Cue the Staples ‘That Was Easy’ button. 50-14. Northwestern finishes the season 9-3 and 10-1 ATS. It didn’t always look like it was going to be a walk in the park, as the ‘D’ sleepwalked through the first 20 minutes of the game, which resulted in 14 early Illinois points. On to the highlights and lowlights.
Kain Colter’s Throwing – Kain Colter is an incredible athlete, and more often than not he makes plays with his legs. Today he showed he can get the job done with his arm. His final passing stats were: 9/11, 102 yards, three touchdowns. Raise your hand if you thought Colter would have a three TD game this year. /crickets/. Exactly. Great growth to see Kain having the confidence to let is fly.
Offensive Line – Well over 300 yards rushing. The ‘Cats were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted to do, except a Bo Cisek touchdown. They controlled the line of scrimmage and smacked around an Illinois team desperate for a conference victory.
Keeping Up With The Jones – Northwestern was thisclose to having all three Jones – Christian (who stepped out two yards short), Tony and Tyrus – score a touchdown today. Tyrus had a 15 yards screen pass TD to go along with 45 yards rushing and some impressive returns, while Tony hauled in a nine-yarder from Colter
The Last 40 Minutes Of Defense – I’m gonna go ahead and pay myself on the back by calling the three INT’s #shamelessplug. The defense was much improved after seemingly washing their hands in crisco before the game (see below in ‘lowlights’). Illinois simply couldn’t get going after the first 14 points. Good defenses can get beat, but they won’t get beat the same way over an over again. Great job adjusting and making That Team Downstate earn every yard they could. Also – Safeties are awesome. Thank you for that, Max Chapman.
Venric Mark – During the game, Lake The Posts tweeted a ‘thank you’ to Venric Mark for being him. For turning a weakness in recent years (rushing) to the strength of this offense. Every Northwestern fan echoes this sentiment (though I think NotSoutheastern’s sentiment might be more PG13). He consistently turns 2/3 yard gains into 6/7 yard gains. He shows patience and explosiveness that we haven’t seen in years. He finished with 18 rushes for 127 yards and 1 TD. Great to see him back on the field after getting hurt last week. The ‘Cats need him healthy.
Jeff Budzien – A Groza award semifinalist, Jeff Budzien knocked in 36 and 44 yard field goals today. His total this year is 17/18, with his only miss being the 53 yarder against NEB. That kick missed by a hair.
4th Down Attempts – Fitz went for it on 4th down. In the red zone. In the 4th. Up 34 points. I know Fitz wanted to play as many seniors as possible (Hello, Bo Cisek), but I also like to think this was a middle finger to Illinois. Probably not, considering that’s very un-Fitz-like. I love the killer instinct.
Not Punting – That’s all. Northwestern didn’t have to punt all game.
The First 20 Minutes Of Defense – They just sleepwalked through Illinois’s first few drives. Couldn’t tackle anything. All of a sudden the ‘Cats are down 7-0 in the middle of the first quarter.
Trevor Siemian – He wasn’t used much, but he seemed a little off he overthrew his receivers pretty terribly right before halftime. He may have been just throwing it away. I don’t know, guys. I’m reaching for negatives in this game.
Wait and see. The ‘Cats finish 9-3 (5-3). Good for most since 2008, when Northwestern lost to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl. Possible destinations are Orlando for the Capital One Bowl (unlikely, given Michigan being available), Tampa for the Outback Bowl and Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl. My initial impressions have the latter two as equally likely, but we’ll do a post this week detailing the possible bowl destinations and odds.
The win also have Pat Fitzgerald 49 career wins at Northwestern. That ties him for most all-time in Evanston with Lynn ‘Pappy’ Waldorf. It’s a testament to how important Fitz is to this program. Great job, Coach.