clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Northwestern 2012: Fyte De Village...Or Potluck, If You're Not Rich And Snooty Like Them

It's all right, it's okay, we'll all blog for them someday...
It's all right, it's okay, we'll all blog for them someday...

Good day to you, proletariat. I know most you like to think of this at our ‘potluck' day, but this is Northwestern week, and potluck is such a...commoner word. Northwesterners are far superior to you, the great unwashed, and they don't do such lowbrow things as ‘potluck'. Oh, there's a feast prepared for you, but we'll call it fyte de village today, and it will be done exceedingly well, dahling. The fare is catered in from one of the finest French restaurants that Chicago has to offer, Les Nomades, and no expense has been spared. Why no, they don't cater, but they do for Northwestern. The cost? Oh, aren't you silly sitting there in your blue collar! That's so cute. They are Northwestern, the 1% of the 1%. Pish posh on the cost. This is money they would've just burned in one of their seven fireplaces, anyway.

So if you wouldn't mind, they'll put you in the good hands of Jean-Claude, the consummate Gentlemen's Gentleman. He'll help you...

//disdainful once over look//

...change into more appropriate attire, and give you a quick etiquette lesson on the use of the shrimp fork and how not to tuck your napkin under your collar. We're looking at you, Iowa fan. So when you're done changing, please follow Jean-Claude to the South Lawn. Once there, find your table on the seating chart and enjoy the 3 piece string ensemble. And please, enjoy some wine. Nothing out of the expensive bottles--those are reserved for Northwestern alumni. For you, we have a lovely selection of box wines. Or light beer.

And do engage in some topical conversation (but not above a whisper so as not to drown out the music) about the shelf life of Pat Fitzgerald, where Northwesternworld is and whether or not Nebraska is scared of it, the beast that might be Cain Kolter, cartwheeling quarterbacks, some backhanded slaps at Illinois and Notre Dame, and reviewing the worst Heisman trophy winner in history.

We also have some guest participation from our friends at Sippin' on Purple and Lake the Posts. They are hands down the two best Northwestern blogs on the Internet, and also the richest. So please, make sure you introduce yourself to them over by the bar. They will be easily distinguishable---they'll be wearing the Armani suit, and you'll be in your...

//another disdainful look

...sweatshirt, I'm sure.

Oh, and when you're done, please leave through the servant's entry. And leave the coat and tie. And the shrimp fork. Jean-Claude, when you're done with the riff raff, call the boathouse and have Capt. Schettino prepare the yacht, there's an after party out on Lake Michigan later. Invitation only, old boy, and you don't have one.

1) Plats Premiers-Three preparations of smoked salmon, sautéed Hudson Valley foie gras, banana water, granny smith apple purée, mango, confit cherry: One of the features we're doing during B1G 2012 is the Smartest Guys In The Room, which is a feature piece on the head coach and coordinators for each team. The reason we are? Because there's been so much turnover in the conference that we hardly know half the coaching staffs, yet Pat Fitzgerald seems on as solid ground as ever as he enters his 7th year in Evanston. However, Michigan came calling a couple years back, if reports are to be believed, and it's not out of the realm of possibility for another big time school to pick up the phone. Is Pat Fitzgerald the Northwestern Coach For As Long As He Wants, or can you see a scenario where he would leave for another school, and what would that scenario be?

Baba O'Really: Pat Fitzgerald is CFALAHW, but if he manages to put together a few years in a row of 9-3 type records, he may not want to be the NU coach anymore. I don't see either of those things happening in the near future, though.

Rodger Sherman, Sippin' On Purple: Pat Fitzgerald's devotion to Northwestern University disturbs and alarms me. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm supremely proud to go to Northwestern and am positively furious that every day that passes means one less day of attending college here. I VOLUNTARILY choose to wear purple clothes in public at least 25 times a year. If that's not dedication, I don't know what it is. But Fitz puts me to shame. Every college coach spews platitudes about how much they love their institution and whatnot, but Fitz might be the only one I've ever believed. He genuinely believes Northwestern is a shining beacon of what college football should be, and I think his trips to other schools are just heat-checks to make sure he can get paid.

Lake The Posts: That is a great question. Fitz's mentor and former head coach Gary Barnett went on record to the Chicago Tribune last year answering this exact question. Barnett cited the proposed major facilities overhaul as one of the few reasons that Fitz would go elsewhere. Specifically, as Teddy Greenstein reported last year, one version of a proposal had a Monday through Friday on-campus practice scenario reportedly on the lakefront. Greenstein reported pushback from the Trustees on the location. Northwestern will be spending hundreds of millions in the coming years on overhauling facilities with football at the top of that list. Fitz is heavily in the mix on the process, so I'm hopeful it will be a great win for everyone. Fitz is indeed a great brand ambassador for a school and we as fans can almost script what recruits and their parents will say after a visit.

What he has done to upgrade talent and arrive at consistently competitive levels is very good. However, the fanbase has been supportive of the known growing pains (in-game decisions, other teams adjusting etc), but simply put it isn't all peaches and cream among the fan base. We've had four straight years of win total decline and the downside to four straight bowl appearances is the nation's longest bowl losing streak which hangs over the program as one of the final monkeys on the historical back. This will be an extremely intriguing year as expectations are more modest than they have been as we lost some key senior leadership at skill positions. However, the youth movement of increased talent is going to be on full display.

All eyes are on our defense and in particular the secondary which simply got scorched in 2011 in part because of repeated mental errors and in part because we had little to resemble a pass rush. The biggest complaint among fans was the lack of any coaching changes, especially on defense. I don't think Fitz is going anywhere between now and 2020, the end of his contract, but I do think there are two sides to this relationship between the coach and the fanbase. Fans underestimate just how extremely challenging it is to recruit against the B1G, Stanford and others with the worst facilities of the lot and a gameday atmosphere that ranks near the bottom of the conference. Meanwhile, Fitz's ability to achieve middle of the pack consistency has raised expectations and with raised expectations comes criticism. There is a sense that the criticism shouldn't exist in some of the comments Fitz makes, but from my vantage point, having it is a great thing as it shows the fanbase's expectations have risen.

Chadnudj: Pat Fitzgerald is Northwestern Coach for As Long As He Wants, and frankly he'll want to stay there as long as he wants to be a football coach. I know this is hard to believe in today's era of coaches chasing the big money wherever it takes them, or jumping up to "better" or "bigger name" schools when they come knocking, but Pat Fitzgerald is really happy at Northwestern, and is sure he can win there (Gary Barnett and Randy Walker won 3 Big Ten titles total with Barnett leading NU as high as #3 in the nation heading into the Rose Bowl, neither recruited as well as Fitz has, and Fitz will get a huge benefit from the upcoming facilities overhaul). Fitzgerald and his wife's families are both from the Chicago-area, which means his 3 sons get plenty of chances to see their grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins, and Fitz sees a lot of his college/high school friends. Fitz's role models as a coach are Barnett (who has said in retrospect that while he loved Colorado and was excited to go back there, he maybe should have stayed in Evanston), Walker (who loved Evanston and never would have left -- he left his own alma mater at Miami of Ohio to come to Northwestern), and Joe Paterno (who basically set the model for "staying at a great place for you and building a program, even if it means less money"). And he's just 9 wins away from being Northwestern's all-time winningest coach.

You really can't stress it enough -- Fitz will stay in Evanston. He'll probably stay there at least another 20-30 years (remember, he's only 37). The ONLY way he'd ever leave is if the administration stopped doing what it takes to compete....and from the looks of things (increased marketing efforts to increase ticket sales, the fact that school president Morton Schapiro is a HUGE football fan, recent significant increases in pay for Fitz and his assistants, the Under Armour contract, and the upcoming athletics faciliites overhaul that will involve a completely new football training facility that could be on campus, and maybe even a new football stadium entirely) that is not going to happen.

MSUlaxer27: I really do not see any scenario where Fitzgerald leaves NU for another job on his own accord. OK, if XYZ University comes and offers him kajillion dollars, I am sure he will at least take their phone call. The only way I see him coaching anywhere else is if he suddenly loses his wizard powers and starts having 2-10 (0-8) seasons on a regular basis and the Wildcats fire him. I do not think any rational person expects NU to contend for B1G titles on a "regular" basis. As such, as an alum, who obviously likes being there, he has about the perfect job and as much security one can have in the current climate.

2) Deuxième-Warm lobster and shrimp salad, topped with shredded goat cheese, with a balsamic vinaigrette: The Wildcats have had a string of recent success with their quarterback play, as Mike Kafka and Dan Persa both had stellar careers. Now, it looks like Kain Colter is up next. As a sophomore he was used as a quarterback, running back, and receiver, and he was very good at all three (673 yards, 6 TD's 1 INT passing, 654 yards and 9 TD's as a rusher, 43 catches and 466 yards with 3 TD's as a receiver). How will Northwestern's offense run with Colter as the signal caller, and how will they replace his production as a receiver/rusher?

Kennard Husker: Watching Colter torch Nebraska makes me think he has the talent to do great things, but then I remember that lots of people torched Nebraska last year, so who knows. The bottom line is that he has the speed and athleticism to do big things, and if he learns the offense and throws the ball with a modicum of accuracy, that offense will keep things going. As for his lost production? Well, that becomes a whole lot dicier. I am not super aware of what lurks in the shadows over in Northwesternworld, but I feel like reloading is much more difficult for them than it is for other schools. The hope has to be that Fitzgerald and McCall come up with something fancy to offset the production. We'll see how that works out.

Rodger Sherman, Sippin' On Purple: I should be worried, but I'm not. First off, as you said, there's the fact that Kafka and Persa - both of whom looked scared and untrustworthy in brief roles when forced into play as backup quarterbacks - looked amazing and irreplaceable when their time came. Colter has looked very similar to how those guys looked before their star turns. That, and the fact that Northwestern's deepest and best position is probably wide receiver - Kyle Prater! (if he plays) - leads me to believe he can lead the passing game. As a rusher, I expect Colter to be Northwestern's leading rusher next year, because the option is always a thing and Northwestern's cupboard is more or less entirely empty at running back.

Lake The Posts: Fortunately this one is easy. Northwestern is loaded with more true depth at WR than at anytime in the history of the program, including our mid 90s Big Ten title teams. Wildcat fans are fingers crossed that the nation's #1 WR coming out of HS in 2010, Kyle Prater, will get a waiver to play this season after transferring from USC for personal family reasons. The scary thing is even if he doesn't, we're still loaded. Gamebreaker Tony Jones, senior Demetrius Fields, RS SO Rashad Lawrence, SO Christian Jones and a few young guys like RS FR Pierre Ary-Youngblood and RS FR Camerson Dickerson make you wonder if we have enough passes to go around. Our WR are big, athletic and deep.

Colter will be QB1 and we'll be running the spread once again. Make no mistake about it though, back-up Trevor Siemien will be getting quite a bit of time under center as well. Colter is just a beast on the option which is where he'll get a ton of designed runs. He's got a long way to go to become consistent as a passer, but the guy is a winner (see: Nebraska). The fear among fans is durability as he has that grit where he feels invincible and you know he's going to be a marked target. Rushing is a major issue. We're very lean once again at RB, a position of underachievement at NU in the Fitz era. It has been platoon city there and we've failed to have a bellcow since Tyrell Sutton graduated after the '08 season. Mike Trumpy is the best back returning, however he's still recovering from a blown ACL. Highly-touted incoming freshman RB Malin Jones may very well get called upon early and we moved speed demon WR/PR/KR Venric Mark to RB which is an experiment that has many excited.

Chadnudj: At this point, I have tremendous faith in offensive coordinator/QB coach Mick McCall to prepare anyone with a full spring/summer to excel in the Northwestern offense. When CJ Bacher left, people thought Mike Kafka was a run-first QB....he ended his career throwing 70 passes in the Outback Bowl and getting drafted by the Eagles. Mike Kafka left, and people thought Dan Persa was a run-first QB who didn't have a strong enough arm....he ended his career the NCAA's career leader in completion percentage. And in flashes, Colter looked really good last year -- not just running and catching, but throwing it too (he had a 67% completion rate, which is more than respectable). The offense will be fine, and with some tall/experienced WRs, Colter will put up big passing numbers.

MSUlaxer27: Is it just me or are we seeing an increase in the number of running/throwing/jumping/dancing/cartwheeling QB's in this league? Shoelace, Braxton Miller, Juice, Wilson, Gray etc. It seems like we've reached a new era of mobility under center. In answer to this question, it seems like every year we question whether NU QB X can replace the All-Illinois QB Y from the previous season and they do. Northwestern always seems to have an excellent QB in waiting, so I'm sure we'll see Colter line up under center, in the slot and in the backfield and probably washing jersey's too. Also if Chad is to be believed, NU has the greatest set of receivers since, well, MSU last year (or at least what MSU fans thought going into the season).

3) Les Viandes et Les Volailles--Duo of slow-roasted veal and lamb chop, pommes purée, Maitake mushroom, sauce Périgueux: Speaking of the Fitzgerald era, it's largely been a success. He's built on Randy Walker's legacy, and has a 40-36 record overall. But...Northwestern is 0-4 in bowl games under Fitz, and has never really been in serious contention for the B1G title. Has Fitzgerald taken Northwestern as far as they can go? If not, how can he get ‘over the hump' and get the ‘Cats into contention for Indianapolis and/or a BCS game?

Baba O'Really: I don't really believe that any school has a ceiling on their potential. Of course it is much harder for a school like Northwestern to consistently battle for conference championships than it is for Ohio State-type programs. I like Fitz even though I think that he is slightly overrated when it comes to B1G coach rankings. This guy even had him at #1 before last season. Even so, Fitz has built a decent foundation at NU and it just takes a good team and a lot of luck to make it into a BCS game. I know this has been brought up many times before, but it is the perfect example of my point: Ron Zook took Illinois to the Rose Bowl. If we live in a world where that is possible, then the Wildcats certainly have a chance to get in a BCS game.

Kennard Husker: Forget Indy and the BCS. How about winning a freaking bowl game, right? See, I don't really know if it matters to Northwestern fans if Fitz never wins the National Championship, but consistently winning bowls (similar to K-State) would be enough to make the masses happy and show progress. To do so, however, he has to get that defense up to snuff. You can only score so many points, and while everyone likes watching Touchdowns, it will be important to get some stops in a conference that keeps getting faster on both sides of the ball.

Rodger Sherman, Sippin' On Purple: I think Northwestern can contend for a Big Ten title. I mean, it's happened! In my lifetime! Multiple times! However, I don't think they will this year. It'll take more talent - which, at least according to recruiting people, is a thing that's happening - and luck. To be Big Ten champion, Northwestern will have to win, like, two or three games that they shouldn't have.

Lake The Posts: Clearly based on the teams that Fitzgerald was a part of (2X Big Ten champs) as a player, Northwestern can and has gone much farther. However, whether or not Fitz can take the program to the upper tier is the great question. From a talent perspective he's making great strides and the level of talent among the underclassmen compared to the upperclassmen is pretty clearly different in a good way. Ironically, defense has been an issue for Fitz's teams, something I would've thought would've been a strength based on his pedigree. Fitz is a big fan of coaching stability and the 'Cats have that. However, fans patience has diminished with DC Mike Hankwitz and many expected him to be gone after last year's season. We've got to develop a passrush and our secondary will need to be more consistent for us to get over the hump. Fitz trumps a "players, plays, schemes" priority philosophy and the "players" part has moved in the right direction, now the "plays" and "schemes" remain to be seen. It should be pointed out the road will get much harder starting next year as our schedule becomes downright brutal by 2014. We've added the likes of Stanford, Notre Dame, Cal and others to our non-conference slates which will get much tougher with the addition of Wisconsin and Ohio State. We'll be top five/top ten range toughest schedules in the country starting next year.

Chadnudj: No, I think Fitz is going to take the Wildcats to Indy, and probably a BCS game. Maybe not this year, or the next....but it's coming.

Remember, he came into the job with ZERO head coaching experience, and ZERO coordinator experience. He's been learning on the job, and has shown consistent improvement as a game day coach and recruiter. (In fact, that's a HUGE reason to expect improvement -- each of his classes has improved on the last, and he's already landed an ESPN Top 150/Rivals 4-star QB in Matt Alviti for next year.) The administration is putting money behind the program in the way of facilities upgrades -- upgrades that will probably make training and recruiting even easier for Fitz. The program has stability, is improving, and some day soon, Fitz will be leading the Cats to a BCS bowl (insert obligatory "and probably losing" comment).

MSUlaxer27: I'm hesitant to say that a team has reached its limit or that big wins are flukes as 20 years ago who thought UW would be good on a consistent basis? It's becoming a bit dated to say that "football began in 1995" but if I told a lifelong NU fan in 1992 that this is what the next 20 years would look like (record wise) I'm sure he would have jumped for joy. Fitzgerald has a .500 record against his main "rival." He has a winning record against everyone in his division not from the state of Michigan (seriously, 2-8 against the Spartans and Wolverines?) Maybe this is as far as NU goes. When is Good Enough, good enough?

4) Les Fromages et Les Desserts--Warm flourless chocolate cake with liquid ganache center, Armagnac ice cream: We kid about Northwestern and their blue blood lineage, but let's face it, sometimes those connections open doors. In sports, a blue blood lineage can give teams or players an advantage in terms of getting 'better' bowls, and players of those schools more consideration for post season awards. Give me one 'blue blood' team that you think got to a BCS (or New Year's Day Bowl pre-BCS) game based solely on their name/school history and one player from a 'blue blood' school that either won the Heisman or got serious Heisman consideration simply because he played for a traditional college football power.

Kennard Husker: You mean, other than TSISB and everything that is associated with it? Because I'm pretty sure every ounce of respect for them in the past two decades rises and falls with their name.

Rodger Sherman, Sippin' On Purple: Ummm.... Iowa sucks?

Lake The Posts: Man, that is one of the more challenging questions I've had in awhile. From a team perspective we in Evanston always default to "That Team From South Bend" as one that gets way too much credit for not doing all that much. When you look at their schedule you wonder how they don't do better as it maxes out by end of September after playing Michigan, Michigan State early and of course USC late. It's only a matter of a few more average seasons that they'll have cemented themselves in to perma-mediocrity in the eyes of many 17-year-olds. I've been shocked by Texas over the past couple of years as to me it is simply inexplicable that that program could not post 9-wins a year minimum with the talent level they have.

However, I usually get frustrated by the hall pass that Illinois gets in the Chicago area. They are far from a blueblood and until the past couple of seasons with average teams (that beat NU the past two seasons!) are somehow rarely mentioned as having a pretty crappy past 20+ seasons. The hangover effect of Northwestern's Dark Ages (72-95) never seems to go away, yet look at Illinois since '92. It's been pretty bleak with an outlier season here or there - just enough to keep the reputation from the program as being more Indiana and Minnesota than what average fans give them credit for around here.

From a Heisman perspective I can't single out any one guy as of late as the smoking gun case, however I do see a more regional bias. The trend has gone south over the past 10-12 years and I'd love to see more breakdowns of the balloting earlier to really see how geographically biased it is. I contend many voters (just like the CFB polls) are seeing far less action than fans at home who can watch a dozen games in a day. Beat writers who spend 12 hours at a game covering Home State U yet have a vote makes me think many of the voters are voting within the pool of what they see - their conference - as opposed to a truly objective view of the entire country's best talent pool.

MSUlaxer27: Or the "Are you fucking serious, question?!" How about both UM and VA Tech last year...some termed it the "Splenda Bowl." Alternatively, UM in '99 when they went to the Orange over an MSU team that they lost to, but had the same record? Anyway. The bowl season is a joke.

The second part is also the easiest answer ever: Paul Hornung Notre Dame, 1956. Hornung was the team's primary QB, KR, and PK. He also had the most individual rushing attempts, although these attempts made up less than 1/4 of the total rushing attempts that season.

His stat line:

QB: 59/111 917yds 3TD 13 INT
RB 94 rushes 420 yds 0TD
KR 16 KRs 496 0TD (It appears he was a really good kick returner with a 30yd return avg.)

Let's recap fND's 1956 season:

Notre Dame went 2-8 in 1956, the two wins were over hapless IU (3-6) and worse UNC (2-7-1) only one loss was by less than a touchdown (13-19 to SMU(4-6)). They lost by 14 to a bad Purdue team(3-4-2) and were positively noncompetitive against MSU, OU, Navy, and Iowa (14-47, 0-40, 7-33, 8-48 respectively). In summary, his stats weren't that good, the team was atrocious, and he clearly didn't deserve the Heisman. If you put him on 3-6 Indiana that year and he turned in the same stat sheet, there is exactly zero chance he wins the Heisman.