Never ever ever ever ever let this happen again.
Don't get me wrong: I suppose in some freaky hypothetical world where I had to choose between being able to watch my team lose a football game or never being able to watch my team but knowing that they won every game, I'd probably take the latter. But "would you rather" situations are generally meant for way more interesting situations, and should never be manifested in a real-life situation where a crowded sports bar has to watch 80 HD tv's buffering simultaneously.
We're a Big Ten school. I know this game was probably worked out years ago, and that they weren't thinking everything through at the time, but for a school with its heart set on having a profitable, popular football team, this should be the last time that a Big Ten team's game goes untelevised. Hell, the Big Ten Network even picked up Indiana-Western Kentucky. I know all this is more complicated and expensive than "oh, hey, we should air this game", but, well, even I couldn't have predicted the hilarious awkwardness of watching Rice's scoreboard Noise-O-Meter broadcast to an entire Buffalo Wild Wings.
As for the football, that's after the jump. (Although there's also some whining about the game stream because after all, that's what you want to read, right?)
- Seriously, you know how I do the thing where I pick an "under-the-radar" player every week and they're always relatively obscure and end up screwing up. ENOUGH OF THAT. Dan Persa is the be-all end-all. He makes gods look like men, he makes demi-gods look like demi-men, he makes Evan Watkins look like a demi-god, and if you say something bad about him, he'll hit you in the face with a perfectly thrown pass which he managed to release despite being rotated and thrown to the ground by a nameless Rice defender who only afterwards realized how foolish his attempts at tackling the man were in the first place. He completed only 75 percent of his passes - only - and now sits at third place in the passer efficiency department behind Terence Cain of Utah (slightly higher yards-per-attempt than Persa despite lower completion percentage, 5 TD's, no picks) and Greg McIlroy of Alabama (they played Duke forchrissake). He still leads the nation in passing completion percentage, though, with an 81.6. Judging from his first three performances - which, admittedly, weren't against top notch competition - he's the spread offense's dream QB: disturbingly accurate, can hit any open receiver within 15 yards without thinking about it, can complete quick passes to the sideline, doesn't make stupid throws, has the arm strength to occasionally air it out to test the defense, and faster than a speeding Arby Fields. (Probably). I know the NU fanbase is seriously gushing about this guy to a disturbing level, but, jesus, maybe the kid deserves it. He's been fantastic.
- The other superstar, obviously, was Quentin Davie, who led the team in tackles and also had a pick six - our first since Eastern Michigan last year. The interceptions thing will eventually stop happening: on two of his three picks in the last two weeks, including yesterday's, either the quarterback doesn't see him at all or just decides to try to throw the ball through him, which generally, from my experience with IM football, ends badly. (Seriously, whoever the QB for Central Michigan is, learn how to read linebackers playing a zone defense - it might help.) But he was all over the field. Sometimes, it's bad when you lead the team in tackles - Justan Vaughn last week, for example, had nine tackles because he got thrown at nine times and had to make nine tackles because he couldn't force many incompletions - but when you're a headhunting linebacker like Quentin Davie, it's a sign of a game well-played and a life well-lived.
- Drake Dunsmore has made the leap from "jokingly untackleable" to "actually untackleable". Interestingly enough, this leap was over a Rice defender at the 3:52 mark of the NUHighlights recap video. I have identified this defender as No. 20 Corey Frazier, and suffice it to say I hope he has been steadily applying ice packs to his ego, because it's probably pretty bruised. Sam McGuffie might have been able to jump over defenders in high school, but our boy Drake - LAST NAME EVER, FIRST NAME GREATEST/he's the-he's the best we've ever had - does it in actual game situations. Take that, McGuffie.
- Great work from the defense as a whole. It's sort of disappointing in a jokey way that NU's backups gave up a touchdown in the game's closing seconds, but, for the most part, outstanding work. The line lived in the backfield, and the pass coverage nabbed two passes with only two or three "big plays" allowed, and even on those big plays they didn't let Rice find paydirt.
- Dan Persa is also probably our best running back. Okay, I'm done.
- About which, Hunter Bates, if you're going to be a prominent member of Northwestern's team - he had a pick and the best punt return NU has had in over a season, sorry, Venric Mark - you're going to need to either change your number or your physical appearance to differ from that of Dan Persa. It's genuinely confusing, and no announcer has any idea what the hell is going on. I suggest you grow dreads or get really tatted up, or just change your number. If seven's your lucky number, guess what, I just checked, and you can totally wear 77. And then you'll be the only safety bad-ass enough to wear a number in the 70's! Come on, dude, I'm begging over here.
- About the running game - which, again, was sub-par, gaining 3.2 yards per carry - those who say we should completely abandon the run should look at Rice's box score. Their offense essentially eschews the run, despite some seemingly talented running backs, throwing the ball 55 times and running it 23 times. Now, it's clear that all that passing comes as a major detriment to their passing game: NU's defense was absolutely keyed in on both Nick Fanuzzi and Taylor Cook, holding them to about 5.5 yards per attempt, picking off two passes and breaking up five others. On the other hand, Rice's running backs looked great despite almost never getting touches in the backfield, as Charles Ross busted out a 30-yarder and Sam McGuffie had 5.0 yards per carry. Every team has a balance where their offense is the most efficient, where any more of one aspect of the game, passing or running, will allow the defense to prepare for that slightly more and end up hurting that side of the game. Right now, Northwestern hasn't found that balance: we can certainly afford to throw the ball more, because Dan Persa has been a godsend and our running backs have looked either untalented or confused, depending on who you ask. But understand that while that's true, the fact that we run it more than we pass it does open things up for Persa - a lot - and even if that aspect of our game looks terrible, it is necessary to keep Dan Persa's shine fresh to a certain extent. I'd like to see us have a 50-50 split of passes to rushes, but if we can keep winning games with more of the ground game, I'll take it.
- Vince Browne is surprisingly fast. Gets around the edge really easily with his strength, and he lit up two QB bootlegs. NU also had great coverage of screen passes, too, but that's not related to Vince Browne at all, it's just big in "pass plays that got stopped near the line of scrimmage" news.
- Props to Stefan Demos. Last year, he had about as many kicks out of bounds as touchbacks, this year, he's booming it into the end zone, and this apparently confused the living crap out of Rice's kick returner to the extent that on two occasions he couldn't figure out whether he wanted to take the ball out of the end zone or not, and ended up taking it out both times and getting jacked up. They probably should work on that. He also went 3-3 on field goals and hit all his PAT's - I'm putting this on the new long snapper, so I can convince myself that Demos was never the problem all along, because if I keep telling myself that, it'll be true.
- We have attendance problems, but Rice REALLY has attendance problems. The big tarp over half their stadium ain't foolin anybody. Neither is the noise-o-meter they repeatedly displayed on the stream in between shots of empty rows of bleachers - at least the Big Ten Network has the courtesy to search for fans in seats. By the way, they should get that noise-o-meter recalibrated, because it appears to display the fact that Rice Stadium is reaching dangerous levels of noise on many third downs while in fact the game was played in a cavernously empty 70,000 seat stadium. Good to know that the Intense-o-meter is perfectly calibrated.
- So after my Yom Kippur services let out I went to Buffalo Wild Wings for a bit to kill time, and the whole Owlvision thing was hilarious. It barely took up half the screen, it was grainy as hell, it spent a lot of time buffering, the audio was a minute slow, and at one point, every TV in the restaurant showed a mouse reloading the screen. It's clear NU fans overloaded the system trying to watch the game - my advice to Rice is not to try this again next time you're playing a major conference school at home. Come on, you guys go to a good school, you guys understand bandwidth, right? Good, because I'm a journalism major and have no idea, but I'm pretty sure you need a lot of it to stream a football game to a couple of thousand people.
- Watkinsurgency update: got in the game, got sacked, really bad at kneeling at the end of games. The Cult of Persa-nality is still going strong, though.