work that really wouldn’t help a performance major much. The few from the school of music were pretty much the music ed types.

          • royko

            Music ed majors were encouraged to be in NUMB, but performance majors were discouraged from being in it (my instrument was, anyway) since it kept them out of a real ensemble for the quarter.

    • Ron

      Ok, I’ll talk about the band too. NU band now sits on the East side, which means that from where I sit in 107, the only way I hear them well is when their section is miked. Meanwhile, the band continues their time-honored tradition of pretending that no one on the East Side matters (not even the newly relocated student section!), so we don’t hear them during their on-field shows. Adding insult to injury, the visiting team band now faces the East side from the former NUMB seats. So leaving aside the delay between the live band and the speaker output, all we hear from the band is when they play during the game, in a distorted miked-up sound, competing with the other band – and sometimes also with the DJ.

      Awful.

    • chartmoose

      The Wiscy band was big, loud, and marched with spirit — they have an identity and they stuck with it.
      Parts of their pregame and halftime shows were entertaining.

      Their tone quality and musicality, though, goes in the “Disappointing” category. Not trying to be hateful, but they sounded the best when they were facing the opposite stands. That muffled the blattiness a bit and made it sound like something approaching actual music.

      LTP, I respect your opinions on football and basketball.
      Not sure I can say the same about your opinions on music.
      Putting the Wiscy band in the “Great” while the only reference to NUMB is “I love NUMB, but” is inexcusable.
      Before you use #jealous again in this manner, I would ask you to find ANY music major from ANY school what their opinion is… (Hint — in music, louder is not better…)

      • wildcat6

        Yeah, I’ll take good rhythm, accurate pitch, and a warm quality of sound over volume any day.

      • Timc

        Well LTP, you’ve just been given a band beat down:)

        • LTP

          Well deserved, I’m sure!

    • Just the Facts

      Put NUMB in the great category, not the Wisky band. NUMB was much better in comparison. Yes, Wisky (and just about everyone else) has a bigger band. That’s nice for a louder sound but it doesn’t mean they are better. I do give Wisky credit because they are enthusiastic and play without sheet music. Most band don’t memorize their music but NUMB and some others do.

    • Mark Heller

      Plus I thought the Wisconsin band showed a lack of judgment when constantly trying to drown out NUMB. Glad they came but a little manners as guests would be nice.

      • NUMBalumDave

        Bands are supposed to agree on a play order, in advance. Arrogant bastards run some of the bands, and don’t give a damn who plays when after they’ve agreed on the playing order.

    • LTP

      Thought nu halftime show was fantastic. Loved the formations. Was simply referring to size of wisky and other big ten bands. While I’ve got zero ability to judge music and I trust NU is great, I’m allowed to be jealous of the size sound and presence iof opposing bands who dominate the atmosphere based on said size.

      • bandcat

        Remember the old days when ABC for one, put the half time shows on the air, for College Football fans and those connected to their schools to enjoy….some things were better in the “good ole Days” now we listen to a bunch of drivel at the half from the Sports Book crowd of analyst…8000 undergrads 150 bandos…last time I corresponded with Dan Farris, NU Director of Bands,NCAA did not allow bands to be miked…hence our size vs volume issue…Never forget the kudos given to our band by the Auburn band at the Outback Bowl regarding our show then…”how do you guys do that” size does matter with intricate marching and playing music by memory…we also put on a minimum of 3 to 4 different shows per season….glad to see you inadvertently brought some much needed attention to a real sore spot of mine.NUMB MATTERS

        • Pittsburgh Wildcat

          Army mic’d their band when we traveled there a few years ago. It’s clearly been allowed at least since then.

          • bandcat

            If so we need to put it on our long list of improvements at Ryan Field…maybe even ahead of the “potholes”…

        • NUMBalumDave

          Mic’ing the band has been a sore spot in NUMB for decades. This issue is brought up, year in and year out. There are many, many factors to consider when mic’ing a band because nine times out of ten you will get a poor result that is worse than not mic’ing them. And a good result is pricey.

        • NUMBalumDave

          Oh, and don’t think they don’t know about the ‘we can’t hear you in Section BlahBlahBlah’ issue, either. They do. If you want to take exception to anything, take exception to their unwillingness to redirect the way the band faces.

      • DaleysDaddyNU

        LTP – you know, I was also in NUMB for a few seasons after I figured that would be a nice way to get back on to the field. I was even elected spirit leader, but they got scared about it and took it away after I threatened to beat up the Hoosier cheerleading squad. (Long story). Anyway, let me know if you would rather I break down a halftime show instead of our offense.

        • Catatonic Joe

          Sounds like horn section envy.

    • microborg

      I thought that the Wisconsin band stole the show yesterday. Say what you will about musicality and tone, but absolutely none of that matters if you can’t hear the band well enough (this coming from a musician who marched in high school). That’s the problem I have with the NUMB. Sitting in the back of the endzone (section 121), we’ve never been able to hear the band; in prior years they were too far away, and this year they’re facing the wrong direction. On the field, the only time we can hear anything at all is when they’re actually facing south (i.e. never). And let’s not even get started on the poor mic situation.

      Contrast that with the Wiscy band, who has the numbers and the sound to be heard in all parts of the stadium at all times. In a place like a football stadium, that’s really what you need! Not to mention the fact that they’re smart and don’t waste much time with woodwinds who can’t be heard more than 20 yards away anyway (they had what, a handful of saxes and two handfuls of clarinets?). It was very exciting to have a band in the stadium that could actually fill it with sound. I did think Wisconsin’s choreography was downright boring, if executed quite well. They had clean lines almost all the time, something that can rarely be said about our band.

      Props to whoever did the choreography of NU’s halftime show, though. What they were doing out there was downright incredible. I hope we’ll see more at that level in the next few games.

      • purplehearted

        You are spot on, micro. Wisc band was loud and awesomely entertaining…exactly what a college band should be. Save the musicality for concert band…its useless when we can’t HEAR you. But OMG I was SO proud of our band!! Fantastic theme, music and formations. And they WERE about about as loud a I’ve heard them in years. Kudos to everyone who worked on that show. And thank you!!

      • Ron

        You can easily tell when the band is planning on only facing west. If they don’t show up with a ladder on the east sideline (on which a conductor would stand) before the halftime show, then you may as well stand in line for the bathroom. Typically, we only see the ladder for pregame (visitors fight song and Go U), and the final home game halftime (Steelmen). LTP, now that the athletic department has some governance over the band, does this make it any easier to get anyone’s attention?

    • royko

      I’m a proud NUMBAlum, but volume is a problem. NUMB is just too small to fill the stadium with sound, particularly when it is full and noisy.

      • LTP

        And this was my key point.

  • Purple Resurgence

    Dead on about those ESPN2 announcers- wow were they bad! I ended up turning on Dave Eanet- first time I have done that in recent memory. Hopefully we will get a better announcing team in the future!!

    Great game, though LTP- just a great game. I wore out my carpet with all the pacing I did, but man, they just are playing at a new level. I don’t know how to describe it, but they just looked really really solid- on both sides of the ball, something that I haven’t been able to say for a long time. Looking forward to next week!

    • royko

      You would think they’d be jazzed to be calling a big upset that people would talk about, but instead, a lot of announcers just seem annoyed that the game isn’t following their script.

      • Concur – It seemed that they had a script ready – and that script called for the Badgers to crush the upstart Wildcats. When that didn’t occur, they didn’t seem to know what to say.

        • Chasmo

          Were we listening to the same game? Early in the fourth quarter the announcers were acting like the NU upset was in the bag and going on and one about what a turnaround this was for the Cats. Then the announcers had to back off that pro-NU slant when the Badgers scored to cut the lead to six.

          • Okay, allow me to be more accurate – it seemed like the first half the announcers were assuming Wisconsin would win. (And admittedly, Gordon is really good.) Third quarter didn’t fire me up either. Around the 4th quarter, they did warm up to a Wildcat upset.

            Go Cats!

      • wildcat6

        Jim Nantz is the absolute worst at this – if the big favorite isn’t winning in the NCAA tournament, he isn’t happy. It’s almost as if he’s anticipating the ratings from the clash of the titans in the Final Four.

  • Mark Heller

    Wow! That was a great game. The identity of this team is that they can play spread AND power run (at least on 1st and 2nd downs) and a defense that has lots of big, quick DL and a back end that can cover. Wisco;s ability to break contain was a little worrisome, but what a game. Fun game to attend and since I’m coming over from Toledo it’s great to see the Ohio guys do well (Ifeadi, Jimmy, Nick, the 3 St. Ed’s guys). Go Cats!

    P.S. To the Lake the Posts bloggers. You were picking the Cats during the losses and now you’re picking the Cats to lose when they’re winning. Just drink some purple koolaid. Go with Jack’s picks!

    • Mark Heller

      Re the Ohio guys: Oh, and Godwin looked pretty good!!!!!! :)

      • DarkSide

        Godwin is an Ohioan, too- Pickerington North-from the Columbus area. First Cat with three interceptions in a game since 1973, Tony Little. Chi Chi is from DeSales HS in Columbus as well.

        • Mark Heller

          Yep!! That was my point about Godwin, although poorly communicated.

  • royko

    The other side of the coin with Gordon is that if you take away the three monster runs, he went a respectable but not amazing 109 yards on 24 rushes, with 4.5 ypc. Obviously the big runs are huge, but he wasn’t able to torch us at will the way it appears in the stat line. It’s much harder getting loose in the red zone.

    • fred

      On at least one (if not more) of the Gordon monster runs, Chi Chi was getting bear hugged by a Wisky blocker. If it gets called, the monster run disappears and Wisky gets backed up

  • HB

    The Badgers 5th Quarter (B5Q) Roundtable posted their reaction to yesterday’s game “wherein they attempted to wrap their heads around the ridiculous loss in Evanston.” They pointed out the sinking feeling of Wisconsin fans whenever they travel to Ryan Field where they haven’t won since 1999 – “a statistic shoved down everyone’s throat this past week.” Regarding the short answer to the loss – “Northwestern beat Wisconsin in just about every damn way possible.” B5Q MVP game balls were awarded to: Northwestern defense, Pat Fitzgerald & staff, “safety with the funky name”, and Wisconsin fans who had to watch game.

    • wildcat6

      LOL……you mean they didn’t give a game ball to Justin Jackson? Just wow….

  • freewillie

    Can we add B1G scheduling to the Disappointing? Don’t understand how it’s possible that NU’s next three opponents (Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa) all have bye weeks before facing NU. Though, the way this team is rolling now, maybe it doesn’t matter. But it’s still annoying and seems to signal a lack of respect from the league.

    • bandcat

      The bye when we got it was timed perfectly for this years team…could not have come at a better time as it allowed us to GOST! Appreciate the randomness!

    • Chasmo

      Studies have shown that Big Ten teams lose more often than they win coming off a bye week. So you should be happy and thank the league for doing NU a big favor.

  • freewillie

    Does anyone know if any recruits came to the Wisconsin game? NU sitting at #7 class in the B1G per 247 sports, with every recruit a 3-star. In particular I’m wondering about Issac James, the only recruit listed as “Warm” toward NU. The other school he’s thinking about? Wisconsin.

    http://247sports.com/Player/Isaac-James-31897

    • GreenLantern

      My dad sat near the recruits visiting section, said there were a lot of big boys there. He talked to a DLineman from Ohio who had just committed to NU over ND. Not sure who it was.

      • Bela Barner

        Sounds like Jordan Thompson, who has offers from ND, Bama, MSU, and many others. But he committed a while back. He is ranked a 3 star, but would prolly be a 4 if he weighed 20 lbs more. X Washington got the same discount because he is “undersized.” Whatever. Both kids can really play.

  • Al

    Great: The play of our young players, not giving up when Gordon broke his long runs, and no 3-man rush (for the most part) . Disappointing: Empty student section, which I don’t think you can blame entirely on Yom Kippur. Also I thought we were a little too conservative on offense in the 4th quarter.

    • Old Fat Bald Guy

      Cannot emphasize enough that Gordon didn’t get to the house on those three explosion runs. They led to seven points, total. Most years of NU football that would have been 21.

  • nucats96

    The biggest reason to root for NU to keep winning. To get more marquee slots on ABC/ESPN. Between the awful BTN announcers (you can’t spell hell with antwan randel el) and the morons from ESPN’s 34th string, the mute button is often times my best friend on Saturday.

  • Mark Heller
    • fidel305

      A mistake

      • Mark Heller

        Agree. Big Blue is big basketball. Lexington is not Chicago. While Stoops may be successful there it’s open to question and once Bear Bryant had success there he moved on.

  • fidel305

    Loved the defensive effort. My only quibbles are the bad angles taken by the dbs on a couple of those runs and whether we will be able to handle a balanced offense, where we can’t put 8 and 9 in the box , run blitz and ignore the pass like yesterday or cheat on the run like the week before. I think we can if we mix it up on defense and the guys keep hawking the ball and taking it away.

    But I am concerned about our passing game particularly if we have to play from behind. And, with the low, short rugby style punts. They’re ok when ur punting inside the other teams 45, which most of them were yesterday, but are going to be a real problem when we are backed up on our side of the field like we were in the 4th q yesterday where that short punt and ling return could really have cost us

    • bandcat

      The Speed we are putting out there on D is going to help us immensely with anyone who remains on the schedule.Passing game will improve with the “new found” rushing game…special teams play could get a huge boost with an O that puts it altogether…limiting the necessity in other words.. Go Cats!

  • Pittsburgh Wildcat

    As has been pointed out by others, the design and performance by NUMB at halftime was well done.

    However, regarding NUMB, I’m going to put one thing in the disappointing category — and I’m looking straight at the band’s administration and leadership here. Complete disclosure: I’m also a NUMBAlum.

    For at least the 2nd time at a home game this year, NUMB did not perform the alma mater during halftime. The other being WIU (I don’t know if we alsos failed to play it for the NIU game).

    Instead, we gave the Wisconsin band 7 minutes worth of halftime yesterday . In addition to the on field time we gave them during pregame.

    Look, I’m all for letting visiting team bands perform and being good hosts, and maybe the alma mater is not a huge deal to everyone in the stands. But to (a) give up that much time in our home stadium, (b) completely shorten the pregame show, (c) eliminate the alma mater from our usual halftime show and (d) eliminate any kind of postgame performance is unfathomable for any home football game — let alone when you know this particular visiting team band brings a large sound that we simply can’t duplicate.

    There are multiple issues that I feel need to be addressed so that NUMB is a better part of gameday at Ryan Field, some easier than others. But the issues from yesterday should be extremely simple to fix. And ones we frankly shouldn’t have to fix.

    • wildcatfan

      Absolutely correct in all points!

    • H George

      I, for one, am GLAD they don’t play the alma mater at halftime. It’s a total mood killer. You have an energetic show, and then you pull out the church hymn-like alma mater. It’s best saved for after the game. I have been filling out the attendance surveys and always say that it’s a mood killer and needs to be removed from the half-time show.

      • Ron

        Not to be overkill with my points above, but when the band plays alma mater to the west stands, they may as well have skipped it for everyone else. It’s a buzz kill to the east, because they have their backs to us and its silent.

  • Scott

    I don’t think Jewish students make up 2 empty sections. Undergrads just don’t care about football… I would have loved to have more 2:30 starts when I was a student

  • Leither

    In the INCREDIBLY DISAPPOINTING category – The Scoreboard. I am at every home game, and this season has been the WORST with having an accurate scoreboard. With a spanking new scoreboard and display that look amazing, we should be more than proficient of being able to hit buttons that accurately display the down, yardage, and even which team has possession of the ball. With that, the announcer at the actual game made several mistakes on names, downs, and yardage. I am unsure if those two are related, but they just made me frustrated.

  • NUMBalumDave

    NUMB suffers from all the same problems that the football program suffers from. It is hard to field a band at NU.

    Performance majors have not felt the push to join since John Paynter gave over control of the band, which means band enrollment lands mainly on music ed majors and non-music major instrumentalists. Now, NU almost certainly has a much higher percentage of undergrads who can play band instruments well than just about any other B1G school. But that won’t translate into numbers in the band because most of those students consider themselves pre-med, pre-law, and just all around serious students. Marching band is a huge commitment, and getting more students to turn out is an enormous challenge. Why march when you can study?

    And then there’s the instrumental mix. Why does NUMB sound so much better than other bands? Woodwinds, that’s why. Go to Ohio State games and look at an all-brass band, which produces an incredible halftime show, right along sexual harassment. They look awesome and are loud, but they don’t sound nearly as good as NUMB. Anyway, what makes NUMB sound so good also reduces the volume NUMB can make.

    If you want a WALL OF SOUND, you’ll have to get more undergrads to join and have them all play brass instruments or saxophones. Of course, then you’ll have Wisconsin’s or Purdue’s sound, and then, well, vomit.

    There are more ways to impress than the wall of sound. A clever show can include way more than volume of sound. Hell, if all you want is a wall of sound you could just go all Mississippi State and bang cowbells.

    I would point out that fans could drop their North Shore sensibilities and start getting much louder on 3rd downs. I mean, if you want to talk about a lack of volume that disappoints, this is where I start the griping.

  • LTP

    Rule #1 – know thy audience. It’s clear that LTP has a huge contingent of NUMB alums and musically talented ears. I’m all for one of you providing weekly posts on the band. We do need to drum up larger numbers though – we just have to if we want to create a home field sound advantage.