Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
It's Northwestern Day here at Black Heart Gold Pants. Why only a day? Because Northwestern is too small to justify an entire week.
We've spent the last couple of days discussing this game with Lake the Posts, the only Northwestern blog we could find (just kidding, of course; he's great). We earlier linked to a set of questions sent by LTP. Now, the counter-questioning:
Every time I see footage of Pat Fitzgerald, he looks like he's auditioning for Terminator 4, and the guys who feel the need to wear wrap-around shades when it's cloudy always worry me. I know he's the prodigal son, he was being groomed for the top job from the day he was hired, and he inherited this team under the worst of circumstances. The fact remains you've had nearly 2 seasons with him, he's supposed to be a defensive specialist, and your defense has surrendered at least 28 in every conference game this season. I have to ask: Is he a legitimate Big Ten coach just in need of recruits, or is he over his head?
Hilarious. Yes, Fitz needs to be a little less programmed in his on-camera approach, but his passion is authentic despite the cliches. No one close to the program, including Fitz will try and persuade you that last year wasn't overwhelming. It essentially was a Mulligan and really put things in perspective. You've got to remember he had 7 weeks to prep for his 1st game and oh, just loss the most prolific QB in NU history (Basanez) along with his offensive coordinator and several key seniors. The big buzz in the NU circles is around the lack of improvement from the defense. Keep in mind, Fitz has inherited nearly every assistant and Greg Colby, the D-coordinator has to be in pink slip mode. Our defense simply has not improved from year to year and Colby has been here the entire decade. Fitz is no doubt a legitimate Big Ten coach, but needs to have "his" guys at the assistant positions to fully have command of the ship. He is a phenomenal recruiter, by NU standards, has great rapport with the kids on the team and they'll run through a brick wall for him. The offseason will be interesting considering we have major holes to fill on the o-line, but expectations for a 9-win season next year are already starting to surface as we return a talented senior-laden team at every skill position. The one major coaching faux paus was the inexcusable Duke loss - at HOME! - when Fitz took 3 points off the board in the 1st half to go for a 4th and 3 which we did not convert. Those points came back to haunt us as we continued to go for it on 4th b/c we were playing catchup and continued the death spiral for not taking 3 points each time. I'm happy to say he eased the pain by at least admitting fault. Most fans are willing to take some growing pains here in the first few years as long as we see improvement. The defense has zero hallmark of him - yet. His teams were the best takeaway teams in the nation, yet this group goes weeks without taking the ball away, however the D played very well last week. The 4 TOs were insurmountable. It is this type of performance and shutting down Mike Hart (he padded his stats late in the game) that leave us scratching our heads.
C.J. Bacher was one of the most highly-touted recruits Northwestern has landed in some time. He didn't have the starting job until midway through last year (due to injury). We're currently struggling with our new quarterback; how has year one been for yours?
Year one really started in game 7 last year vs Michigan State. That game is symbolic of Bacher's tenure. He put up 38 points in just over a half, but then we proceeded to stall and you know the rest - earned yet another asterisk from the dark ages for biggest collapse EVER - giving up 38 unanswered points to lose. This year has been inconsistent, yet exhilarating at times. He had the best month (October) of any QB in the history of the program, including a 2-week stretch of 990 yards passing 10 TDs and 0 INTs that was just special to watch. He also had meltdowns in the 4th vs Michigan when he coughed it up 4 times (by INTs and fumbles) and sputtered in the 4th last week vs Purdue. When he is on - be afraid - but it almost seems to be momentum one way or completely the other with CJ. If he can gain consistent play he could put up scary numbers in 2008. As it is he'll likely have the 2nd best single season passing year in NU history. He does give fans confidence that we are always in it, unfortunately we like to play to the level of the opponent and even seem to relish playing from behind. (Ed. note: Like Dr. Tobias Funke, you may just want to walk around with a tape recorder and, at the end of the day, listen to the things you said...)
"I just blue myself."
The last two times Iowa has played Northwestern (both NU wins, for those of you scoring at home), we have been absolutely ripped apart by one of your skill position players. In 2005, it was Mark Philmore shredding our secondary. Last year, Tyrell Sutton pwned us. So who's it gonna be this year? Who will haunt my dreams for the rest of November?
CJ. See above. I like this matchup for us and CJ may put up some gaudy stats as we dink you to death with 7 yard passes all day.
Um, this little guy? Really?
You are obsessed with beating ILLINI. We are obsessed with Ron Zook. As you well know, ZookHook has yet to beat Northwestern. Do you have any favorite Zook moments from those games to share?
None in particular, but you've got to love this quote which is laced with the usual "I can't believe we lost to Northwestern" garbage tone. After we stomped them (yet AGAIN) in 2005, 38-21, in Zook's first season, he had this to say: "This isn't going to happen again," said Zook, who watched his career record fall to 25-23. "This 2-9, I'm not going to go through this again, I can guarantee that." Yeah, you showed the world in 2006 didn't ya?!!!
I'm making the trip to Evanston this weekend. Any suggestions for where to tailgate? Where to get some good tickets? Where's the best postgame party? How do I avoid stumbling into one of what I'm sure are hundreds of libraries?
Yikes. You hit on my soap box. Attendance. It has been embarrassing - even by NU's worst year standards. No one has the solution, as we seem to be on the verge of yet another bowl season, but we're half empty every game. The tailgates have essentially sucked since 1995, which, as you know, is ironic since it is the start of when we became good. The frats have been moved off the parking lot grounds and thus, the atmosphere has suffered tremendously. The immediate lot to the west is the best, with the East lot being OK. Allegedly, the RV section is on the north part of campus by the soccer stadium, which allegedly Iowa brings the most of, so it could be bumblebee heaven for you there. It is a one mile walk which is great on a Fall day, especially after a loss to walk off the steam. I should know as I did that weekly for four years while I was there.