NU 24 Illinois 14: Rapid Recap

hat hat hat

Photo Credit: The Daily Northwestern, Rafi Letzter


It was a shootout, then a blowout, then a snooze fet, then a super nerve racking finish.  The terrifying fun thing about Northwestern is that a 14 point lead feels super safe, but a 7 point lead is anyone’s game.  It’s not fun as a fan and I imagine it’s equally unfun as a coach.  And yet, Northwestern is 10 AND FREAKING 2 Y’ALL HOLY COW.  The dream of the winningest season in school history is still alive.  The debate about whether this team is as good as the other great teams at Northwestern can be had at another time.  This team wins close games. And they’ve done it enough times now that it’s a trend.  Let’s break it down.

  • Northwestern is a good team. A very good team.  This defense is so good.  Sure Illinois offense can best be described by a picture of burning refuse, but they’ve been able to score against some pretty good tams.  Against Northwestern that just wasn’t going to happen.  Anthony Walker led the charge, finishing with 14 tackles and 3.5 TFL.  He’s going to make an NFL team very happy one day.  As long as the offense can be good for a half, the defense is going to be able to carry them the rest of the way there. That’s exactly what they did today.
  • Clayton Thorson and the offense were darn good and darn efficient in the first half, let’s not forget that.  Clayton Thorson went 8-14 for 133 and score for the first 30 minutes.  He hit a beautiful bomb to Austin Carr, some nice routes on the perimeter and over the middle to Miles Shuler, and didn’t make any head scratching throws.  For those who think that Northwestern’s lack of big margin of victory wins is a product of design rather than a lack of talent, this game provides a really good example.  If Northwestern had eyes on jumping into the top 11 of the CFP rankings, a blowout might have been necessary.  For NU to win (you know, the thing that coaches are paid to do), playing it safe was just fine.
  • HOWEVER…you do play with fire when that’s your strategy.  Solomon Vault’s fumble made the game a lot more interesting.  Northwestern’s defense is still a stupid good unit so it didn’t end up costing them, but when you start grinding out clock with 30 minutes left up 14, which is what it appeared Northwestern was doing, you’re playing a dangerous game.  Eventually you’re going to get burned right?
  • THEN AGAIN…Northwestern tried throwing the ball around and Thorson threw an unlucky pick six.  Maybe I wouldn’t make a very good offensive coordinator…
  • Nick VanHoose’s injury was very scary.  Sometimes when you spend so much time covering this sport, you feel like you’re almost enabling it. Football is a very dangerous sport and it needs to be made safer. If it even can be.
  • Must be hard to be Wes Lunt. You’re wideouts can’t catch, your offensive line can’t block.  He played a decent game. Not a good game, but better than his numbers. 18-39 for 208 is a really bad line, but how many drops and throwaways were there? Like 15?  OK, maybe it wasn’t that bad.
  • Playing at Soldier Field was at the same time super cool and super bad.  The crowd eventually filled in (kinda), but for teams that claim to be Chicago’s Big Ten team, they sure do struggle to get people in the building for a rivalry game.
  • HAT HAT HAT! Hat hat? Hat, hat hat hat hat (hat hat hat). Hat hat, “hat hat hat, hat hat hat hat hat hat. Hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat hat!”

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