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NCAA Football 13/14 Part II: A leader emerges

At almost the midway point of the season, Daniel took a slight lead in the competition after a big upset over the Buckeyes.

The photo above shows what Pat Fitzgerald looked like in 2013, according to EA Sports.

We left off with both Mac and Dan posting a 2-0 record in their first two matchups at the end of Part I of our NCAA 13/14 challenge. But in the next three games of the competition, Daniel emerged the frontrunner despite Mac’s initial advantage of playing with the 2012 roster.

Let’s see how it played out.

2012 Northwestern (Mac’s Team)

Game 3: vs. Boston College

Final Score: L, 36-21

Record: 2-1

Under beautiful blue sky at a packed Ryan Field, Mac’s ‘Cats played a repugnant game of football.

This was a disaster. Skipping straight ahead to the third quarter, Northwestern led 14-13 and was driving deep into Boston College territory.

Then the unthinkable happened. On a speed option, Kain Colter attempted to flip the ball to running back Treyvon Green. Instead of catching the ball, Green let it bounce off of his helmet and into the arms of a BC defender, who promptly took the ball back 76 yards for a touchdown.

On the kickoff, star wide receiver and kick returner Kyle Prater tore his hamstring, ruling him out for the season.

On the next play, Colter threw an errant pass that was intended for Demetrius Fields but was instead picked off by Boston College and returned for another touchdown. Fields also dislocated his elbow on the play, sidelining him for nine weeks.

The ‘Cats got the ball back again, now trailing by 12, and promptly floundered yet again. On the second play of the drive, Colter dropped back, looking deep. He was hit as he threw, and the ball plopped into the arms of a Boston College defensive linemen, who took it back 22 yards for the score.

That’s three defensive touchdowns on three consecutive possessions. Ridiculous. I’m throwing this game in the trash can. That’s where trash belongs.

(Quick note: I will never blame my own ability. It is almost always the game’s fault. I am stubborn).

Game 4: vs. FCS Midwest (South Dakota)

Final Score: W, 29-10

Record: 3-1

EA Sports never bought the rights to FCS teams in these games, which is why South Dakota, the team NU actually played in 2012, is named “FCS Midwest.”

I expected this to be an easy game, and I was correct. Don’t let the score fool you — South Dakota loved to eat up game clock but did nothing with the ball.

On the first drive of the game, Colter hit Pierre Youngblood-Ary for a 42-yard score. South Dakota then ate up the clock and punted to close out the first quarter.

About midway through the second, SD managed to score on a miraculous long ball on third and long. NU quickly followed up with two scores of its own and entered the half leading 21-10.

No one scored in the third quarter, but in the fourth, I recorded a safety as cornerback C.J. Bryant got to the quarterback off of a corner blitz. The game was once again slow after that, but I found a 63-yard touchdown pass from Colter to redshirt freshman Cam Dickerson with 10 seconds left.

Easy enough. It was a good bounce back win for Mac’s ‘Cats after the atrocious loss to Boston College last week.

Game 5: vs. Indiana

Final Score: W, 35-31

Record: 4-1 (1-0 B1G)

NCAA 13 is utterly ridiculous. The fact that I won this game is ridiculous. My goodness.

Let’s skip straight to the third quarter. Indiana led 17-14 at halftime and was putting together a nice drive until quarterback Nate Sudfeld put the ball right in the hands of Ibraheim Campbell.

Unfortunately, we were unable to do anything off said turnover. Then, the teams traded punts before Indiana finally punched the ball in as time expired in the third quarter. A two-yard rushing touchdown by Stephen Houston put the Hoosiers up 24-14 at the end of the third.

Here’s where the game gets ridiculous. The fourth quarter began with a Colter heave to Christian Jones, which resulted in a touchdown and closed the gap to 24-21. Afterwards, the NU defense forced a three-and-out, and momentum suddenly appeared to be on its side.

The ‘Cats, led by Colter, drove downfield, but at Indiana’s 40-yard line, chaos ensues. On a pass intended for superback Evan Watkins, Indiana defensive back Greg Heban pulled off a no-look interception and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. 31-21.

At this point, with about three and a half minutes left, I was hating everything about this game. But I needed to try. On a five-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 52 seconds, I did just that. All of a sudden, it was 31-28, and I had all three of my timeouts remaining. All I needed was one stop.

Fast forward two plays. Indiana ball. 3rd and 15. ‘Cats have one timeout left. And…

Indiana converts. With about two minutes left and one timeout remaining, the game seemed to be done and dusted. I used my last timeout after Indiana ran the ball on first down. They then ran it again on second down. It was now 3rd and 3, and around 50 seconds remained.

Then they threw the ball incomplete. With around 45 seconds left, the ‘Cats were getting the ball back. Then, Indiana’s punter muffed the punt, setting the ‘Cats up around the 50. Colter hit Jones for a 30-yard touchdown two plays later to seal it with 14 seconds left.

In what can only be described as a very peculiar string of events, I somehow managed to pull this game out. Thanks EA.

2013 Northwestern (Daniel’s Team)

Game 3: Western Michigan

Result: W, 24-10

Record: 3-0

Things got a little dicey early on, as the offense struggled to get going. NU led only 7-3 late in the first half and lost Colter for the game to a shoulder injury (he is good to go for next week though).

Trevor Siemian had to carry the load, as Venric Mark was limited to only a 30-yard rushing performance, but he eventually got going with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Austin Carr. A 41-yard field goal from Jeff Budzien then extended the lead to 17-3.

Both teams traded touchdown drives to start the second half, but that was it for the scoring in this game. Northwestern’s defense shut down the Broncos by racking up seven total sacks, allowing the offense to simply run out the clock for the win. It was such an inspiring performance that Sippin’ On Purple’s Rodger Sherman nicknamed the front seven “The New Purple People Eaters,” and it is quickly resonating with the fanbase.

Game 4: FCS East (Maine)

Result: W, 55-18

Record: 4-0

Like Mac, I took on an unrecognized FCS East school according to NCAA 14 — or more commonly known as Maine. It would have been better if we played the actual Maine, but on the bright side, East has some dope baby blue uniforms, which I decided they must wear for this game even though it’s happening on Ryan Field.

Right away, it was clear what was going to happen. East had absolutely no answer for the Colter-Mark read option, as the ‘Cats drove down the field and punched it in the end zone with Treyvon Green. But again, the lead was only 6-0 because I went for two and missed it (make that 0-for-3 on the year).

Our FCS opponents were surprisingly frisky, trailing 13-10 late in the first half, before NU delivered an onslaught in the final two minutes. Touchdowns by Green and Mark and two three-and-outs for East all led to a 24-yard dime Colter threw to Tony Jones in the back of the end zone with one second left in the half.

Leading 34-10 at break, the second half was just a chance for Mark and Green to rack up more TD’s as they finished with three each, and the game ended in a 55-18 Wildcats’ win.

And to think, this ordeal might have been a whole lot closer if not for Coach Fitzgerald’s decision to go for it on 4th and 10 from midfield during that second drive. Four games in and Northwestern is needlessly going for two left and right. The ‘Cats are fifth in the nation in points per game and are not employing the rarely successful two-quarterback system, leading the Inside NU community to openly debate whether we have entered the Twilight Zone.

Game 5: @ No. 13 Ohio State

Result: W, 24-16

Record: 5-0 (1-0 B1G)

I remember this. Young Daniel, at the peak of his Ohio State fandom, was in tears for most of that night in 2013 as it appeared his beloved Buckeyes would lose to the less-talented Wildcats. Of course, I ended the night in jubilation when Ohio State did comeback to win. But this time, I’m back to stop myself (in a way).

This being pivotal matchup of this season, the tension is palpable as we dawn our all-blacks, and rain pours down in Evanston.

It was a rough start, as the ‘Cats went three-and-out right away, gave up a touchdown to Braxton Miller and even lost Venric Mark to a PCL sprain (a short-term injury). But a flurry of short Colter passes to Rashad Lawrence and Austin Carr got the offense going, and Colter sneaked in for a touchdown to tie the game at seven.

It looked as though NU had forced a stop on the Buckeyes second drive, only for virtual Urban Meyer to bust out a fake punt run on 4th and 11 and converted it. Fortunately, the People Eaters kept fighting and held Ohio State to a field goal. Northwestern did the same on offense, and the two teams went into half knotted at 10.

The defense did it again to start the third, forcing a field goal, which allowed Colter and the offense to slowly grind their way up the field before scoring a touchdown on the last play of the quarter with a Colter-to-Carr connection.

Miller was under siege the whole fourth quarter and by the end of the contest had been sacked eight times. The Buckeyes were forced to punt the ball away, which allowed Green and Colter to again ground-and-pound to another touchdown, this one scored by fullback Doug Diedrick.

Ohio State managed to get another field goal, but it all took was an onside kick recovery by the ‘Cats to seal the upset victory. We are now up to 15 in the polls and are well on our way to a very successful season. Go ‘Cats!

Standings after Part II:

Daniel: 5-0

Mac: 4-1