As we stumble aimlessly through yet another off-season, I got a little sentimental. This September will mark ten years since I was dropped off at Northwestern for band camp, a skinny, fresh-faced, totally-not-jaded kid excited for college and what life had in store.
This turned dark in a hurry.
Our conversation in Slack, though—or maybe somewhere else—turned toward a central question of what Northwestern football has been over the last decade. The Wildcats’ reputation for wide-open offense and...questionable...defense has flipped, with Pat Fitzgerald remaking the program to be more Gary Barnett, less Randy Walker. And that prompted, for me, a question:
What would you say is your program’s most characteristic win (read: NOT NECESSARILY BEST) of the last decade? Not like, just a win over a rival or a Big Ten Championship or whatever, but the one that, if you were to show a person “This is what [insert team] football winning has looked like for the last decade,” was, which game would it be?
No, Thump, it cannot be a loss.
This sparked...well, an interesting discussion. I’ve just kind of copied and pasted the responses, mostly in order...scroll on, if you dare.
MNW: I am very, very tempted to say Northwestern 14, Iowa 10 (at Kinnick, 2018), but I think a better one may be Northwestern 17, Iowa 10 (at Kinnick, 2009), because it didn’t actually result in anything positive happening for anyone in the long run and involved a lot of injuries and stupid plays.
Edit: And, of course, Iowa fans bitching about refs because that’s their MO irrespective of sport.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Aaron Yorke: Either Wisconsin in 2016 (B1G title) or at Iowa in 2017 capture the excitement of the Franklin era. Against Wisconsin, they showed off the “second-half team” thing that has made Trace McSorley such a legend. Against Iowa, they dominated most of the game, then gave up a couple of big plays and had McSorley and Barkley bail them out late.
Creighton M: As much as I want to say 55-24....
...it’s 1,000x more accurate to say Iowa 14-7 rutger in 2016.
Stewmonkey13: What I want to say is PSU 2009 or Georgia Tech in the orange bowl. Take a haymaker or two, and then just strangle the opponent. 10 point win that’s far closer than it should be, but also feels like a 20 point game.
But it’s probably more like the 2015 UNL or Minnesota games. Better for almost the entire game, don’t take advantage of opportunities, let the opponent back in the game late, but salt the game away late with a defensive stand.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
White Speed Receiver: Jesus. You’re going to make me scour the Brewster, Kill, Claeys, and Fleck eras to find the most Minnesota win?
2011 Iowa. [MNW note: For those not in the know, that was when interim HC Jeff Horton and the fearsome backfield duo of MarQueis Gray and Duane Bennett lifted the Gophers to a home upset of Iowa, somehow.]
Oh! OOOOOH! Honorable mention goes to the 2014 San Jose State game. 24-7 win, 1 completion for 7 yards.
Jesse Collins: It’s gotta be @Iowa in 2014. LOOK AT THIS BULLSHIT.
Stupid game, meaningless play, talented team, bad effort early, terrible defense, and then a comeback to almost save Pelini, who got fired anyways. Oh, and the win was at least 75% because the other team did literally the one thing they shouldn’t do - which at the time was punt to our only weapon multiple times because sure, why the hell not Kirk.
If not that, it’s McNeese State. And fuck that win.
I almost want to go with the Hail Mary vs. NW in that lolol we won on a fucking hail mary and would go on to have terrible karmic consequences under Riley, but no...
Pelini getting a win at Iowa (something we haven’t done since) and then getting fired after pretty much talking shit about how big a deal it was is pretty high on my list of what Nebraska football this decade has been all about.
But yeah, 2014 was bullshit.
We were a Tommy Armstrong INT at the MSU 37 away from a 9-0 start that also was as close to a 7-2 (or worse depending on how you feel about how the Miami game actually went) start with a loss to FCS McNeese State who would go on to be a 6-5 non-plaoff qualifier. We got MURDERED by Wisconsin for refusing to cover the Jet Sweep for the millionth time,and would get picked off by an ok Minnesota team in a game I regret going to.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Thumpasaurus: Tough call:
- 2018 Kent state was pretty Illinois, going down 17-3 at the half in the first game of what was supposed to be an improved season against an eventual 2 win team, coming back to win 31-24 losing beloved senior captain Mike Dudek in the process.
- 2017 opening the season against a god awful ball state team that would finish winless in Mac play, trailing late in the game, winning by blocking a short game winning field goal.
- Perhaps the comeback against Youngstown state in 2014? I mean it could also be the 2014 penn state game, where the worst kicker in recent memory nailed a game winner to seal a victory that NOBODY understands.
- Nebraska 2015 is up there, by virtue of the opponent executing the only strategy that could possibly result in an illini victory.
Ok so it probably can’t be a P5 win because less than half of ours in that timeframe are. Definitely can’t be B1G, we’ve won ten of those in the last seven years—
MNW: Just answer the fucking question.
Thump: Kent state 2018 it is. An embarrassing win that felt like a loss against the worst team in the MAC. Welcome to Champaign, home of the embarrassing win.
beezer 07: At Purdue this year wasn’t bad. Just hand the ball off over and over until your superior O Line can just grind the D down.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
ZuzuRU: In the B1G, definitely the Michigan win. Not because it was impressive because Michigan was in a down year, but because it was our first B1G win over a historic B1G team and really for Rutgers fans at least made us feel like we belong.
Prior to that I’m actually partial to smacking Arkansas two years in a row or the Washington State game away because it showed we could comfortably tango with mediocre OOC teams. Those were the days... /sigh
DJ Carver: It would have to be a sequence like beating Texas (again!) and then losing to fucking Temple. Never consistent, pull off random big wins only to dick trip all over the place within the next two weeks against a team they should handily beat.
But hey, we beat Texas two years in a row ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Michigan State Spartans
Andrew Kraszewski: This one cooked the ol’ noodle.
I considered all the brutalist works of defensive art (B1GCCG 2015 springs immediately to mind), the closer-than-they-should’ve-been non-conference escapes, but it’s probably the last second, how did they manage that escape win, especially against the best opponents, that best describes this era of MSU football, so give me last year’s Penn State game—only a win because Brian Lewerke under-threw the decisive pass so badly that the corner found himself out of position.
Candystripes for Breakfast: Um, Indiana’s football identity IS characteristic of “close, but no cigar”, so I defy you to find a win of ours that fits this bill, because boy howdy are there plenty of losses.
I can give you two games that are absolutely IU football in a nutshell: vs OSU in 2017, and 55-52 vs Rutgers (aka the game that shan’t be spoken of again).
Thump: I would say MSU in 2016 fits for you then. YES WE FINALLY DID IT oh wait it turns out MSU is very bad suddenly. Got the breakthrough win only to find out by season’s end that no, it wasn’t.
Candystripes: This is a very true statement^
Creighton M: Lmao Iowa is involved in all of your characteristic wins. And there’s a reason for this:
1: We all hate our goddamn teams
2: Iowa plays everyone dirty and rarely gets blown out or wins big
(55-24 being an exception)
Anything else you can think of? Tell us the win that defines your program over the last decade.