I was wrong. I predicated a Northwestern win and I predicted the ‘Cats offense would play well. To modify a quote from former NU coach Dennis Green, Northwestern is not the team I thought they were. The offensive line is terrible, the running backs aren’t that quick (though the offensive line makes them look way worse), the defense is a shell of its former self (mostly due to injuries), and the offensive playing lacks any imagination what so ever. Optimistic as I am, if NU doesn’t beat Indiana next week I don’t see them even getting to visit Detroit this winter.
The worst thing Northwestern does is just play stupid. They make dumb turnovers and get ridiculous penalties. At least Mike Kafka avoided interceptions today, but there were still several times when he could have made plays with his feet and instead tried to force a pass. He just got lucky they weren’t picked. I also am starting to think that while Kafka is very accurate in the short passing game he isn’t as comfortable over 15 yards as he missed several receivers for what might have been big gains. Now, overall I still think Kafka has played well and he certainly isn’t helped by the poor line play, but I’d still like to see more of Dan Persa, especially if NU doesn’t win next week. Kafka first year starter problems might be avoidable for Persa if he sees more time this year.
NU also cost itself big time with two fumbles. Jeravin Matthews dropping a kickoff and Drake Dunsmore fumbling away an NU drive which had momentum. The Dunsmore call was questionable as he looked as if his forward progress was stopped, but Matthews has no excuse. I could catch a short kickoff without a problem. Also, Matthews for some reason doesn’t look like he runs full speed on returns. I don’t get that. I also think NU was really lucky Hunter Bates got his fumble back, but I put the punt return problems on the fact nobody in that group apparently knows how to block.
At least the Wildcat defense played okay. They were put in a couple tough situations due to turnovers and injuries have sure hurt. MSU got their first TD because two reserve DBs didn’t make a makeable play. I’d like to think Phillips and Smith would have. Also, Corey Wotton is a shell of his former self. At this point I think he’s better not playing at all. All that can happen now is he can get hurt worse and completely ruin his NFL future. Finally, great as Sherrick McManis has been to date, he got toasted regularly today on play action. It reminded me of Iowa a few years back. Ugh.
On the positive side NU started basketball practice last night and I should probably write about that since that’s what this site is supposed to be about. Unfortunately, I’m too focused on NU’s massively under achieving football team right now. NU needs to beat Indiana next week to even consider a trip to the Motor City Bowl. I guess I hope Illinois wins tonight and IU is really down in the dumps, but who knows. It’s not as if NU will get any home crowd advantage, so maybe the psychological aspects aren’t even worth thinking about.
Congrats to Purdue for the win over OSU. I knew the Boilers were too good not to get some wins, but I didn’t really expect OSU to be their first victim. What that wins does show is the Big Ten is pretty even, but I’m not sure that helps NU’s bowl hopes unless the ‘Cats can actually scratch out 7 wins and not just 6.
It that possible? Sure, Purdue just beat OSU, but something needs to change on offense. Could Mick McCall be any less imaginative? One nice looking option to Matthews was as creative as McCall got today. McCall needs to use the zone read more and take some more chances downfield. If Kafka can’t throw those passes than Persa needs to get another chance. Once MSU started getting tight on the NU receivers and taking away the dinks the NU pass offense really suffered. Also, with the way teams pursue NU, a reverse more than once every three weeks might be nice. Finally, this isn’t a McCall issue, but his a Fitz team ever faked a punt. I think they’ve faked a FG, but I can’t remember a Fitz team faking a punt. Can anyone?