On Saturday, the Wildcats marched into Kinnick Stadium, hoping to maintain the early season momentum and show this squad would not have a repeat of last season.
While Northwestern struggled to find its footing early on, spotting Iowa a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, with both touchdowns coming off Northwestern fumbles. After NU once again couldn’t manufacture anything offensively, the Hawkeyes proceeded to march down the field, on a 13-play, 61-yard drive that, after a crucial incompletion on a third-and-goal miss by Iowa QB Spencer Petras, the momentum began to shift.
Wow Northwestern just got lucky. Shaun Beyer was WIDE open.— Inside NU (@insidenu) October 31, 2020
Seizing on the energy, Peyton Ramsey and the Wildcats drove 75 yards, ending with a three-yard touchdown run by Kyric McGowan. NU held Iowa to another field goal before it punched in another score of its own. The Hawkeyes clanked a field goal to end the half, giving Northwestern plenty of life down only six points.
For this entire offseason, the question surrounding the Wildcats was if they could capture the resilient magic of 2018 or repeat the struggles of 2019.
This past weekend served as a perfect demonstration of the potential of the 2020 squad. In two games, we’ve seen them dominate but also showed that Patented Fitzgerald grit. The next few weeks may test the resilience of these Wildcats with at least their next two opponents coming off quasi-bye weeks due to Wisconsin’s COVID cancellations. However, this team has proven it’s able to “bring their own juice.”
In a wildly uncertain Big Ten West, the Wildcats understand what they need to accomplish to earn a second trip to Indianapolis. However, they have a tough few weeks, facing division foes Nebraska, Purdue, and Wisconsin in the next three weeks. With weird tiebreak rules and who figure to vie for the division crown playing different numbers of games, the margin for error for Northwestern is slim.
So far, Northwestern has answered the bell when necessary. The offense has answered the questions that lingered around them this offseason — how well Peyton Ramsey would fit into the offense, how the Wildcats could adapt to new OC Mike Bajakian’s playbook, and whether the defense would be able to make impact plays and not just bend and not break.
So far, the answers have pointed toward this squad being legit. New names have headlined: Peyton Ramsey’s talent and steadiness has proven that this team is capable of *checks notes* scoring — something previous squads struggled with, safety Brandon Joseph has stepped into the spotlight, snagging two crucial interceptions at Iowa, and tight end John Raine has gotten the post-superback era off to a strong start.
This new-look Wildcat team has brought a new-found enthusiasm with them, and among the carnage that is the current landscape of the Big Ten West, Northwestern has as much of a chance in the division as anyone (except Illinois and its secondary).
While this season remains young, this young Wildcat team has shown its potential early, but tough tests against better rested opponents will shape their season.