In Part III of our simulation, Daniel continued his claim to an undefeated season while Mac started to fall out of the competition with three tough losses.
Daniel’s 2013 Wildcats have caught the national eye as the fourth-ranked team in the nation with a Heisman contender at quarterback. Mac’s 2012 squad is still fighting for bowl eligibility and are struggling in conference play.
Here’s how the next three games of the season played out:
2012 Northwestern (Mac’s Team)
Game 6: at Penn State
Final Score: L, 35-24
Record: 4-2 (1-1 B1G)
I was a bit busy with some prestigious Zoom University work so I was unable to play all three games and trusted the simulation on this one. Onto the next.
Game 7: at Minnesota
Final Score: L, 27-24
Record: 4-3 (1-2 B1G)
This game was so winnable.
Over the course of matchup, our receivers dropped at least 10 passes — two of which occurred in the end zone and two others that would’ve ended in touchdowns. They were that open.
The defense didn’t play very well either. NU allowed Minnesota to convert 12 of its 21 (!) third down attempts. The Gophers also converted 17 first downs to Northwestern’s seven. It’s a miracle the Wildcats were in this game to begin with.
On the game’s final drive there was a shot at another Minneapolis Miracle. The ‘Cats got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 23 seconds left and no timeouts.
Then, in the span of four plays, Colter overthrew Christian Jones, Christian Jones dropped a beautiful deep ball, another long ball was tipped by a Minnesota defender and Colter was sacked to end it.
Catching drills start Monday.
Game 8: vs. No. 8 Nebraska
Final Score: L, 38-21
Record: 4-4 (1-3 B1G)
This game was an unmitigated disaster. Instead of summarizing it, I’m going to throw out a few stats for you.
The Cornhuskers had 23 first downs. The Wildcats had two.
Nebraska converted 60 percent of its third down attempts. Northwestern converted none.
Additionally, Nebraska rushed 45 times for 189 yards and one touchdown. NU rushed six times for -25 yards and, of course, zero touchdowns.
Colter also threw three interceptions and fumbled once.
At 4-4, my bowl hopes are now looking suboptimal. Next up, I have No. 6 Iowa on the schedule, which, judging by this game, will be another loss. At this point, I’m not even going to try to catch Daniel in this “competition.” I’m just trying to keep my job!
2013 Northwestern (Daniel’s Team)
Game 6: at No. 24 Wisconsin
Result: W, 17-10
Record: 6-0 (2-0)
Slow, methodical and a whole lot of run plays — exactly what you’d expect from a Northwestern-Wisconsin matchup.
NU got the ball first and moved it pretty well before Colter threw only his second interception of the year on a slant route intended for Tony Jones. All it took was three James White runs for the Badgers to cash in on the miscue and go up 7-0. However, that was pretty much the only good offense they had all day, as they finished with a grand total of 77 yards and one pass completion for 11 yards.
The ‘Cats responded with a touchdown pass to Kyle Prater on the first play of the second quarter, but something far more important happened on that drive. Venric Mark broke his ribs and is out for nine weeks!
Northwestern fans didn’t get the full Mark experience in 2013 due to injury, and even a second chance couldn’t change that. Still, the team battled on and after converting a 4th-and-3 at midfield, Treyvon Green dove into the end zone with 18 seconds left in the half to give the ‘Cats a 14-7 lead.
Despite scoring only 17 points in this game, it felt like NU was in total control the entire time. The Badger offense was so inept that there was never any threat. On a 3rd-and-14 early in the third quarter, Wisconsin quarterback Tanner McEvoy (who was actually a safety) had a man streaking down the field with no defender in sight and simply sailed it over his head in Trubisky-like fashion.
Each team then put together a run-heavy drive that resulted in a field goal, giving the ‘Cats the ball, a chance to run out the clock and secure bowl eligibility. It got a little dicey after two negative yardage plays, but a play-action completion to Dan Vitale sealed the win in Madison. With that victory, Northwestern moved to No. 9 in the AP Poll. Good times.
Game 7: vs. Minnesota
Result: W, 35-14
Record: 7-0 (3-0)
While the Wisconsin game got off to a slow start, this one was the opposite. I had been mocking Treyvon Green as slow and nothing more than a touchdown vulture and thought I might as well just take a touchback when I realized I’d accidentally left him as the starting kick returner. But being the bold virtual headmaster that I am, I abandoned common sense and went for it.
All of a sudden, Green was blazing down the sideline for a 102-yard touchdown to start the game (According to NCAA 14 and its notoriously flawed record books, Green now has the record for longest kick return of all-time, which we are just going to accept for the sake of our story).
One Minnesota three-and-out later, we were poised to break this game wide open before I idiotically went for it on 4th-and-10 that resulted in another Colter interception. The Gophers then pounded the ball with Donnell Kirkwood, who repeatedly stiff-armed NU defenders and eventually knotted the game up at seven.
Another round of end zone trips had the score locked at 14 before the ‘Cats capitalized on another end-of-half opportunity with a flurry of short throws and an unlikely touchdown to Cameron Dickerson, putting NU up 21-14 at the break.
After letting the go-lucky Gophers hang around, Northwestern finally opened the floodgates when Ibraheim Campbell picked off Phillip Nelson early in the third. From there, several long runs by Colter and Green, sacks by Collin Ellis and Damien Proby and two more rushing touchdowns for Green put the finishing touches on this dominant win. In fact, it was so dominant that the ‘Cats have now moved all the way up to No. 6 in the rankings and are starting to look like a national title contender.
Game 8: @ Iowa
Result: W, 21-14
Record: 8-0 (4-0)
The offense again got off to a slow start as Colter missed two open receivers on the first three plays, leading to a rare Brandon Williams punt.
Fortunately, we were able to force a three-and-out on defense thanks to sophomore Dean Lowry, who burst onto the scene as a legit game wrecker on the d-line and made a great tackle on Mark Weisman on a third-down run.
Per usual, the Wildcat offense capitalized on this opportunity, driving down the field and scoring on a QB draw for Colter.
The new Purple People Eaters continued to give the Hawkeyes trouble, but the score remained at 7-0 before a pivotal Iowa fourth-down attempt near the end of the half. They could have just settled for the field goal but instead tried an outside run that was snuffed about by Campbell, giving the ball back to the NU offense with 30 seconds left. That was all Colter needed to complete four quick passes and launch a touchdown to Austin Carr with three seconds left in the period, giving Northwestern a strong 14-0 lead at the half.
Iowa’s offense found success in the second half but moved too slowly down the field to make up their deficit. Northwestern’s defense did a great job preventing big plays and making teams go backward. Proby was the star of the show again, finishing with 11 tackles and a very painful sack of Jake Rudock.
After Green exploded last week with four total touchdowns, it was Colter’s turn to go off, accounting for all three touchdowns and vaulting himself into the Heisman picture (literally).
Northwestern now sits as the No. 4 ranked team in the country and even received a vote for the top spot. However, we are technically still only the second-place team in our division, as Big Ten was divided into the nonsensical Leaders and Legends group in 2013. With undefeated Michigan State in the same region, the ‘Cats trail by one spot. The two teams will face off in a monumental showdown next week to compete for first place.
Standings after Part III
Mac: 4-4 (1-3 B1G)
Daniel: 8-0 (4-0 B1G)