Six weeks ago, Northwestern football hosted ESPN College Gameday. They were 4-0 and ranked #16 in the country. Today, the story of their season is fodder for a Tom Rinaldi piece. You know Rinaldi, the Gameday personality who does feature segments on people who've dealt with and overcome adversity. And I mean actual adversity not the "adversity" that you hear dumb sports journalists, and cliched, corporatized players and coaches speak about.
Genuine adversity is the stuff Rinaldi covers: losing loved ones, fighting in a war, battling a life-threatening illness, disfigurement and disabilities. The meaningless platitude of "adversity" you incessantly hear in sports media sessions is: trailing in a football game, being an idiot and getting suspended, having to play your third stringers because of injuries. Rinaldi's pieces always end on an uplifting note; we're still waiting for that with Northwestern football.
What's happened to Northwestern football this year since October 5th is somewhere between adversity and "adversity." Either way, it's misery. It's been a nightmare. Or a train wreck, this six game losing streak is ripe for metaphorical representation. As NU has lost in every single possible way you can think of. And also lost in ways that you could never imagine.
And it's even turned Northwestern football into a verb.
#Northwesterning is a real thing.
— Nick Shepkowski (@Shep670) November 17, 2013
That's Nick Shepkowski of WSCR 670 The Score talking about #Northwesterning. It means not closing the deal; having a victory in hand, but somehow finding a way to lose. Even when victory seems inevitable. It's like the Cubbies of college football. Northwesterning actually began last year, with 4th quarter blown leads to Nebraska and Michigan, Ypsilanti's Big Ten team.
Today's triple overtime 27-19 loss to a very bad and equally October overrated Michigan team is yet another chapter in this sad saga. We'll break that down at the end of this post. Today's loss unofficially ended the NU bowl hopes. It all but guaranteed that they will not make the postseason.
Of course at Illinois things are even worse. You had Tim Beckman vs Bill Cubit, on the Illini football sideline. Here’s a GIF of the heated exchange, as the Illinois Head Coach had to be separated from his offensive coordinator by Illini assistants.
Let's recap Northwestern football, the road from 4-0 to 4-6.
The most hyped game at NU since 1995, the ESPN College Gameday event saw a ten point 4th quarter lead dissipate. A chance to make a national statement by ending the nation's longest winning streak...slipped away. They were outscored 27-7 in the final 19 minutes.The Buckeyes are still undefeated, but they have their own issues. They won't likely reach the BCS title game, and then there's the whole cheerleaders getting sexually harassed by cheerleading coaches thing,
Did OSU beat Northwestern football twice? Maybe. Maybe not. This was just a thorough whipping all around; in all facets by a much more physical and much more talented football team. This one was over at the coin toss.
What seemed like the easiest game left on paper. Northwestern football was double digit favorites heading into the "Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Play-in game." The coaches told the players what the Gophers QB was going to do on the play that iced the game, before it happened. The Northwestern defense knew what was coming; but still couldn't stop it.
Questionable coaching decisions and clock management. We can debate endlessly if we would have done the same things Pat Fitzgerald did in the closing minutes of regulation. NU fumbled at the Iowa 35 with 3:13 left in regulation. #Northwesterning really became "a thing" on this day on social media.
You know this one: the 50 yard Hail Mary pass as time expired. It was a national story. Northwestern football would have cost Bo Pelini his job if they could have just knocked down a desperate last second heave; by the third string QB no less. The career of Taylor Martinez has been over for awhile. Pelini may be dismissed anyway, we'll see. Anyways, #Northwesterning really started to take off as an idea on this Saturday. And the Northwestern secondary even made RK3 a local celebrity.
Entered the game on the heels of national controversy over polarizing jingoistic uniforms. PR nightmare for a couple weeks was forgotten and then overshadowed by how this one ended. It was as ugly and boring a football game as you will find for three quarters (tied 3-3 at half, 9-9 at end of regulation). Tide turned when NU punter Brandon Williams shanked a 7 yard punt.
I've never seen an unblocked punt travel so short. I've never seen an unblocked punt result in first and goal after the possession change. I've also never seen a last second field goal so beautifully executed, in such a short time (by Michigan) to tie it as time expired. It was an incredible loss all around. But maybe the Michigan Offensive Coordinator will get fired over this.
Northwestern placekicker Jeff Budzien after the game:
"If you'd of said we'd be 4-6 at this point in the year I'd have laughed at you."
Pat Fitzgerald said the game can be summed up as "missed opportunities." The defense dropped seven potential interceptions today, by Fitzgerald's account. Fitz on missed picks:
"How do I explain it? I don't."
I can't explain the karma of this losing streak either. It's unprecedented and unfathomable.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the nation; with regular weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSS
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Filed under: Northwestern