The buzz surrounding Northwestern football was certainly quieted today with a 35-6 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. The hype machine surrounding NU hit climax last week with ESPN College Gameday coming to Evanston, and then the ABC primetime showdown with Ohio State. That contest of much ballyhoo ended in a “missed it by that much” and emotional drain of a loss.
Today’s defeat, by contrast, was an utter destruction from the very beginning.
It sort of reminds me of a pivotal scene in the 2000 Roland Emerich film “The Patriot.” In the Revolutionary War movie, Tom Wilkinson plays famous British General Lord Charles Cornwallis. After achieving an advantage, the Officer subordinate to Cornwallis tells him:
“But my Lord, you’ve taken the field!”
“And now we shall take their spirits! Send the entire battalion over the hill and CRUSH THEM!”
“It ends today!”
Cornwallis/Wilkinson says with prodigious bombast, instructing his Commander to make an extremely aggressive maneuver to finish off the American rebellion. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Not in the film’s fictional representation of the Battle of Cowpens nor in your grade school history book)
Today was for Northwestern football, that crush. Wisconsin's defense destroyed them with a force of an entire battalion. Following up a significant setback. Last weekend was a bad loss. What happened in Madison today hurts much more.
And yes, something did “end today.” All that extra media hype and additional buzz surrounding Northwestern football.
I respect and admire David Haugh and Rick Telander, but both wrote a couple columns that greatly overrated NU this season. I doubt they'll produce any cheerleading-in-newspaper form this week; or the next.
And I'm guilty of it too. I wrote a few pieces this fall greatly hyping up this team. But at least I never predicted they would be BCS bound. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times had the Wildcats going to the Orange Bowl in the preseason. The Big Ten Network’s website had the purple in Pasadena, as of this week! Of course, that same bowl projection had the Illini actually making a bowl and Ohio State in the National Title game, so take it with a grain of salt. And it is BTN to begin with, so of course the bowl projections will all be inflated.
Northwestern football began the year ranked #22 and had ascended to #16 last week. However, it’s safe to repeat the phrase of Cornwallis, “it ends today,” regarding Northwestern football being ranked one of the top 25 teams in college football. Also ending today was NU’s streak of at least 21 points; at exactly 21 games.
“I hope it gives our guys a punch right in the face,” Northwestern football Coach Pat Fitzgerald said of his team following the loss.
“I hope it wakes them up,” Fitz added.
Fitzgerald was really good in the press conference today. He was in a great mood when you consider the outcome. He even told a few jokes.
“The bright spot of this would be all of our fans getting home safely,” he said. Before later referencing a play which occurred on “4th and a gazillion.”
A Northwestern staffer tried to hand Fitzgerald a stat sheet during his postgame interview.
"That's OK," Fitzgerald replied. "I saw it."
And if you watched the game, you certainly don’t need to see the box score either. This was domination. And Fitzgerald dealt with the media in a very professional and very classy manner following that walloping.
A lot of people boarded the Northwestern football bandwagon last Saturday. A bunch of them hopped off on Sunday. It’s likely many more will head for the exit tonight as well. Some of the 81, 411 Badger fans in attendance were chanting “overrated” towards the end of this one.
For now, and the time being, yes Northwestern football will not be in the national polls.
The trip to Madison was indeed entirely crushing. But they will be back again. And sooner than you think. Fitzgerald is really building something in Evanston. Yes, despite the result today.
Remember, the Wildcats lost here by a margin of 70-23 to end the 2010 season. They rebounded from that loss to make a bowl game the next two years, and start this year 4-0. And General Cornwallis did lose that battle; and the war.
Hear my Northwestern football segments every Tuesday on KOZN 1620 The Zone Omaha.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan and 1620 The Zone, he also writes for Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks), Facebook, and RSS
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