So, tomorrow is NU's second game of the year, and, it's against Eastern Michigan. You'd think the talent level of our opponent would increase after playing an FCS school like Towson, but these fellas are only marginally better. Of the 120 teams in the FBS, ESPN's got EMU looking like the 119th, after getting rocked by an equally futile Army team, and at the beginning of the year, the New York Times had them 113th, which was probably a little optimistic of them.
Suffice it to say, that vanilla stuff we found so delicious last week will probably make up most of our arsenal this week again. I'd like to see our playcalling be a little bit more out there - we weren't even blitzing last week - but still, relatively close to the vest. It might be a bummer that NU has such weak opponents to open the year, but on the positive side, the few weeks provide opportunities for us to get game reps in non-pressure situations that allow our inexperienced offensive starters to get some PT together, and we're making the best out of it.
The injury report lists Jeravin Matthews and Sherrick McManis as "doubtful". I'm thinking these guys are probably not injured that badly, but, to be honest, why bother playing them and risking injury against an opponent like EMU? Justan Vaughn seems pretty talented, so it will be good to see him get a start, so the McManis injury doesn't really hurt us there. Matthews is somehow one of the more known entities out of our running backs crew, and what's more, I think he'll be useful more as a RB/WR hybrid, and his ability to play multiple positions and catch defenses off guard seems like the type of thing that will be more useful the less time he gets now. So that's that.
Last week I said the goal for the week was just to get in and get out, no injuries to starters. I'd say it's pretty much the same this week. I'd like to see our second-string playing in the second quarter, even if the game still is up for grabs. If it is, Kafka and company can come back in at halftime to put it out of reach, as I'm confident they're talented enough to do. But if it's a touchdown or less game, I'd like to see the second unit play, for better or for worse, just to see how they handle it. I'd like to see Dan Persa lead us on a scoring drive when the opposing defense is still in it to win it, and I'd like to see a big stop by like, I dunno, Purple Drank favorite defender Stone Pinckney to keep NU in the lead, a sort of baptism-by-fire sort of deal. That would be nice, and I'm convinced Fitz will bring in bench guys to play early regardless of the score.
Now, on to the gameplan.
Offense: Again: we know Mike Kafka can run. However, he's sort of our starting quarterback, and I don't want to see him getting injured this early in the season. So if I were him, I'd set a reasonably attainable goal for tomorrow: don't get tackled. We have a sturdy o-line, so he shouldn't have to worry about sacks. If he runs the ball on a scramble, he should slide down, as he's been unwilling to do in the past because of his wheels, or end up out-of-bounds or in the end zone. And if he runs an option, pitch it, something he seemed a little bit scared of doing against Towson. Kafka did a great job of passing last week, but he still didn't stick around in the pocket long enough to suit my likings - I'd like to see him just chill out back there for once, just to show that he can.
Persa as noted, I hope gets some serious tick, more than just the two throws he had last week.
At running back, we've got some unsolved issues still after the first week. I'd like to see more of what we saw last week, which is pretty much just everybody getting their fair share of carries. I'd like to see if Jacob Schmidt could emerge as a third-down back sort of carrier, and if Scott Concannon is worth anything. And I'd definitely like to see Jeravin Matthews stay on the sidelines, because he doesn't need to risk it. The running game should get a little bit more inventive this week - last week, we shied away from runs outside the tackles and options for pretty much the entire game once it got out of hand - and that was no fun. I'd still like to see the running game get the bulk of the playcalls, but, I'd like these playcalls to be more like the ones we'd see in a Big Ten game. Not just dashes up the gut, although we do have to keep those in the offense.
I liked the spread of the ball to various WR's last week, and expect the same. Nobody did anything spectacular except Brewer, and, with what will hopefully be another relatively small passing sample size, it would be unlikely to expect anyone besides Brewer to rack up a big game. I know this week will probably rightly be a vanilla attack, but, I'm dying to see Brewer pull a Peterman-esque end-around pass. I know it can work for another touchdown this year if people aren't expecting it, so, maybe it can wait a few weeks, but I'm anxious.
Defense: As noted, this Schmitt fella is a bit of a gunslinger, even with the non-hurl-it-80-times-a-game offense EMU has this year. I want our secondary to get their grown man on and play like they should've last week. I foresee three picks, and that's being conservative.
Corey Wootton was barely a factor last week, and this week, he and Vince Browne go up against an o-line that gave up 6 sacks for a loss of over 50 yards last week. LTP has said this all week, but these two also have to get their grown men on, and I want to see Corey legitimately play this week whereas last week he just got a few series and called it a day. This year, opposing o-lines will be hurling as much of their manpower as they can at him, and if he can't overcome that this week against EMU, he won't be able to overcome it in the Big Ten season. Not to mention that Browne should be absolutely teeing off against minimal opposition on the other side.
People I'm watching:
Corey Wootton. Corey was my person to watch last week, and he barely set foot on the field, so, I haven't taken my gaze off of him yet.
Arby Fields: is he really our best running back? He'll have the opportunity to prove he is this week, and I think he will.
Pick in a mascot fight to the death: this is a classic battle of fearsome land predator vs. fearsome air predator. As is generally the case in this type of battle, it's a mismatch: the cat is unable to attack the eagle unless the eagle comes to him first, therefore, the eagle is perennially on offense. Game, EMU. (Wildcat mascot death fight record: 0-2.)
Eastern Michigan, 7, Northwestern 45. Fitz will be less relenting than he was last week against Towson, but the opponent will be slightly better, so I foresee roughly the same score. The only difference is that I expect our defense to be a little bit more on top of themsleves after the coaching staff got surprisingly mad at them for allowing two touchdowns against Towson. I expect the Eagles to flukily push one across on a deep pass that manages to go unintercepted, but generally, this will be a romp for NU.
We're 1-0, and we're trying to go... 1-0 again. Is it okay that I find coach-speak fun to buy into sometimes?
Go Cats, yo.