WE'VE BEEN HERE FOR QUARTERS
A lot of people will tell you that yesterday's 29-28 victory was a comeback. People will probably cite the fact that we were down 21-0, and 28-3, and that this game was, well, the largest comeback victory in NU history.
But despite the fact that Northwestern was down by 14, 21, 25, and whatever other horrific things we were down by at various points in the game, there was maybe a span of 30 seconds where I thought "well, we're out of this game." Some combination of us having done this two weeks ago against Purdue and the fact that this game was, essentially, a single-elimination game for bowl eligibility allowed me to refuse to believe that this game was guaranteed over.
And luckily, my fellow students who actually play football were with me on this one. It's the same story: we come out like whatever the opposite of gangbusters is (gangs?), we give up a touchdown before I even get in the stadium, we're looking dead in the water, and then something just clicked.
It's not like we played flawless football for the last 25 minutes. Mike Kafka threw multiple picks, and half the ones that weren't picked off were overthrown. We needed a dude tripping over his offensive lineman at the one-yard line to prevent this game from not even meaning anything. Our receivers dropped a buttload of passes.
But we were in it. And never did I, nor anybody on the field, or any of the other few thousand people screaming their respective lungs out and jumping up and down like idiots in the student section.
So, people, remember the words of a wise man who came before us: Don't call it a comeback.
Now, what you really want to read, bulletpoints:
- Let's start out with the bad stuff: Jeez, Mike Kafka, I'm not sure how you won us that game. For the first time this year, Kafka completed multiple passes way downfield. One was a perfect pass to Andrew Brewer, which Brew had about 25 yards after the reception on and merked some dude who tried to head-tackle him. One was a great catch from Zeke Markshausen. One was a shoulda-been, woulda-been pick that Andrew Brewer wrestled away from an Indiana defender. The rest of his long throws were overthrown or hanging ducks that just fell into Indiana hands. Don't get me wrong, it's a major improvement from his deep throwing in previous games. But, yeesh.
- Also, his other two picks were just confusing. Like, I'm not sure who he was aiming for.
- Our special teams is a mess right now. First off, that rugby punt thing might have to go. No matter how good it supposedly is for field position, and how it occasionally bounces off opposing players and we recover it, when Demos messes it up and airs it out it's just impossible to cover the returner in time. See, Maclin, Jeremy, and that dude who returned it to our 30 or so, and led to an easy touchdown.
- I would be angry at the receiving corps for some serious drops, but they've been pretty good all year. The only thing I wish is that we had some running backs who can catch.
- Done with the bad stuff. Of course, I also shoulda wrote "let's not go down by 20+ in the first half", but I can live with that.
- Game ball goes to the really, really old guy who was a baton majorette today. Not sure who this guy is, but he went on the field and strutted his stuff with a baton during halftime, and won the hearts and minds of the entire student body. Clap it up for that guy.
- I was truly inspired by the play of Ricky Weina, our sixth-string - SIXTH-STRING! - corner coming into the year playing due to the injury to Sherrick McManis and, well, whatever was up with Demetrius Dugar and Mike Bolden and Justan Vaughn today. So much so that I decided to write the following screenplay about his performance today. I should note that the screenplay is based on a true life story. And when I say "it's based on a true life story," I mean, it's actually just a conversation I had with the guy I was standing near today.
(several men are standing on a metal bench. All of them think the name "Weina" is pronounced so that it rhymes with "hyena."
Me: Hey, dude, what happened to Sherrick McManis?
Him: I don't know. Wait, Scott Weina is playing. That's not good. He sucks.
Me: I think his name is Ricky, and he's a dominant force. (Weina covers the Indiana WR who gets thrown to on third down, the play is incomplete because of a poor throw by Ben Chappell.) WEINA! Oh, man, that was all Weina. You can't stop Weina, you can only hope to contain him.
Him: Actually, that's not true. You can stop him. He can be contained.
Me: Look, he's out on punt coverage too. (Ricky Weina blocks a punt.) WEINA! YOU CAN'T STOP WEINA! HE'S TOO STRONG! TOO STRONG! HE'S TOO PRETTY! YOU CAN ONLY HOPE TO CONTAIN HIM! (the curtain closes as I run up and down the uninhabited bench in front of us yelling at the top of my lungs for a good 45 seconds that people cannot stop Weina, nor contain him.)
- And scene. I'm shouldn't be impressed by a w over Indiana, but look at how banged up our team is at this point in the season. A fun game to play when you're looking at a defense playing Weina, Kevin Watt, Quentin Williams, David Nwabuisi, Brian Peters, and Jared Carpenter is "find the defensive player who was starting three weeks ago". It's pretty hard. And what's more, the dudes who I'm naming weren't just wasting space on defense, they were playing well. You could tell the Hoosiers were picking on Weina, but he didn't let up many completions, what's more, he returned a punt. He's probably this week's MVP. Peters and Carpenter weren't a gynormous dropoff from Phillips and Smith, and those were two of our teams rocks coming into the year. Watt and Williams might be outplaying Corey Wootton thus far in the year - although Woot did come alive a little bit today.
- Not to mention that I can't find a running back I expected to play coming into the year. Scott Concannon? Scott Concannon looked downright decent today, and not just on the last drive where he was busting out ten yard runs left and right. (BTdubs, credit Zeke Markshausen with one of the better wide receiver run blocks in NU history to clear out the entire right side of our offense for a Concannon sprint for a first.) He was getting four yards on draws up the middle that had been getting none or one a few weeks ago with Arby Fields. And Jeravin Matthews looked sweet out of the backfield when he was there.
- Bill Lynch has gotta feel silly about leaving those three points on the field on that fourth-and-one at the one. I know he should've had a TD, but, man. You lost by one. I guess he's only got the entire month of December and January when Indiana isn't playing in a bowl to think about it, though.
- Major props to Indiana's Nick Polk for busting out the WWE tackle on Sidney Stewart. I didn't hear the call, but I'll have to assume it was "personal foul, illegal use of a piledriver, automatic first down."
- By the way, I recently discovered that the refs enjoy chilling out in the hallway between the student section and the exits after the game. I guess this is their locker room, and congrats to Ryan Field for giving them essentially THE WORST POSSIBLE PLACE TO PUT REFEREES IN THE ENTIRE STADIUM. I've taken to sarcastically congratulating them on my way out, I think NU students should begin to make this a habit.
- Andrew Brewer looked like a beast in weeks one and three, but has been AWOL in every other week. But today he was great. He scored a TD on a great personal play by him, and saved a pick on the aforementioned Kafka heave, plus got open on fourth-and-three.
- In closing, let's look back on the bad times: a selection of comments from the first half of Saturday's game. Che effort is beyond pathetic. Beyond embarassing. I think if you went out to Long Field and picked up a handful of IM players, you could do no worse.
Well, it sure did look that way at the time, and I hope this self-reverse schadenfreude is as cathartic for y'all as it is for me.