The Wildcats finished a remarkable season with a 35-19 victory over Auburn in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl. It’s the best bowl win for NU since the 1949 Rose Bowl. Despite a middle stretch in which Auburn had momentum, Northwestern started and finished strong.
The Doctor of Fundamentals is going out on top. Not only is this Coach Hank’s 400th career win from his 51 years on the sidelines, but it’s one of his most significant. After being snubbed of the Broyles Award, which is awarded to the top assistant coach in college football, Hankwitz came out and coached one of his best games of the season. Blitzes were dialed up perfectly, coverage was reliable aside from one blown play by AJ Hampton, and the defensive line did a great job containing Auburn’s run game. Some of the credit has to go to the players, but Coach Hank was nothing short of great. Enjoy retirement, Coach!
If this is Ramsey’s last game in a Northwestern uniform, it may not only be his best game for the ‘Cats but one of the best in his career. The grad transfer shredded Auburn’s secondary, especially in the first half, throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns.
The Wildcats strayed away from their run game early on, and Ramsey was able to answer the call, as he completed passes to eight different targets throughout the game. He was also the ‘Cats second-leading rusher, scampering for a season-high 50 yards and a touchdown on a 30-yard scramble on third-and-long. It was a great potential game to go out on for the signal caller.
Much like Ramsey, Raine’s performance in Orlando may have been his best while wearing purple and white. He led Northwestern’s pass catchers in the matchup, pulling in six of 10 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown. His six-yard score put the ‘Cats up 14-0 in the first quarter, and he came up with a huge catch to sustain the Wildcats’ drive in the third quarter that ended in a long touchdown run by Ramsey. With Raine’s short career for Northwestern possibly coming to an end, he managed to play one of the best games of his collegiate career.
Honorable mentions: Pass protection, third-down defense, Chris Bergin, hot starts
The Wildcat worked extremely well against Illinois in Cam Porter’s breakout game and fairly well against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship. Mike Bajakian seemingly didn’t want to give up on the formation and decided to bring it out again today, but the results were far worse. The direct snaps to Cam Porter often went for little-to-no yardage and never sparked anything offensively. Simply put, if you want the Wildcat to work, you should incorporate some different play calls from time to time and not have Porter take it every play.
The first half run game
Coming into this game, the Wildcats were known for somewhat of a grind-it-out mentality that resulted in us seeing far more run plays than pass plays offensively. That wasn’t the case on Friday. As mentioned previously, the ‘Cats could hardly get anything going on the ground early, so Ramsey took on much of the early offensive workload. In the first half, Northwestern ran for just 21 yards on 20 carries. The run game didn’t seem to work well until the Wildcats got it going in the fourth quarter when they ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Kick catch interference
While those at home weren’t able to see the replay for this call because the broadcast was too busy giving us an interview with new Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin, those in Orlando were able to see that this call was a rough one. To jog your memory, punt returner Eli Stove was allegedly touched on a punt he tried to fair catch. He dropped the ball, and it was recovered by Northwestern, but the penalty gave it back to Auburn.
The call was a major momentum shifter, as the Tigers trailed 14-0 at the time and soon scored 13 unanswered points to almost tie it up. While the result of the game was still in NU’s favor, the game could have been an even bigger blowout without that penalty.
Honorable mentions: Fitz in shorts, trick plays to Riley Lees, outside runs, announcer bias