Roche’s Reaction – NU 50 – ILL 14

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.

Highlights
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.

Lowlights
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.

Moving Foward
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.

LOLHat week Gameday (UPDATE: Trent is at home)

It’s already the last game of the regular season for the ‘Cats (!), and Illinois comes limping in to Ryan Field looking to hold on to the Land Of Lincoln Trophy for another year.

Andy and Roger are rolling in the West Lot right now. Stop by the tailgate with the earth flag (blue background) and say hi. I am in Pennsylvania for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I’ll be posting up at the BWW in West Chester, PA to watch the game. I’ll be adding some commentary as the game gets going. Go ‘Cats!

Illinois Week – A Recent History

Get that DeLorean to 88, Marty, we’re taking a look back at the recent history between Northwestern and Illinois.

2011: In Which the ‘Cats Squander an 18 Point Second Half Lead

I wanted the 2011 game in Champaign badly after the debacle at Wrigley Field in 2010 (we’ll get there). Dan Persa was making his debut after his Achilles injury. Though the Illini were ranked at the time, the ‘Cats (led by #7), jumped out to an insurmountable a 28-10 lead in the second half. Eighteen points evaporated quickly as Scheelhaase-to-Jenkins somehow turned itself to Montana-to-Rice. The Illini signal caller threw for 393 yards and three TD’s (all to Jenkins). A.J. Jenkins torched the Northwestern secondary for 268 (WTF?) yards and three touchdowns.

OH GOD MAKE THE FLASHBACKS STOP (Reid Compton/US PRESSWIRE )

I still hold to this day that this performance singlehandedly got Jenkins drafted; it constituted 23% of his entire yardage haul last year. 23%?!

/Double-checks his math

/Steps away from computer

/Violently vomits

Ok, I’m back. Persa finished 10/14 with 4 TD and 123 yards before removing himself due to injury. If you want to relive the horror, here’s the game recap.

2010: Wrigley Field

Let’s start with the positives, shall we? College Gameday was there. The atmosphere was electric. They painted the marquee purple! This was a big deal. A lot of buzz for the Northwestern football program. Also it was my senior year. Senior year was a good year for Roche.

Wrigley Gettin’ Purple’d Out (AP Images)

But then the game started. Dan Persa’s Junior season had ended the week before against Iowa with an Achilles injury. Mike Trumpy broke his hand during the game. Evan Watkins wasn’t yet taking his talents to the superback position. Mikel Leshoure happened. 33 carries, 330 yards (speaking of games that get players singlehandedly drafted). I’m going to stop doing this to myself. 48-27, Illini win. For the masochists out there, here’s the game recap.

2009: In Which Northwestern Almost Squanders an 18 Point 4th Quarter Lead

The week before the Wisconsin win that sent us to the Outback Bowl and the week after handing jIowa its first loss in Iowa City, the ‘Cats went south. Illinois was having a rough go of things, and Northwestern was surging after suffering early season losses against Syracuse and Minnesota. Here’s what I remember mostly about this game: it wasn’t on TV. I had to watch it on ESPN3. Back in 2009, the program wasn’t close to what it was now. It was choppy. I can’t imagine this game not being televised on at least BTN ever again. So dry your years, 2009 Roche, HD will be forever in your future. Mike Kafka (new Steelers backup?) threw for 307/1 TD, and both he and Arby Fields (throwback!) rushed for a touchdown as well. After opening up an insurmountable a 21-3 lead in the 4th, the #B1GCats saw the lead evaporate before intercepting the Illini late in the 4th to seal the victory. Game Recap? Game Recap

2008: In Which the ‘Cats Doesn’t Squander a 17 Point 4th Quarter Lead

The last time the ‘Cats got to 9 wins was the 2008 season. CJ Bacher led Northwestern to a 27-10 win on Senior Day. He threw for 230 yards and 2 TD, Stephen Simmons added another on the ground and Amado Villarreal contributed two FG’s. The Illini came in at 5-6 and were a far cry from the team that made it to the Rose Bowl the year before. Not having Rashard Mendenhall will do that to you. Illinois pulled within 6 points on a 4th quarter Matt Eller FG, but the ‘Cats answered immediately, and the game was pretty much over after that Eric Peterman TD. Game recap is here.