It’s a pretty great time to be following Northwestern sports. At Inside NU, it’s becoming our Thanksgiving tradition to show our gratitude. As Northwestern students, we’re thankful for a lot of things, but we’re keeping the scope on NU sports for this roundtable.
Davis Rich: Clayton Thorson
I haven’t had the most positive things to say about Clayton Thorson’s performance over the past month and change, but boy, does he mean something to this football program. On Saturday, Thorson will break the record for most career starts by a Big Ten QB. He will likely extend his record as the program’s all-time winningest quarterback. He’s sixth in Big Ten history in passing yards and has a decent shot to break the NU program record for passing yards too. We’ve never seen superstar Thorson for more than a week or so at a time, but No. 18 has helmed the most successful era of Northwestern football in a looooong time, and he’s kept an even-keel in doing so. He still credits his offensive line and his receivers after wins and blames himself after losses. There are three more chances to appreciate him, but Northwestern will sorely miss Thorson when he is gone.
Caleb Friedman: Pat Fitzgerald
It’s remarkable that Northwestern stayed together after difficult losses and circumstances early in the season, and I credit Pat Fitzgerald for holding the team together. Northwestern is going to the Big Ten Championship, which still feels a little weird to say. Fitz is turning Northwestern into one of the country’s more consistent programs, and that’s immensely difficult at Northwestern. Every offseason when the coaching carousel swirls, I can’t help but think other schools would be lucky to have Fitz running their programs. The fact that Fitz has committed to the school for the long-haul makes me optimistic about the program’s trajectory.
Noah Coffman: Success on three levels
Right now, Northwestern football, women’s basketball, and men’s basketball are a combined 14-4. That’s pretty darned good. If the men’s team wins a couple games in a row and a ranked women’s team or two loses a game, we could see all three teams ranked at the same time for the first time in school history. It’s a golden age of Northwestern sports, and I feel lucky and thankful to be going to school with the athletes who have made it that way.
(Oh, and I’m thankful for the Big Ten Championship too.)
Matthew Albert: Isaiah Bowser (and Chad Hanaoka)
After the unfortunate career ending injury to Jeremy Larkin, Northwestern was in full blown desperation mode to establish a running game. This lack of a rushing attack is the reason that Nebraska was as successful as it was against NU, because they could bring ridiculous amounts of pressure and not have to worry about a rushing attack. That game first string running back John Moten IV had a grand total of 23 rushing yards. Entering Piscataway, Northwestern was missing Solomon Vault, a wide receiver turned running back, and had to fill the gaps of the running game. Bowser, the Sidney, Ohio product, went off, rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Beyond this. he has only further come into his own, becoming more of a dynamic back as a true freshman with his confidence growing. Senior running back Chad Hanaoka, has also revolutionized this Wildcats offense. As the primary blocking back on passing downs, Hanaoka has been able to shock teams, rushing for 13 yards on a third and nine in the lead up to Bennett Skowronek’s catch to beat Iowa. I am also grateful to have grown up a Northwestern fan, which has taught me many things, including the fact that even after you defy all odds to try to ruin your own season in September, you still may have something to play for come December.
Tristan Jung: The Inside NU Experience
I’m entering the last couple weeks of my time as an undergraduate in Evanston (I’ll be on Journalism Residency next quarter) and I’m just forever thankful for having the opportunity to be part of this community and to write for Inside NU. I haven’t written too much this quarter, aside from the occasional zany article, but Caleb, Davis and the rest of the team are doing a great job. The content has been, as they say in the media biz, #verygood. I’m kidding about that last hashtag, which made me cringe a little bit, but I’m not kidding about the sentiments.
Also, our readers continue to be pretty darn good! You guys have made us one of the more successful SB Nation college blogs out there, and we’re eternally grateful. Thanks again for listening to our podcasts, putting up with our hot takes, and commenting, always commenting. I know that with how good the site has been over the years (yes, this is a lot of self-promotion, but deal with it), it’s hard to remember that everyone writing is a student and pretty much unpaid save for a Chili’s dinner every quarter, but that is how it is. Thank you for supporting student journalism. It’s good to me.
Eli Karp: National Attention
I talked to a handful of people prior to the season who were quick to belittle Northwestern football. Clearly, they didn’t see last year’s 10-win season and Music City Bowl victory. Clearly, they hadn’t seen three straight bowl appearances and two straight wins, including finishing ranked in the AP Top 25 two of the last three years. Forgetting the Akron disaster, I am thankful for all of the attention this season has brought to Evanston.
The attention the program has attracted over the last few weeks, especially since clinching the Big Ten West, is probably the greatest in a nearly 20 years. The national coverage of Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats is only going to skyrocket the week leading up to and including the Big Ten Championship. We all know this Northwestern season has been wacky, and that some people will simply view NU as king of a lowly division. But, one thing’s for sure: there is $280 million worth of facilities sitting on North Campus, and a broadcast involving Northwestern football doesn’t exist without one or multiple mentions and features on Ryan Fieldhouse (and Alex Spanos).
Northwestern has always flown under the radar, and that’s not always bad, but when such upgrades have been given to the program, the idea is for it to pop onto the radar. It’s weird to win the Big Ten West in this unique season, when the team becomes bowl eligible the same day it qualifies for Indy, but with all of the focus Northwestern has earned and will continue to get, this is a great opportunity to showcase the program Pat Fitzgerald has built and is continuing to build to potential recruits and the nation.
Martin Oppegaard: Jeremy Larkin
I’m thankful for Jeremy Larkin’s contributions to Northwestern. In just 16 career games, Larkin made a tremendous impact on the program. Not many people will talk about him at the end of the season, but we’re very appreciative of what Larkin has done and continues to do in his time at Northwestern.