It's fun to look at the ESPN standings page.
Yeah, it would obviously take a minor miracle for NU to win the Big Ten - they're only one game back, but some teams that aren't very good at losing would have to lose, and NU would have to win out and beat some teams that aren't very good at losing.
But they have that nice little asterisk next to NU's name. The one that means NU is essentially guaranteed a bid at some bowl, somewhere - there's eight Big Ten bowls, meaning NU would need to lose out the rest of the season and Indiana or Purdue would need to manufacture two wins, and then get selected over NU, which seems unlikely even when you include the fact that they play each other in a few weeks. Because both teams are bad, and NU might not go 0-4 down the stretch (although it is a distinct possibility!). It feels good.
What doesn't feel good is that I spent like 150 bucks going to Vandy (gas fare!)
Actual analysis, analyses, and analysises after the jump.
- The most obvious thing, of course, is Mike Trumpy. Yes, he had a lot more running room and better holes than any running back NU has started has gotten from his offensive line. But he also used it, and he used it well. He didn't go down (pause) at the point of contact, and he found holes instead of running into walls. And he might not be as fast as Arby Fields, but once he hit those holes, he was gone for a good 10-15 yards. Great stuff from Trumpy - hopefully he keeps it up in that ever-changing starting role for the rest of the season.
- It's been pointed out that NU is on a six-game road winning streak, and is 4-0 on the road whereas they're 2-2 at home. I crunched some numbers yesterday - turns out under Fitz, NU has less losses and a better winning percentage. They're 18-13 (58 percent) at home, 15-10 (
66.6 percentMATHS FAIL 60 percent) on the road. (Never mind the 0-2 performance at neutral sites, or the fact that one of those road games was against Eastern Michigan at Ford Field.) This despite the fact that typically, NU schedules none of its non-conference games on the road, meaning the road schedule is typically all Big Ten opponents. Looking deeper into those numbers, you see we're 3-0 against Iowa at Kinnick, 0-1 at home, and lost to Duke at Ryan Field but beat them at their place. It gives you pause. Ryan Field doesn't offer much of a home field advantage - maybe without a true home stadium environment, NU players have feed off of the energy of opposing crowds to get hype. Just theorizing.
Dan Persa is spectacular at throwing off the run. I knew that he could run, and that he could throw, but, I had no realization of how good he was at doing both simultaneously. Watch two throws he made during the game: the first touchdown of the game to Ebert, and the end-of-the-first-half throw that elicits the unbelievable one-handed stickum catch by Demetrius Fields (who Saturday's game revealed is significantly better at catching the ball with one hand than with two - dude's right hand must be made out of Tempurpedic material) (pause). Both plays Persa has pressure in the pocket, scrambles, and is still under pressure, sprinting full speed, when he makes a throw with a disturbing amount of zip that ends up in a place where only his receiver can get it. Unbelievable.
- Also amazing was the pass he made to Mike Trumpy under pressure - he isn't running full speed, but it's definitely a broken play - Trumpy's initial route was a 8-yard out route - but after Trumpy improvises and heads downfield, Persa has the pocket presence to run around, avoid sacks, and still be able to look up and launch a pass over a defender three feet away to hit Trumpy more or less in stride. His field awareness was also key on the first Ebert touchdown. Both time he had to scramble but quickly found a receiver that was open, despite having to be moving on his feet the whole time. I can barely pay attention in class with a computer in front of me, let alone keep track of 11 defenders while paying attention to my linemen blocking and where my wide receivers - whose routes were done four seconds ago - have gone to now that the play is broken.Persa's accuracy has been impressive all year. But it's these plays that turn him from a run-of-the-mill good quarterback to one that wins games for a team with an otherwise anemic offense.
- Hands! I wish we had them. Lot of drops today - great for my battle between Dan Persa's completion percentage and my GPA, not good for picking up first downs when Persa makes an accurate throw to Tony Jones on third-and-short.
- Great defensive gameplan. Yes, NU allowed a 97-yard drive by Indiana, then a touchdown in the waning seconds, but most of the time, Ben Chappell was under insane pressure and it made him uncomfortable. When NU had guys blitzing, his throws were notably off: high, short, or just easily defensed. Yes, he got 308 yards passing, but he completed it at an inefficient (for him) 56 percent, with under 7 yards an attempt. And Indiana still didn't have a run game, so NU didn't plan for one.
- Ben Chappell running is hilarious.
- Evan Watkins. YEAH! He came in, threw one picture-perfect pass and one potential pick-six, but, still, I feel confident that he has an arm that he can use to propel footballs into the hands of wide receivers. Probably not the all-victorious person I imagined him to be after spring ball, but, I'd feel confident with him having to play spot duty again. He still sucks at kneeling, though, as I believe I mentioned after the Illinois State game.
- I heard the best story I've ever heard this week, so I'll tell it to you - and possibly the first fully-hearsay-ish post about something I heard my friend tell me about a football player I've ever deemed good to post on this site. So, my friend - the one who drove 800 miles to go to an NU game at Vandy but often doesn't go to football games on Saturday if they start before 11 because he's lazy and hungover - knows Jeremy Ebert, and has a class with him. He comes downstairs midway through the fourth quarter Saturday - I mean, the game started before 11, you didn't expect him to be up, did you? - and asks us how the game is going. We tell him Jeremy Ebert had two touchdowns, including one ridiculous 30-yarder with an amazing catch. He's like "wait, what type of play was it?" We tell him it was a long pass. He then asks us if it matches the play he describes: did Ebert start out in the slot, then come over the middle and run a fly route to the back of the end zone? And did the receiver on the other side also run a deep route to draw the safety? So on and so forth, and, uh, to the best of our recollection, his description matched exactly what had happened on the play. Apparently, earlier in the week, Ebert had gotten bored in class, and turned to my friend, and said something to the extent of "I'm gonna bust one loose this weekend." My friend's a tool, so, thinking he was messing around, he gave him crap. But Ebert was serious. So he doodled out a play diagram, and explained why every other receiver ran the routes they did, how one safety got drawn away. And then told him to watch for the play, because it always works, and if they ran it, he was going to score. Sure enough... it happened. I don't care if this story is actually false because my friend doesn't understand football, it's still the coolest story I've ever heard. And likely the only athlete-related story I hear that nobody will get mad for me posting.
- That being said, Ebert played an amazing game and is truly developing into one of the better wide receivers in the conference. Five catches for two TD's and 98 yards by two different quarterbacks... all on third downs? Ridiculous. I captioned him as "Mr. Third Down" in yesterday's Daily. Proud of that.
- Venric Mark can fly. Keep running those end-arounds for him, keep him back there as a kick returner/punt returner. Best special teams player for NU in a while.
- Check that: Brandon Williams has been a phenomenal punter. I didn't notice that until they ran a stat about it on Saturday, but, people just don't return his kicks. Which is a lot to say about somebody. And nothing bad to say about Stefan Demos!
- Yo, Indiana, get rid of your dusty hill for little children to slide down with cardboard boxes. It doesn't add ambiance. It adds a distinct "this is a third-world country" feel. I've been to third-world countries. Sliding down a dusty hill in a cardboard box is what keeps children in third-world countries entertained. Give them some legit sleds, or at least some grass, before the World Bank airdrops a 500-pound bag of soybeans and wheat on Memorial Stadium.
- For those of you keeping track, NU's starting running back situation since Tyrell Sutton graduated after the 2008 Alamo Bowl: Simmons-Schmidt-Fields-Simmons-Fields-Concannon-Fields-Schmidt-Trumpy. It's more confusing when you consider that most of the time, there was something like "Stephen Simmons OR Arby Fields OR Jacob Schmidt" at the top of the depth chart.