Four games into the season, it’s difficult to describe a game as must-win, particularly when you’re talking about Northwestern, and especially when the opponent is #12 Michigan. The Wolverines are 5-0 on the season, and have impressed thus far. The ‘Cats on the other hand, are in a two-losses-in-a-row slippery slope. Lose to Michigan, and that slope will get a whole lot steeper.
Most Northwestern fans are probably caught in a “what might have been” daze at this point in the season. Dan Persa finally returned against Illinois, and was effective, though not overly spectacular. He did throw for a career-high 4 touchdowns, but he threw only 14 times, and had just 123 yards.
Had Persa never been injured, this would have qualified as an average game and beyond sub-par yardage numbers. But in reality, ‘Cats fans were just happy to see him on the field.
It would be admittedly difficult to drop the “what might have been” attitude, especially after a 2-2 start. But Northwestern is just 0-1 in the Big Ten. All is not yet lost.
Persa is back, and will likely continue to be more and more effective – and thus be used more and more often – each game. This is especially true with the season ending ACL injury of top running back Mike Trumpy.
So, the new season – the Persa season – should have began with Illinois, but the ‘Cats dropped that game in spectacularly poor fashion. Thus, this week begins the new season, and almost all hopes for the remainder of 2011 rely on this game.
With a loss to Michigan, Northwestern will fall to 2-3, the team’s first losing record since 2007. Though the team has been very positive throughout this season, that loss would be a knee to morale worse than the infamous knee to the groin against Illinois.
Following the Wolverines, NU faces Iowa on the road and then Penn State at home. The team gets a one-week reprieve against Indiana before heading back on the road to face Nebraska.