I’m just going to post the recap I wrote when Northwestern let Purdue 31-27 going into the fourth quarter and it looked like Purdue would march down the field and win the game:
Northwestern, Fitzgerald galaxy-brain themselves out of a vital Big Ten West road win
Maybe it was the 10 stutter steps leading to a shanked Jake Collins punt on 4th and 1 from midfield.
Maybe it was going deep on 2nd and 1 when Jeremy Larkin had been getting yards all day.
...no, on third thought, it was the asinine decision to open up on the road, in a must-win (and winnable) Big Ten West game, with a healthy Clayton Thorson, and yet still trot out backup TJ Green who, while able to push a pile for a touchdown, just did not need to be out there, no matter how often you cut to his dad in the stands.
This one lays at the feet of Pat Fitzgerald.
An important caveat: Purdue’s offense could move the ball on Northwestern, seemingly at will if they realized, as so many opponents in years past have, that Northwestern’s defensive backs spent great deals of time playing about 10 yards off the wide receivers. Elijah Sindelar’s drunken decision-making notwithstanding, the ‘Cats secondary did not have a particularly outstanding game (though let’s give some love to Nate Hall and his interception).
But this one comes back to the same bullshit we Northwestern fans have gotten used to under Pat Fitzgerald, particularly in the last few years. Fitz opted to release a depth chart and injury report that only applied to the two-deep...and only included Clayton Thorson. His pitch count will no doubt be met with absolute scorn and disdain for the media members who have dared question his decision-making. His prickly, trollish demeanor is at least understandable when you contain it to the members of the media and injuries--after all, it’s not like he’s lying about knowing about domestic violence or player malfeasance. He’s the winningest coach in Northwestern history, he’s PAID, and he is running a program that wins on average something like 7-8 games a year and now has won two consecutive bowl games.
But that prickly, trollish bullshit extended onto the field at Ross-Ade Stadium tonight. TJ Green should not be managing drives in the third quarter of a game where Clayton Thorson is on the sideline, healthy and able to play. Jeremy Larkin should run the fucking game when Purdue cannot stop him. In a season where Northwestern CAN contend--or, now, COULD HAVE contended--for the Big Ten West, Pat Fitzgerald galaxy-brained himself out of yet another race.
And there’s nothing we can do about it, because he’s Pat Fitzgerald. This is just the normal at Northwestern.
And, honestly, it didn’t go much differently than that. A completely boneheaded play by Lorenzo Neal, throwing Jeremy Larkin to the ground after the standout RB had been held up at the line, cost Purdue a shot to get the ball back when a Northwestern penalty set the ‘Cats back to 1st and 20.
Two horrible interceptions by Elijah Sindelar bookended a third pick where LB Nate Hall made a helluva grab, and going +3 in the take-give bailed Fitzgerald’s ass out. This was fucking miserable, and perhaps the only praise I can give is to Jake Collins’ non-stutter-step punts and the halftime adjustment to actually take away Rondale Moore, who was absolutely ridiculous in setting a Purdue record (not just for a freshman, mind you) for all-purpose yards in a game. That kid will be damn good.
Whatever. Ultimately, Northwestern is 1-0, will be atop the Big Ten West standings for a month, and I suppose I should be happy with that. The ‘Cats took a game they should have owned from the get-go and turned it into a shitshow. Fitz will spin this into “building depth” and we’ll roll our eyes and drink it away.
And there’s nothing we can do about it, because that’s Pat Fitzgerald. This is just the normal at Northwestern.