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Northwestern 2019 Offense Preview

Things are looking good with a 5 star transfer qb and a bell-cow running back named after a classic Nintendo villain, and a noted fan of professional wrestling coaching the OL

NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

For the last few years, except last year, Northwestern fans have been treated to an offense composed of current Philadelphia Eagles QB Clayton Thorson and LA Chargers running back Justin Jackson THE BALLCARRIER™ with amazing wide receivers like Austin Carr and Flynn Nagel.

Last year, things were different.

Let’s talk Running Backs

Justin Jackson graduated a year before Clayton Thorson, so last year Northwestern fans though J.J. Larkin, nephew of Cincinnati Reds star Barry Larkin, would be our feature back the entire season.

JJ Larkin’s expected career came to a sudden halt, and he retired due to cervical stenosis.

The Mayo Clinic defines cervical stenosis as this:

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck.

I had a mediocre high school football career my freshman and sophomore year as an tall and skinny offensive and defensive lineman, and my last year someone jammed my neck with a football helmet after a tackle. I was out for a few days, and I’m not entirely sure my neck will be the same. For several reasons, I decided that six years (four of parochial school football, 2 of high school football) was enough. I still worry my about my neck from that injury, 20+ years later.

Anyway, this story isn’t about me. It’s about Northwestern’s offense.

With JJ Larkin gone, Northwestern’s offense struggled.

Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall cycled through a few running backs: John Moten IV, NU Legend Damien Anderson’s son Drake Anderson (holy shit time flies), fan favorite Chad Hanoaka, special teams ace Solomon Vault and Jesse Brown.

I was sitting in the stands of Ryan Field, hungover and upset at our crappy ground game and decided to look at our roster. Lo and behold, the biggest running back on our roster was a true freshman from Ohio named Isaiah Bowser. I figured, what the hell, our running game sucks, so let’s give the ball to the biggest kid on the backfield.

I had the misfortune of taking this photo when the ‘Cats were almost on the verge of losing to Buttgers (no one should suffer through committing a Buttfense)... Still, I was watching 4 B1G teams play at once! Thank you YouTube TV and RCN. (I should really cut the cord and just go with YouTube TV.)

Anyway, once the NU game started, I was tweeting FEED BOWSER!

And eventually, once Bowser was fed the football and we were racking up wins, I was feeling like this:

Other teams thought they could win, like the miscreants west of the Mississippi:

But they couldn’t beat us, so NU fans were like:

And then we were feeling like:

At some point the NU Athletic department picked up on the Ray Ransom level of memeing on Twitter and made this:

Oh shit, did I get carried away with the fact our running back for the next three seasons has the last name of a Nintendo villain? And has the potential to like Justin Jackson for the next three years?



This poll is closed

  • 100%
    FEED BOWSER!!!!!
    (57 votes)
57 votes total Vote Now

Sorry ‘bout that. My bad.

FWIW, Bowser will be backed up this season by John Moten IV, Drake Anderson and Jesse Brown.

Let’s talk about Quarterbacks.

After last season, Northwestern said goodbye to Clayton Thorson, and welcomed 5 star quarterback transfer Hunter Johnson from Clemson University!!!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 14 Clemson Spring Game

Now some of you wiseasses are probably thinking, how in the name of Otto Graham did the MILDCATS get a QB that good?

Well, we’ve had some luck with highly rated transfers before.

A few years ago Northwestern welcomed 5 star wide receiver transfer Kyle Prater from USC. Prater was a highly-touted prospect from a Proviso West, a high school located in Hillside, a suburb just west of Chicago. Prater managed to get a hardship waiver and play immediately.

Unfortunately, Prater’s body had enough of football, and his career at NU was not what we though it would be. Still, the kid got an NU degree and will excel at life.

If we’re talking QB transfers, then right at the turn of the millennium, Northwestern managed to snag the services of Zak Kustok, a QB transfer from Notre Dame. Kustok led the ‘Cats to a share of the 2000 Big Ten Title (with the industrial arts school from northwest indiana and that middling liberal arts school from ann arbor), right in the middle of the coaching transition from Gary Barnett to Randy Walker!

Hunter Johnson’s brother Cole Johnson played at NU and Fitz recruited Hunter, so he was familiar with NU. He would’ve stayed at Clemson, but the Tigers have an embarrassment of riches at QB and he would’ve gotten no playing time behind Trevor Lawrence.

Honestly I’d be surprised if Hunter Johnson does not beat out Trent Green’s son TJ Green Andrew Marty, Aidan Smith and Jason Whittaker.

Let’s just assume that Hunter Johnson will be the starting quarterback once the ‘Cats take the field against Stanford at the beginning of this season. Good? Good.

Let’s talk about the Offensive Line.

I’ve been quite unhappy with NU Offensive Line coach Adam Cushing for the past few years and have fervently wished for his replacement/retirement/tossing into Lake Michigan. Thankfully, Eastern Illinois University decided to hire him as their football coach!


I’ll be a cranky fan and blame our non-con losses the past few seasons on shitty OL play. Honestly, why should a B1G team that wins bowls games and last season it’s division lose to such esteemed paragons of football like ILLINOIS STATE AND AKRON?!?!?!?


I blamed Cushing!

Pat Fitzgerald promoted Michigan grad and former center (97-01) Kurt Anderson from Quality Control analyst to OL Coach after Cushing left. Anderson previously coached up the offensive line for Bert Bielema’s Arksansas squad’s after coaching the OL for the Buffalo Bills and Eastern Michigan.

Kurt Anderson has been on a recruiting tear lately, snagging some of the best OL recruits in program history.

In the interim, Coach Anderson welcomes back 2 returning starters in Rashawn Slater and Jared Thomas Jr, and has to pick three new starters.



This poll is closed

  • 100%
    (41 votes)
41 votes total Vote Now

Let’s talk about wide receivers and superbacks (tight ends)

On the superback side, Cam Green retired and it looks like Trey Pugh will be man.

On the wide receiver side, Flynn Nagel and Charley Fessler departed and the returning starters are Bennett Skowronek, Riley Lees and Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman.

Flynn Nagel was one of my favorite players, so it stinks to see him go, but I think the wide receiving corps is in good hands. Cam Green’s retirement is worrisome.

I think it will all work itself out.

Let’s wrap this up

Friends, I’m feeling really good about this offense. Having a good running back like Bowser that can eat up the clock takes pressure off the QB. I still have bad memories of our early spread offense days when our defense was on the field all damn day because we couldn’t establish the run. There’s nothing more satisfying than running a team off the field.

Kurt Anderson’s coaching should help improve the offensive line play. BRING ON THE TRENCH CATS!

Hunter Johnson is a gift, and I’d like to see how different he’ll be from Thorson. I think he’ll adapt to his wide receivers quite well.



How do you feel about three more seasons of Bowser memes?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Love it
    (63 votes)
  • 16%
    (18 votes)
  • 12%
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    My team sucks and I’m jealous
    (2 votes)
  • 10%
    Pete Mote
    (11 votes)
107 votes total Vote Now