Opponent Recap: Northwestern Comment Count

Heiko January 31st, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Previously: Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, San Diego State, Minnesota



  • @ Boston College, 24-17 (W)
  • Eastern Illinois, 42-21 (W)
  • @ Army, 14-21 (L)
  • @ Illinois, 35-38 (L)
  • No. 12 Michigan, 24-42 (L)
  • @ Iowa, 31-41 (L)
  • No. 21 Penn State, 24-34 (L)
  • @ Indiana, 59-38 (W)
  • @ No. 10 Nebraska, 28-25 (W)
  • Rice, 28-6 (W)
  • Minnesota, 28-13 (W)
  • No. 14 Michigan State, 17-31 (L)
  • Texas A&M, 22-33 (L), Texas Bowl

Record: 6-7 overall, 3-5 B1G, 5th place Bo Division


  Offense Defense
Rush: 166.6 ypg, 45th 176.7, 83rd
Pass: 254.2 ypg, 38th 230.4, 71st
Total: 420.8 ypg, 34th 407.1 ypg, 80th
Scoring: 28.9 ppg, 51st 27.7 ppg, 66th
T/O margin: +3, 40th

Recap: My friend who went to Northwestern tells me that the campus isn’t as pretty as I remember it (from about a decade ago, when I went there for nerd camp) due to deforestation. Can someone confirm this? If so, that sucks.


That has nothing to do with their football season, which was one most Wildcats fans would probably want to forget. You kind of don’t feel too bad for them, though, because they set themselves up for disappointment. But hey, at least the Heisman campaign was pretty epic. I wonder if I asked nicely I could have some surplus Persastrong dumbells.

(more after the jump)

Most people are pretty familiar with the Dan Persa saga. He beat Iowa last year but tore his Achilles tendon right after throwing the winning touchdown (insert Iliad joke). Northwestern dropped their last three games without Persa, which, idunno, maybe they would have won one of those games -- Texas Tech or Illinois, but not both -- with him. Regardless, Persa spent most of the offseason in a tank full of bacta.

Because his completion percentage was so high last year, the school decided to do one of those increase awareness things over the summer to get him on the Heisman radar. I think there may have been a miscommunication between the athletic department and the trainers, however, because Persa didn’t return to action until the fourth game of the season against Illinois, and even then he seemed pretty limited. Kind of hard to win a Heisman that way.

His backup this year was a guy named Kain Colter. You may remember him whoop-whooping Kovacs on an option keeper en route to the endzone back in October. While Persa was healthy, Colter was a runner/change-of-pace guy who seemed to have a handful of specific plays designed for him, a la Denard 2009. The offense struggled under Colter during his first few starts when Persa was out, but later he seemed to come into his own, leading the valiant charge against Nebraska when Persa went down again.

Despite uncertainty at the quarterback position, offense wasn’t really to blame for the Wildcats’ losing season. The real culprit was a defense that blew an 18-point lead against Illinois and a 14-point lead against Michigan and gave Matt McGloin his best game of the season. Not that they were much better in 2010, but in 2011 Northwestern returned seven guys on that side of the ball, and most of their secondary was composed of upperclassmen, so I’m not sure what the deal was. Something amiss with player development maybe? [Ed-S: the DBs just aren't any good].

Anyhow, this was a potentially 8-5 team that ended up 6-7 due to unfortunate circumstances on offense. Down the stretch the offense will be just fine, what with USC transplant WR Kyle Prater joining the roster and Colter and RB Mike Trumpy hanging around for the next two years. Defensively, who knows? Given the defensive back play this year (116th!!! in passing S&P) Pat Fitzgerald ought to triple-check his staff for Tony Gibsons. #TonyGibsonsareNOjoke

Best win: @ No. 10 Nebraska.

Worst loss: No. 12 Michigan.

At the time, we thought they were as frightening as: Purdue, but better. 4.

Now we know they are as frightening as: 2009 Michigan, but better. 4.

What the win meant for Michigan: Given the fact that it was a come-from-behind win on the road after a 28-0 second-half performance, I don’t think anyone was too concerned. 6-0 was 6-0, and now they had to just freaking beat State.

Concern crept in inexorably after the postgame inebriation wore off anyway. If you ignored the numbers you realized that Michigan played like crap until Northwestern decided to play crappier. Hoke said it himself at the postgame presser, admitting that despite the whole “woo second half adjustments” thing touted by the blogosphere, the Wolverines didn’t make any second half adjustments. They just said, “Stop playing stupid.”

Actually that’s not true. They made one adjustment: they split Jake Ryan out on the slot receiver so that bubble screens would go for five yards instead of eight.

That doesn’t account for a 28-point swing. Denard did settle down after the break -- probably needed a quarter to forget the ex-girlfriend Twitter hack -- but what helped most was the Wildcats’ sudden inability to move the ball. They threw one or two bubble screens that went for five yards instead of eight and decided to drop it completely. They stopped running the veer. They took Colter out of the game.

What was most disquieting about this game was the Wolverines’ inability to run the ball. Denard averaged just under five yards a carry but had to exit the game after 25 carries because the running backs were averaging well under three yards. This would bode poorly for Michigan State.

And it totally felt as awesome as: Running Dexter-Ann Arbor with people who think it’s a great idea to sprint the first couple miles. 



January 31st, 2012 at 1:07 PM ^

i think they were calling it "equinox plus" then. i went for calculus, or as i like to call it "sleeping in the back of the classroom". the prof even encouraged it. i don't really understand.

the only things i really remember from it are 1) buying my first toad the wet sprocket cd at the water towers mall 2) eating indian food for the first time in chi-town and 3) going to see second city. well worth the 2 (3?) weeks.


February 20th, 2012 at 5:45 AM ^

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South Bend Wolverine

January 31st, 2012 at 8:51 PM ^

Yikes - I worked at CTD (Equinox) in the summers of 2007 & 2008.  Also went there as a student back in high school (2002 & 2003, I believe).  Sorry your time there was a bummer!  I still root for NU because of how much fun I had there over the years. (Full disclosure, I'm a grad student now, so the nerd shoe definitely fits!)


January 31st, 2012 at 11:18 AM ^

I was surprised to learn that the Iliad ends with Achilles still alive--Troy and Priam unconquered (ONLY ON A MICHIGAN BLOG!!). The Odyssey begins after Achilles' death and Troy's fall. I guess because once Hector was dead, in Homer's mind, Troy was cooked (like DUH.) Seems like he left a lot of good material on the editing floor but then again I haven't written anything that lasted for several thousand years (yet) so who am I to criticize Homer.

I don't think you would make it very far making Ovid jokes, however. LOL that was just like in the Metamorphoses!!! (NOT EVEN ON A MICHIGAN BLOG!!)


January 31st, 2012 at 11:23 AM ^

How in the world is Michigan a worse loss than blowing that lead to Illinois??

I mainly post though to let you know, Heiko, that though there aren't a lot of posts because there's not a lot to talk about, I'm still reading all these with interest. Admittedly the more interesting games more than say, Eastern.  And this was one of the more interesting games.  All that work is not for naught.  They're being read.


January 31st, 2012 at 11:34 AM ^

Haha thanks for reading! I swear once this series ends I'll have more interesting stuff to write about.

I was deciding between the two and ultimately felt that the Michigan game was bigger for them than Illinois. Persa made his first appearance of the season against Illinois so I don't think they were that confident that he was 100% just yet. Also, I felt like getting blown out in the second half against Michigan at home was worse vs. at least having some sort of retort against Illinois on the road. 

As to which one was more soul crushing, it might be a tie. I think there's some sort of rivalry between Northwestern and Illinois, but the build-up to the Michigan game was bigger, at least from what I read. 


January 31st, 2012 at 12:52 PM ^

This IS interesting.  I, in fact, was a proponent that now that we're finishing a season that we DON'T want burned from our memories forever, that we should maybe bask in the glow of it a little longer with some season in review stuff before we started panicing about 2012.  Now this week, with signing day, that's a bit different, but no reason January and February (recruiting aside, and other sports) can't be a bit about a season where we beat ND, Nebraska, Ohio and won the Sugar Bowl.  That's a lot to savior even for a full-speed Michigan program.  March pre-spring ball, there's lots of time to obsess over next season.

I just meant that Eastern is about as interesting as it was in September. A game like this, that was a lot of fun...the entry is fun too.  Even MSU next, while painful, should be interesting to see how the projections play out...because snark aside, they did have a good season.  Maybe better than a lot around here expected.  And then we just need to get by Iowa, for the home stretch.  There are a lot of informative posts that are good reads, but don't necessarily create a discussion. Different content/goals, but it doesn't make one more valuable than the other.  I'm enjoying these.


January 31st, 2012 at 11:38 AM ^

Chicagoland, especially the northern city and 'burbs, has been hit extremely hard by the Emerald Ash Borer.  I'm guessing Northwestern has cut down most of their ash trees on campus.


January 31st, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

Running Dexter-Ann Arbor with people who think it’s a great idea to sprint the first couple miles.

Don't knock it until you try it - being the first for a bit is WAY cooler than being last for most of it.


January 31st, 2012 at 12:00 PM ^

I don't know about deforestation, but Evanston just doesn't feel like a college town.  It feels like part of Chicago, with all the high-rises and everything.  That's cool in a way, but I like the cocoon-like world of college towns like Ann Arbor. 


January 31st, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

I was in grad school there 2001-2005, and still stop by about once a month. Lots of condo buildings and the like have sprung up over the last 10 years. I agree that EV feels more like an extension of Chicago rather than its own entity.

Picktown GoBlue

January 31st, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

and just visited campus in the last year; what struck me the most was how many more buildings they've crammed onto the lakefill area.  What used to be wide open vistas of the lake are now a bunch of buildings.  There is some talk of doing some more filling in of the lake to get more land; we'll see if that happens.  Just not as pretty as I remember it.

As to the general environment; Evanston is very much a little city, and one that, most of the time, seems to not care that there is a Big Ten, top-ranked academic institute there.  For the longest while, fast food restaurants were made illegal by prohibiting meals to be served in bags.  Burger King got around it by serving your food on a tray and pointing to a supply of bags across the way where you could bag your own food to take it out.  This rule has changed, but it reflects how little the city wanted to support an environment that catered to thousands of college-age students.  Not sure of the current situation on city services for the university, but that has been a point of contention in the past as well.


January 31st, 2012 at 3:11 PM ^

I haven't been back for awhile, and I've heard it's changed, but when we went there the first time, we went THERE (to watch a volleyball game the night before the football one) and damn, finding a place to eat other than the shack right next to the Stadium was next to impossible.  Pretty houses and neighborhoods, but nothing that seemed like people actually had to live there too.

The next time we stayed the whole time in Chicago and just took the El up for the game...and came right back.


January 31st, 2012 at 4:14 PM ^

When we checked into the hotel in Evanston for the game last fall, the receptionists were wondering why there were so many people wearing Michigan gear.  I thought they were kidding around, but they actually didn't know there was a football game going on the next day.  That blew my mind.