Less than 24 hours ’til game time. The Warriors are here to help you kill time until then. Here is our first installment of Prediction Friday.
It feels great to have college football back, and especially great knowing we have a game at Ryan Field tomorrow morning. The West Lot will be jumping, and the Warriors will be drinking.
I’ve been looking forward to this game for a long time – it’s a marquee top 25 opponent, a game against another “nerd” school, the season opener and of course the debut of Clayton Thorson. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think this is the worst matchup in the world for us. Stanford is very good, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not a team that’s built to put up 50 points. They’re going to play crushing D, run the ball, and grind out games. Northwestern’s offense is looking like it’s going to be fairly bad this year, so the key for us is to keep games low scoring and close, and then sneak out a win in the 4th quarter. The thing is – I’m not sure Stanford’s offense is all that great either, and I think we can hang around in this one long enough to keep it interesting. This is a statement game for the team and for Fitz especially, and I believe the ‘Cats will come to play.
Game Summary: The ‘Cats come out firing in this one on the arm of new QB Clayton Thorson. McCall will be calling a lot of quick passes, in order to get the ball out of Thorson’s hand quickly, build his confidence and protect him from getting crushed behind a patchwork offensive line. I’m also expecting a fair amount of the read option – Thorson and Justin Jackson were on the same basketball team as kids, so they’re buddies and I think they’ll build a nice rapport on the field.
It’s going to be key for us to limit Stanford to field goals in this one – if we can keep them to 3 points in their trips to the red zone, then we can hang around. Fitz wants to win this game very badly, as he’s gotten a lot of flak after two straight 5-7 seasons. No one is giving the ‘Cats a chance against the Cardinal, and I know Fitz has been reiterating that with the team all week. The “no one believes in us” factor is a very strong motivator. I see Fitz getting creative in this one – throwing in a trick play or two, and putting Jelani Roberts in on kickoff return duty (notice that Fitz didn’t list a kickoff returner on the depth chart this week – perhaps a bit of gamesmanship). We may need a defensive or special teams touchdown to stay in it.
I see a back and forth game, low scoring and tight throughout. Justin Jackson breaks away from the pack for a touchdown at the end to pull out the W.
Score: NU 24 – Stanford 20
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson. Duh.
Play of the Game: Anthony “Cakes” Walker with the fumble scoop and score.
Warrior to Watch: The Whole Crew. Let’s start the season off right.
The day is finally here. Rose the van has been resuscitated, the satellite dish aligned, and the gas cans filled. The Warriors are ready to get this season started with a huge top 25 matchup at home tomorrow. While we have yet to see what the team can do on the field, expectations are low for the offense and it’s understood the defense will have to keep us in games until the offense has a few games under its belt to start being good (if ever). While I don’t see a win for NU tomorrow, the day will be glorious nonetheless. Let’s Make NU Great Again!™
Game Summary: The ‘Cats take awhile to get the offense moving, punting on their first two drives. Luckily, the D is doing their job and keeps Stannis out of scoring range as well and the first quarter ends where it began, 0-0. The boys with a tree for a mascot strike first in the 2nd with a bomb TD pass. On the next drive NU punts to the Stanford 3 yard line and manager a safety with 3 minutes left in the half! NU marches down after receiving the kickoff punt and knocks in a FG as time expires. Halftime score 7-5.
The wheels come off in the 2nd half as Stanford marches down and score two quick TDs while NUs offense sputters. The fan doing the Wing-It challenge doesn’t even put it through the uprights from the 20 yard line (a la ZVE) during a commercial break. NU gets their first and only TD of the game on a huge 35 yard run from JJ, but don’t have much hope down 9. Stannis puts the nail in the coffin with a final FG and Cats fans go home with season expectations pretty much where they were when the game started.
Score: NU 12 – Stanford 24
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson.
Play of the Game: JJ with a 35 yard touchdown run breaking a few ankles along the way
Warrior to Watch: Pat Grayhack. While he won’t be there in person he’ll be there in spirit and will gladly answer anyone’s FaceTime call to check in on him.
The Cats will win the toss. Put money on that. After that happens, my predictions are more likely to only be 50% right…this is going to be a tough game for the Cardiac Cats. I too think they are going to respond well due to the across-the-board pessimism surrounding their chances in this game. I think Stanford starts well but the Cats bend yet only slightly break in the first half. The Cardinal go up 10-0 but Kitties respond with a long drive that stalls in red zone and they put one through the uprights. We go into halftime down 10-3 but there is optimism mounting and maybe, dare I say, a little momentum. I think we trade some scores in the second half and ultimately have to go for it on a fourth down late in the fourth quarter while trailing but we unfortunately don’t convert. Stan(ford)nis Baratheon, the one true king, makes Northwestern pull a Shireen, and burns us at the stake in the end.
Score: Stanford 24, Northwestern 20
Player to Watch: Clayton “F*cksaw” Thorson – the kid is on a big stage with ESPN broadcasting his game against a tough Stanford team.
Play of the Game: Dan “Dick” Vitale does what he is known best for – catching big passes. Early in the second half he wriggles free when Thorson is scrambling and he receives a 12 yard strike in the back of the endzone for six!
Warrior to Watch: Andy Day – he’s in town, he’s ready to party, it’s going to be great. He hails from Cali now, as do those Tree Huggers, but rest all your worries, this guy is pulling for the Cats.
And so it begins…In the words of Florida Georgia Line, “that fireball whiskey whispers”. Although we will not be there in person, the Richmond contingent of the Grayhack family will be gathered around the television like we used to wait on the stairs on Christmas morning. This is our day, they may be bigger, they may be better, but today they come to Evanston. We may not be the best team in the country, but we won’t let them waltz into our home and walk all over us.
Game Summary: Kevin Hogan has a disastrous start to the game when he is sacked by Dean Lowry and fumbles the ball, which is recovered by Deonte Gibson. Clayton Thorson scores on his first college play as he runs the zone read to perfection. Unfortunately from here, the tide turns against our beloved Cats as the Stanford offensive line bullies their undersized opponents into submission resulting in three long touchdown drives. Not to be outdone, Justin Jackson breaks off a series of nice runs and puts the Cats in field goal range as the half nears its conclusion. Jack Mitchell lines up to take the kick, but the ball is snapped to him, IT’S A FAKE!!!! The Northwestern centerfielder/kicker guns a pass to a wide open Garrett Dickerson in the end zone as time expires. Then, Dickerson is flagged for excessive celebration for showing the fans in attendance how he Whips and then how he Nae Naes.
On this, the eve of the 20th anniversary of the ‘Cats Rose Bowl season, I’ve been wondering what it was like for the diehards (props to the diehards back then) leading up to that historic day in South Bend. One can guess that there was a good amount of hope mixed in with some optimism. But, there’s not a chance in hell that anyone outside of the players and coaches had even the wildest dream that NU would be playing in Pasadena at season’s end.
Suffice to say, expectations have definitely risen in the past 20 years. The floor is a lot higher than it was pre-1995. Having said that, we find ourselves at the start of a season where expectations are arguably as low as they’ve been since Fitz took over the program. Nobody expects the ‘Cats to be worth a damn this year. Full disclosure, I didn’t (don’t?) either as evidenced by my season prediction. But, it’s Christmas Eve here in college football land, so we’re going to dream.
Buckle up. We’re going for a ride!
Game Summary: I’m not going to over complicate this one. For NU, the game will be won or horribly lost with the play of Thorson, the O line and the D line (from a pass rush perspective).
If the O line outperforms expectations and gives Thorson a little bit of time…. If Thorson plays within himself and doesn’t try to go all Johnny Football on us….. If the D line and Ifeadi Odenigbo get after Hogan…. If all of that happens, then who knows. We might be in for a mini-shocker in Evanston.
If only for one tailgate…. In the spirit of the prelude to this game summary, I’ll be in the West Lot at 7am with high hopes.
Here’s to the start of a wild ride (… let’s not forget to pay homage to the wildest of rides). You can bring me back to reality next week. But, tomorrow morning is like Christmas and Santa Claus is coming to Evanston.
Score: NU 21 – Stanford 17
Player to Watch: Clayton “F*cksaw” Thorson. This isn’t even a question. He may be the player to watch in the B1G this weekend simply because we have zero clue what we’re working with and a lot of the team’s success is dependent on his performance. Don’t forget about Jelani Roberts though. Will Fitz actually use a true freshman in a meaningful spot? The dude is shifty. If you’d like video evidence of that then watch this.
Play of the Game: A fake FG for the first (and hopefully not only) ‘Cats TD. Snax Oliver will be in as the holder and nobody will realize that he’s not the usual holder. He’ll take the snap and gun it to one of the superbacks who also wouldn’t ordinarily be on the field goal unit.
Warrior to Watch: Rusty. For those who don’t know, Rus is in his second year at the VCU Brand Center where he’s making ads like this. Thus, Rus will not be in attendance this weekend, but I can assure you he’ll be going ape shit from Richmond. Where will Rus do his tailgating? The west lot of his apartment complex?
Game Summary: ‘Cats come out hot (for once) and put up a valiant effort. However, the Cardinal proves that they are for real and come out on top.
Play of the game: Clayton and JJ read option that goes for 55 yards and a TD.
Game Summary: The first half (or at least the first quarter) the ‘Cats offense looks like they know what they’re doing. But once the choreographed series come to an end, Clayton Thorson looks like a freshman and JJ can’t do it all on his own. Stanford’s offense is otherwise kinda boring but efficient – marching down the field for three straight scores to start the second half. The ‘Cats put up a valiant effort and keep it close in the first half, but it’s out of hand by the early fourth.
Player to Watch: Clayton Thorson, right? Kinda has to be. See what he’s made of.