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NCAA Football 13/14 Part IV: The boredom continues

One of us has natty aspirations while the other is trying to keep his job.

Deep into conference play, our two competitors fight for their respective post-season dreams. For Dan’s undefeated team, one of the top in the nation, the National Championship game is well within reach as he hopes to close out his perfect season. For Mac’s ‘Cats, they will continue to compete for bowl eligibility and are just one win away from securing a ticket.

Here’s how weeks nine through 11 played out:

2012 Northwestern (Mac’s Team)

Game 9: vs. No. 6 Iowa

Final Score: L, 28-34 (OT)

Record: 4-5 (1-4 B1G)

On a cold autumn afternoon at Ryan Field, Herky the Hawkeye caused some heartbreak for Northwestern fans across the country.

Iowa came into this game ranked sixth in the country. Early on, that ranking held true, as the Hawkeyes jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime. Unsurprisingly, Mac’s ‘Cats were in trouble, but they had some fight left.

To open the second half, Kain Colter bolted for an 87-yard rushing touchdown after Iowa double-blitzed their safeties, creating a wide open secondary. Just a minute into the third, we had a game again.

It would only get tighter, as the ‘Cats defense forced a stop before Colter threw a long bomb to Christian Jones that went 62 yards for six. At the end of the third, the score was knotted at 14.

Back and forth scoring early on in the final frame soon tied the game at 21. With just two minutes left, however, Hawkeye true freshman quarterback C.J. Beathard hit Keenan Davis for a touchdown, and hope seemed grim for the ‘Cats.

On the ensuing possession, heroics from Colter tied the game again, as he marched the ‘Cats down the field to tie the game at 28 and send it to overtime.

In overtime, the luck ran out. The ‘Cats failed to score after missing a 34-yard field goal, and Beathard fired a dart to Kevonte Martin-Manley to end it. Heartbreak.

Game 10: @ No. 8 Michigan

Final Score: L, 24-27

Record: 4-6 (1-5 B1G)

This is just getting sad.

‘Cats had the ball down three with 30 seconds left and didn’t score.

#FireStone. End my career. Thanks.

Game 11: @ No. 17 Michigan State

Final Score: W, 42-38

Record: 5-6 (2-5 B1G)

The ‘Cats needed a miracle to hold onto any chance at a bowl game and got one with this victory.

The game began extremely slowly with the only scoring early on coming off a Michigan State field goal. The scoring picked up a bit in the second quarter with Colter running it in twice for the ‘Cats. On the other end, the defense allowed two touchdowns as well, putting NU down 17-14 at the half.

Then, Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell went to work.

Not only did Bell open the second half for MSU with a 71-yard receiving touchdown, but he followed that up the next drive with a five-yard rushing touchdown. On the day, Bell rushed for 94 yards and two touchdowns, adding seven receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown. He couldn’t be stopped.

But neither could Colter.

Down 31-14 in the third, Colter immediately led the ‘Cats on another scoring drive to bring the deficit back to 10. After MSU scored again, Colter led the offense to respond again. Eventually, the Wildcat defense forced a turnover, and Colter took advantage again. Colter finished the game with 294 yards through the air and five (!) passing touchdowns.

In the end, Northwestern held on after forcing yet another Michigan State turnover as the clock dwindled down. Finally, Stone picked up a signature win for his squad. But is it too little too late?

2013 Northwestern (Daniel’s Team)

Game 9: @ No. 20 Nebraska

Result: W, 28-25

Record: 9-0 (5-0 B1G)

Ascending to fourth in the AP Poll didn’t stop NU from its new routine of a Kain Colter-interception on the first drive of the game, putting the ‘Cats in an early hole to dig themselves out of.

Nebraska came into this game ranked fourth in the virtual nation in scoring offense, so it didn’t take long for them to go up 7-0 off of a Taylor Martinez touchdown (remember that guy?).

Fortunately, we stormed right back down the field and punctuated the drive with a touchdown by Mike Trumpy. However, the Husker offense continued to tear Northwestern apart, going up 14-7 on a 43-yard run by Ameer Abdullah. After only two drives, Nebraska had totaled 105 yards and two touchdowns on only eight plays from scrimmage. Yikes.

A Colter touchdown run tied the game up in the second quarter, but the true momentum changer came with under two minutes left in the half, as Nick Vanhoose made another fantastic interception to give NU a chance to take the lead going into the break. The ‘Cats eventually took advantage of this opportunity with a Treyvon Green touchdown that led to this jubilant celebration from Willie.

NU held the Huskers to a field goal on their next drive and were moving the ball nicely before lineman Zack Guritz whiffed on a block and the ensuing tackle not only set ups 3rd & 15, but also knocked Green out of the game with a concussion.

But as they have all season, the ‘Cats came through when they needed it most. They ran their favorite play, “Shallow Cross,” and found Tony Jones streaking across the middle for a touchdown to make it 28-17.

Nebraska refused to quit, making it a 28-25 game with only a couple minutes left, and forced Northwestern into a 4th & 12 from its own 40. Now a rational coach would punt the ball away and trust his defense. But this coach, the virtual Pat Fitzgerald inhabited by my overworked commands, is a go-for-it-all gambler. We called Jones’ number on Shallow Cross, and he made the play again, breaking out for a 35-yard gain to officially clinch our ninth win of the season.

Game 10: No. 18 Michigan

Result: W, 22-10

Record: 10-0 (6-0 B1G)

Somehow, despite NU’s incredible streak of success, everything depends on thee next two games. Michigan upset their rivals in Michigan State last week by a score of 24-17, and now stand atop the Legends division with the ‘Cats at 5-0 in conference play (they’re ranked 18th due to two non-conference losses). And just next week, those same Spartans come to Evanston and are still in the hunt with only one conference defeat.

Surprisingly, Northwestern came flying out of the gate with a 33-yard run from Colter and a 21-yard run from Green but came away with zero points on that drive after being stood up at the goal line by the Wolverines. Fortunately, this happened on the next play.

2-0 ‘Cats.

All in all, the failed 4th & goal play worked in our benefit, as we took the ball right down the field for a Colter touchdown run to make it 9-0. The defense forced a three-and-out, and on the ensuing drive, Kyle Prater made one of the most ridiculous plays I’ve ever seen.

Could have used some of that in 2019.

Yet, things took a scary spiral from there. Colter was hit on a failed 3rd down passing attempt and left the game with an abdominal strain, forcing NU to settle for a field goal and a 12-0 lead. The advantage was quickly cut to five as Michigan finally got going and scored a touchdown with only 22 seconds left in the half. But in a somewhat magical moment, Trevor Siemian uncorked two deep throws to Austin Carr to set up a 51-yard field goal by Jeff Budzien as time expired in the second, giving the ‘Cats a 15-7 advantage.

A long field goal of their own for Michigan made it 15-10. Faced with a fourth down in the fourth quarter from midfield, I decided to roll the dice again.

It paid off.

Christian Jones made a huge catch to extend the drive that eventually resulted in a Green touchdown. From there, NU successfully held off two drives from the Wolverines and clinched the sixth 10-win season in Northwestern history.

Game 11: No. 14 Michigan State

Result: W, 24-17

Record: 11-0 (7-0 B1G)

One of the most anticipated senior days in Northwestern history did not disappoint. It was clear right away that it wouldn’t be an easy game, as Northwestern’s offense quickly petered out and the Spartans went straight down the field for a touchdown to go up 7-0.

Usually, Northwestern would respond with a touchdown of its own, but on this occasion, the ‘Cats just couldn’t get it going or convert a 4th down attempt in MSU territory, putting the opponents in prime position to take control of the game.

They again came rollicking down the field before Chi Chi Ariguzo flipped the game with two huge tackles in a row — first on 3rd & 1 and then on 4th and inches — to give the ball back to our offense. Clearly upset by their earlier failures, it only take four plays for Colter to even the score at seven.

The avalanche was on from there, as a couple plays into their next drive, Sparty quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw this pick-six to cornerback Jarrell Williams.

(Also, take a moment to appreciate how beautiful Ryan Field looks in that Senior Day snow)

Somehow, Northwestern still wasn’t done, as Campbell made an insanely difficult interception on the next play that would make the best of them jealous.

A Budzien field goal was then tacked on to make it a 17-7 lead at half, giving us firm control of the contest.

There would be some more offensive hiccups, but another huge tackle from Ariguzo held Michigan State to a field goal to give the ‘Cats some breathing room, and a 57-yard touchdown from Colter locked all windows and doors on a potential Spartan comeback.

With just one game left in the regular season, we are ranked No. 2 in the country behind only Alabama and ahead of two other undefeated teams in Georgia Tech (an NCAA 14 legend for those who know) and Boise State. We’ve also clinched a rematch against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship with several players on the squad up for awards. Proby is the favorite to win the Nagurski and the Butkus. Brandon Vitabile at center is in contention for the Rimington, and Colter has moved up to fourth in the current Heisman race.

What was a nightmare year in the real world for the ‘Cats is now a season where dreams come true.

Standings after Part IV

Mac: 5-6 (2-5 B1G)

Daniel: 11-0 (7-0 B1G)