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Eight Crazy Wins

Yeah, maybe I do got three papers to write in the next two days. But here's why I haven't started any of them, because, well, as of seven minutes ago, I've done all the reading for all of them, and most importantly, this was a victorious weekend, people. You better act like it.

  • First off: someone needs to do some calculating: find out the monetary difference for Northwestern, the Big Ten Conference, and the Big Ten Network of how much they make for a Northwestern vs. Whoever 11:00 AM start time and a 2:30 PM start time. Then they need to calculate the difference for your average spectator of how much more enjoyable a 2:30 PM start time is than the 11:00 AM. I guarantee you no human being enjoys the 11 nonsense, and that the world wouldn't collapse if we started our games at like 12:30 or something. Go ahead, try it next year. If the world collapses, I'll take the hit on this one.
  • Last year against Illinois, I was just a naive college football spectator, and, to be honest, when people rushed the field, I was thrilled. At first, I thought rushing the field was a practical impossiblity. Did you see all those cops? We might get arrested or something! Then, it happened. We just won our ninth game, and it all seemed so spontaneous and I just got caught up in it and sprinted over that barricade. Then, later, when I got to thinking about it, it all didn't seem that cool. I mean, yeah, it was awesome to be on that field, sing the fight song, and watch people hang from goalposts. But why in the name of Dermarr Johnson are we rushing the field after beating a middling Illinois team in a game that was pretty much over from kickoff, and one we were probably supposed to win anyway? In retrospect, it just didn't seem like field rushing material. It was forced.
  • Yesterday, I felt none of that. A team that looked like it might trickle out five or six wins just knocked off a top-25 team for their third straight win, eighth of the year, and second W against a ranked squad. You're going over that fence, non-negotiable. 
  • As an NU student, you're bound to meet a lot of football players in your college career. There's a bit over a hundred of them on a campus of 8,000 people, do the math. You recognize them on Sheridan, you see them in classes, you talk with them at parties. They're there, they're people. However, as I learned for the second time in two years, one of the world's worst situations for discourse between humans is "when one of them is really tired and still wearing a football helmet and uniform from the football game they just played and you're on their field and possibly wearing a shirt." I probably could've learned this last year after my conversation with Brendan Smith:

    Me: Hey, man, nice return!

    Brendan: Oh, thanks. 

    Me: (puts out hand for high five, which is grudgingly returned.)

    But if there's one thing I enjoy, it's awkward shirtless conversations. When jammed with a few thousand other students in the middle of a football field, and I noticed the guy next to me was Dan Persa. So this happened.

    Me: Hey, Dan Persa! (nothingness.) Thanks for the Iowa win, man!

    Dan: Yeah. 

    l think I gave him a pat on the back, but I'm not sure. I also told some offensive lineman I was jammed up against "I'm sorry I'm not wearing a shirt." He told me not to worry about it. 


    • I should mention: the reason I wasn't wearing a shirt is the same reason I wasn't wearing one for the Minnesota game. The people whose house I was at were doing the chest-painting thing, and told me they needed an extra letter. By the time I got the purple base layer on, we realized they counted wrong, and that they already had enough letters. I tell you, life as an exclamation point is not a fun one. Especially because the paint from the top dripped down and just made me look like a giant lowercase l, and a splotch of paint got on my jeans zipper, making me look like I went all Lonely Island all over my Levi's. However, the lowercase l is very flattering to your form.
    • By the way, it's way colder than it was back in September. You might have heard rumors that Evanston gets cold in winter, and as someone who was not wearing a shirt yesterday, I'm prepared to confirm that rumor.
    • We were spelling "Kafka!" or, rather, "Kafkal". Sure enough, Kafka had a phenomenal game to end a pretty damn phenomenal stretch of football. Iron Mike hasn't thrown a pick since the Indiana game, and after spending like, eight games dinking-and-dunking with pinpoint accuracy that led to painstaking seven minute touchdown drives and moderately successful offense while overthrowing every receiver more than ten yards downfield he could (or just lofting picks), Mike has actually developed a deep passing game. A great one. In the past two games, it seems like the majority of his completions are to receivers 15-25 yards downfield. Kafka's early-season short-yardage play seems to have opened up a whole new world of downfield receivers as defenses realizes they can't let him just go to town on short routes, but also, he seems to be a more capable thrower now than he was two months ago. Kudos to Mike. 
    • And while we're kudosing, Andrew Brewer. Perennially open downfield, as is Sidney Stewart, but that second touchdown grab is second only to Ross Lane's good-on-Sunday's Alamo Bowl snag in catches I've seen at NU.
    • And Zeke Markshausen! Everybody who saw that play went through the same thought process: "okay, screen, three yards, I'll take it." "wide receiver throw! Andrew Brewer comes through again!" "Wait, does Andrew Brewer wear #85?" "Uhhh, Zeke Markshausen can't throw. He's a wide receiver." "Wait, that guy's wide open!" And then several minutes of celebration. Great play for The Syndrome (thus called because Illinois' PA announcer last week pronounced his name "Munchausen" a bunch of times. Roll with it, even if you're not familiar with the sort of funny illness, which is made decidedly not funny by its serious Wikipedia page.)
    • It's really crazy: this run defense looked incomprehensibly horrible for about five or six weeks. But after holding Wisconsin to 99 yards rushing, well, I wouldn't say it's a strong suit, or even a medium suit. But we're so, so much better at it than we once were.
    • And we held the passing game to a relative halt, and three sacks is nothing to scoff at. NU's defense wasn't spectacular, not by a long shot. But with an offense as dynamic as the one NU has, you've got to like their chances, especially if they learn how to keep opponents from running back punts or kickoffs every other game. Without that return, it's not a game. So don't get too down on our defensive unit.
    • In fact, you should be... uh, up, on Brad Phillips, who was EVERYWHERE - tackle numbers are generally difficult to interpret because they're so subjective, but 11 solo tackles, a pass breakup, a sack and a QB hurry are, like, great stats from a defender and Corey Wootton, who is really bringing the pressure from the defensive end spot in a way he just wasn't earlier in this season.
    • Like I said back in October, we'd be better off just never running. Our ground game showed signs of life at points throughout the year - the past two weeks included - but it looked alive in the same way Tupac looks alive now, in that there was vague, but extraordinarily questionable, evidence that it theoretically, possibly potentially, could be not dead, but nobody would legit say "oh, well Tupac/the Northwestern running game is alive." (follow? didn't think so.) (also, allow that to be the first and last time Scott Concannon is compared to Tupac Amaru Shakur.) But we really shouldn't worry about whether or not it is alive. Outside of QB sneaks, broken plays, Dan Persa, and an occasional draw up the middle or option, we should never, ever run. And those are just to keep the defense honest, not to gain yards, although 3rd and 6 is more appealing than 3rd and 10, our offense looks just as successful on 3rd and 6 as it does on 3rd and 1. 
    • By the way, offensive line, stop that whole false starting thing before the bowl game. Please? You're great, we love you, but, like, stop it. 
    • I had a major problem with the game earlier this season where I got to the game late and saw from the stadium shuttle that the other team had already scored a touchdown. I have less of a problem with it happening to NU. Although I kind of did want to see that touchdown. But that's what highlight reels are for. 

    That's all I got for now. Should be some good posts this week, so stick around, fellas.