I'm sure you check twitter and facebook after games, and even if you don't, I'm sure you know what we're saying. I'm sure you know the fans are angry, frustrated, heartbroken, and disappointed. And yeah, it sometimes sucks to be a fan of the Northwestern Wildcats. It'd be a whole lot easier to root for OSU, or Stanford, or nearly any other team in the NCAA. I don't think any other team has gone through as much heartbreak this season as we have. I mean, just look at how Georgia is reacting to their hail-mary loss to Auburn.
I laughed. I'm a Georgia fan-- they're my second team behind the 'Cats, but I laughed. "That's nothing", I thought, having just watched the same thing happen to my team two weeks ago, followed by an improbable field goal attempt on an ugly, rainy Saturday afternoon.
We blame the playcalling, we blame the refs, we blame injuries, we blame the cruel, unfeeling football gods, we blame ourselves for washing our Dan Persa jersey right before the OSU game after not washing it since the Gator Bowl.
Some of us blame you.
Considering how high expectations were, this is already one of the worst Northwestern football seasons in recent history. 2 wins against Michigan State and Illinois and a bowl berth wouldn't do much to soothe the pains we've been feeling from falling off a nationally ranked, Rose Bowl-hunting cliff, and being exposed as the frauds we feared we always were. It sucks. It fucking sucks, and we're frustrated, pissed, and angry at the game itself.
But that's not what this post is about.
This post is looking back on what the athletes that will graduate in 2014 have done for the Northwestern Wildcat football program.
It's easy to lose the importance of last season, and indeed the two seasons before, in the tear-stained haze that this season has dropped over Ryan Field. But our seniors have done so much invaluable work for this program, and it all bears mentioning.
Pat Hickey and Brandon Williams-- It's been a tough season. It seems like an errant gust of wind or a missed assignment on the line of scrimmage forced you into tough situations 9 out of 10 times. But the truth of the matter is that so far, you guys have landed 10 kicks inside the 20 yard line this year, despite being pinned back in our own territory most of the time, giving our defense room to stop drives. That should not be overlooked.
Tyler Scott, Will Hampton, Davion Fleming, Timmy Vernon and Damien Proby-- Statistically, our defense has been pretty damn good this year, and I can only assume that a lot of that came from the leadership of our seniors. We've maintained a stout run D while filling a bunch of holes in our secondary-- despite the losses, we've looked a lot less vulnerable to the long ball this year. And that's something we'll be able to take with us for the future.
MIKE TRUMPY THE BALL CARRIER-- 4 yards. Every time. Every single time. I hope with all my heart that we find a third-down back as consistent as you for next year. You were forced into more action than you had been expecting this year, and you stepped up. Big.
Mike Jensen and Rashad Lawrence-- You made defenders look straight up stupid all year. Jensen found open field a whole lot, and though Rashad didn't, he made it himself by shaking defenders off when they were foolhardy enough to try to tackle him. We return a lot of receivers next year, which is great. But we lose two that deserve a better season than they've had so far.
Venric Mark-- Hell, you're playing next year. I refuse to believe you won't. So you don't get a sappy paragraph. At least, not yet.
Jeff Budzien-- You're a folk hero. I heard you once kicked a field goal so long it orbited the earth and passed through the uprights at Ryan Field again, becoming the first 6-point field goal in the history of football. You may never win the Groza, but you have a golden goddamned leg, and your presence on the team will be sorely missed. We counted on you to win games, and you did. Most of us don't remember how it feels to be nervous for a field goal try, and that's on you.
Kain Colter-- We didn't like you at first. Nobody could replace Dan Persa. You didn't listen to us, and despite our lack of trust in you, you became one of the most dynamic, exciting, and dangerous quarterbacks in the Big Ten. You are a huge weapon on the offensive side of the ball, and led our offense to that historic Gator Bowl win last year. You looked great against OSU, and your highlight reel of performances is packed with images each Northwestern fan will remember forever.
This senior class has, at least for one offseason and a bit of this season, made Northwestern relevant on a national level again. They won the Gator Bowl against an SEC team, and their leadership has set the foundation for a 2014 campaign that, despite myself, I'm excited for.
This is all to say that, guys, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't knock down that pass at the end of the Nebraska game, blow that field goal this past Saturday off course, or push the pile to give Kain Colter that first down when Gameday came to town.
You deserve better than this season. You're better players than you have appeared on the field-- we know it because we've seen it. And though living in the past might leave a bad taste in your mouth, I want you to never forget what you have done for this team, because it is invaluable.
We wouldn't come to the games if we didn't love you. On Saturday, a game between two of the most disappointing, heartbroken teams in the Big Ten was played. It was an ugly, ugly game. It was raining just enough to be uncomfortable. The air was thick and damp, and we were miserable.
But we were screaming. The student section filled up. There was purple all around me. Nobody left until the final whistle.
We love you. We still do, despite what we say sometimes. And when we look back, 10 years from now, when Northwestern is a consistent contender for the Big Ten title, it'll be because of what you helped build.
We'll see you in a week, taking the field against the Spartans. Wipe the floor with them, and then crush Illinois.
Push On, Northwestern and Go In To Win
Push On, Northwestern and Fight
May word or deed keep you in the lead,
Push on to victory with all your might.
Loyal to you we will always be true,
Push when the game gets hard.
From East to West we know you're the best,
Push on to victory.
We'll Always Stand By You,
Go Northwestern, We Will Ever Cheer and Sing
For You to Win Northwestern,
Our Hearts Will Ever Yearn
For the Purple Banner Waving High for