Northwestern's romp over Eastern Illinois wasn't fun, or interesting, or meaningful. Your initial instinct is to watch the second game of your team's football season and walk away with some sort of insight, or ideas about how good/bad your team is. But it's difficult to do that after seeing NU win. Should we be encouraged the Cats manhandled a lesser team? Sure, but, well, the team was certainly lesser and therefore the win was nothing to be impressed by. Should we be pissed off NU gave up 21 points to a team like Eastern Illinois? Sure, but the Panthers acquitted themselves better than any FCS team I've ever seen play NU and those points were all the result of a few seemingly mental mistakes - players simply not in the right place and some pass interference calls that seemed quite bad at the time.
In the end, Northwestern did what it was supposed to do, getting a W with the least effort possible. Of course, they genuinely did use the least effort possible: Northwestern's dominance on offense wasn't indicative of anything but an ability to power simple runs up the middle and Kain Colter's athletic superiority over anybody EIU could possibly put on the field. On defense, the Cats didn't impress but didn't need to, as EIU struggled with sloppiness and had no hope of establishing a consistently effective running game against guys who they were simply smaller than. That is to say, NU went out of its way to remove any possible grandiose statements from this post; we're not learning anything about the Cats by knowing that Kain Colter can juke an Eastern Illinois Panther into Western or Southern Illinois. As fun as it was to watch him do so, the word for the win is milquetoast, remember it well.
- Let's start with an awesome thing: the student section was more packed than I expected it for a home opener before the start of school. Very pleasant surprise. Standing on a bench with your good friends and commenting on all the people you kinda sorta know around you while a football game happens was the perfect way to re-enter Evanston life.
- Remember what I said about Kain Colter murking Eastern Illinois earlier and how it didn't mean anything? True, but it was fun as hell to watch. We knew we had something good when he was able to put moves that made Luke Kuechly miss, his ability to elude tackles in one-on-one open field situations was even more evident and comical Saturday.
- The running game was a running game. Treyvon Green did not disappoint as he, you know, looked like an actual running back. Sadly, we saw the only thing we didn't want to see, which was a potentially critical injury, with Adonis Smith tweaking something.
- The pass defense that gave up nearly 400 yards to Chase Rettig was at it again, allowing Jimmy Garoppalo to toss the ball around for over 200 yards. He threw two extremely interceptable passes - one picked by Bryce McNaul and one floater blatantly dropped by Jeravin Matthews - but didn't seem outmatched. Two games into the season, NU's pass defense is its most worrisome aspect.
- If you're actually going to be concerned about something you saw on Saturday, a) don't b) make it NU's defensive breakdowns allowing to big plays. Twice EIU's players broke completely open, one on a bootleg pass where the Cats nearly nailed Garoppalo but left his wide receiver Kenny Whittaker completely open in space, the other saw Jimmy Lera tear through a crease in NU's second-string run defense before being run down by Davion Fleming about 70 yards later near the goal line. Each play most likely came due to someone completely abandoning a responsibility they should have had - wish I had tape of them to watch, but, alas. This also happened against BC. I don't think any of us want to see NU surrendering free points in critical games so we should hope this gets corrected. (Also, come on, second-stringers! You're better than that, word to Ricky Weina.)
- The Tyris Jones Experience is something we'll all remember. A fumble, a dropped touchdown, but also a caught touchdown and about 14 minutes of time run off the clock. Jones will likely keep seeing the field as a lead blocker but this will probably be the last we see of the site favorite being asked to hold the ball with his hands.
- Quarterback controversy! Unfortunately it's between our third- and fourth-stringers. Trevor Siemian was first off the bench and his first pass was a skipping stone that didn't reach his target, though he followed it up with two legitimate passes, including NU's first passing TD of the year. He also looked straight-up spry with a Tall Person Spin Move that left an Eastern Illinois defender in the dust, perhaps fooled but also perhaps guffawing. The Once and Future King Evan Watkins came in after him and only handed the ball off.
- About that play action touchdown, the goal-line play action pass to the fullback is literally the only goal line play you need in any mid-2000's era PS2 football game. Mark Woodsum earned a Heisman with about 50 receiving touchdowns in my one and only NCAA Football Dynasty mode.
- Was that Brandon Williams punt blocked a lil bit by EIU? Because, uh, what's up with that?
- Jeff Budzien proved not to be the greatest kicker of all time - that's obviously Nick Folk - but I'm not worried.
- Venric Mark is a speedy, speedy little man.
- The marching band now plays "Teenage Dream". I'd act like Katy Perry is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I'm starting to realize that I just genuinely enjoy listening to Katy Perry. Anybody who has a problem with this can see themselves out. Luckily, this won't be a problem, because nobody has ever listened to Katy Perry and actively disliked it.
- EIU's mascot is literally a black panther. I see your political statement, Eastern Illinois.
- LOL at Northwestern having 320 yards rushing.
- To close off, I really loved the American flag N on the field and on the helmets. To be honest, although I generally hate things like that, I thought it looked very nice. I assume the fact EIU had no such helmetry means they hate America.