The third article in OTE's 2014's football postmortems takes us to Evanston, IL and the Northwestern Wildcats who finished up at 5-7... Hmm, 5-7... Oh yeah, we had that same record last year with high expectations..
This year I expected that we would do better than 5-7 and at least go to a bowl game. Yet somehow we beat two ranked opponents...
Let's dive in:
Preseason: Injuries, suspensions, oh my!
Everything seemed to be going so well at Camp Kenosha. Then top NU wide receiver Christian Jones had a season ending knee injury :( . After that we found out that All American running back Venric Mark would transfer to West Texas A&M. Ultimately, the emergence of Justin Jackson ameliorated the loss of Venric Mark
Week 1: The revenge of Sonny Dykes.
In 2013 Northwestern beat California in a game so eloquently immortalized by InsideNU community member Glopknar. Seriously, Glopknar makes the best highlight videos. Gloppy, we need more of these!
/ht Glopknar @ InsideNU
Last fall Sonny Dykes came out loaded for bear (pardon the pun) and the Wildcats could not stop the Bear raid (literally) in the first half. Cal beat Northwestern 31-24. Trevor Siemian passed for 229 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions. Justin Jackson, Treyvon Green and the rest of NU's running backs rushed for 108 yards.
Week 2: Losing to NIU.
In the first half we held NIU scoreless. Unfortunately NIU did the same.
In the second half several things happened:
NU fan favorite (for the vast majority of fans) Kyle Prater busted out and got his first career touchdown. Kyle Prater, a 6'5" five-star wide receiver from suburban Chicago by way of USC finally was healthy enough to contribute offensively. The entire stadium cheered loudly and half the team rushed the end zone to celebrate with Kyle.
Trevor Siemian passed for 268 yards for 1 TD and 1 interception.Justin Jackson and Treyvon Green rushed for 52 and 26 yards.
Week 3: Bye.
Week 4: Western Illinois.
NU defeated a FCS cupcake 24-7. That was expected. The last time NU lost to an FCS team was back in Fitz's first season against New Hampshire coached by Chip Kelly, yes THAT Chip Kelly. Trevor Siemian passed for 117 yards and 0 touchdowns while Justin Jackson turned in 92 solid yards of rushing for 1 touchdown. Solomon Vault had 2 touchdowns on 31 rushing yards. This was the first time NU wore white helmets at Ryan Field that I can remember because WIU also has purple helmets.
Week 5: Catfight in Happy Valley!
Northwestern defeated Penn State in Happy Valley 29-6! Trevor Siemian passed for 258 yards and Justin Jackson rushed for 50 yards. Northwestern managed to put this game away when Christian Hackenberg thew an interception to Anthony Walker who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
Week 6: Wisconsin still can't win in Evanston!
Northwestern beat #17 Wisconsin 20-14on the back of Godwin Ikwebuike's 3 interceptions of Joel Stave and 162 yards of rushing from Justin Jackson. All games in this series from here on out should be played in Evanston.
Week 7: The Gopher Menace is still too vile...
Week 8: Not even Gothic Uniforms could save us against Nebraska...
Northwestern lost to Nebraska 38-17 on the strength of Tommy Armstrong's 221 yards passing and Ameer Abdullah's 4 touchdowns and 146 rushing yards. Trevor Siemian had 173 passing yards with 1 interception and Justin Jackson had 128 rushing yards. Northwestern and Under Armour broke out new uniforms that reflected the black wood signs on campus. These new uniforms were called the Gothic Uniforms, and I liked them so much I bought one and hope that these become the new permanent alternate uniforms.
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Iowa scores again.....
Northwestern lost to Iowa 48-7 on the strength of 239 yards and 1 TD from Jake Rudock and 94 yards and 3 touchdowns from Mark Weisman. Trevor Siemian had only 68 passing yards and 0 touchdowns and Justin Jackson turned in 96 rushing yards for 0 touchdowns. There's really nothing to say when you get your ass kicked like this...
Week 11: Embrace the Suck: Does anyone want to win this game?? Anyone?
Northwestern lost 10-9 against Brady Hoke's final Michigan squad. This game was over when Trevor Siemian slipped while trying to attempt a two point conversion. Michigan knew the two point conversion was coming. This was seriously the worst game of football I have ever watched. Look at the stats: -9 yards rushing!. I'm too disgusted to write any more about this game.
/ht Kevin Trahan @ InsideNU
Week 12: WE BEAT NOTRE DAME!!
Northwestern won 43-40 in overtime in South Bend against Notre Dame! Apparently South Bend is a good luck charm for Pat Fitzgerald because the last time he was there, as a player, we had the upset of the century that sparked NU's Rose Bowl run. NU Kicker Jack Mitchell hit a 45 yard field goal with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter to send the game to OT then a 41 yard field goal to win the game in OT. Trevor Siemian passed for 284 yards with for 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Justin Jackson rushed for 149 yards while Treyvon Green rushed for 67 yards. I was at this game, miserably cold, but deliriously happy at a win.
/ht Henry Bushnell @ InsideNU
Week 13: The Cats derail Purdue
Northwestern defeated Purdue 38-14 in West Lafayette on the strength of Justin Jackson's 147 rushing yards for 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately, QB Trevor Siemian injured his ankle and would be out for the rest of the season. Zack Oliver took over and passed for 85 yards. This was a miserable day at sparsely attended Ross-Ade stadium and I'm glad I stayed at home to watch the game.
Week 14: Hatless in Evanston
Northwestern lost to Illinois 47-33, sending Illinois bowling at 6-6 and saving Tim Beckman's job. Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole passed for 147 yards and 3 touchdowns and 1 turnover. NU QB Zack Oliver in his first career start passed for 221 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Justin Jackson had 130 yards rushing for 2 touchdowns.
So, the 2014 Northwestern Wildcats were a wildly inconsistent team, capable of getting their ass kicked and somehow defeating B1G West champion Wisconsin. Many fans were hoping that NU would have a new offensive coordinator by the end of the year but Pat Fitzgerald declined to make any coaching changes. One thing that was particularly frustrating was Fitzgerald's insistence on trying to run a power offense with players recruited to run a spread offense. Next season NU will have to decide on a new starting QB, and will welcome the return of Justin Jackson at RB and Anthony Walker at LB