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STATE OF THE WILDCATS
Posted By Ben Chiswick On Jan 8 2011 @ 1:42 pm In Northwestern | No Comments
New Year’s is always an exciting time. We reminisce about the conquests and failures of the past year while looking ahead optimistically to the prospects the next 365 days may bring.
It is a time of reflection. What went wrong? What went right? What totally came out of left field to catch everybody by surprise?
It is a time of forecasting. How can we improve? What changes do we have to make to maximize our potential for the coming year?
So, without further ado, here is the breakdown – and a preview – of what Northwestern Wildcats fans have to look forward to following the conclusion of the 2010-11 college football season.
THE GOOD: All in all, the Wildcats put together another solid season, continuing a run of success that has included bowl eligibility in six of their last eight years. They started 7-3 with a top-15 win to their credit, led by a First Team All-Big Ten performer in quarterback Dan Persa.
THE BAD: Despite the early success, Persa’s injury keyed a late-season skid that started with embarrassing losses in the final two regular season games and ended with a 45-38 defeat in the TicketCity Bowl to Texas Tech.
THE UGLY: Northwestern is getting to bowl games. They’re just not winning them. The school’s lone bowl victory was a 20-14 triumph over Cal in the 1949 Rose Bowl. Since, they have lost eight consecutive post-season games. All have come since 1996 and six have come this century. Two of the last three years have featured bowl games with overtime losses while each of the last three have come down to one-possession games.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE 2010 WILDCATS: While the hot start left reason for optimism, the Wildcats’ weaknesses were their reliance on Persa and an under-performing defense. Without Persa running the show, the offense sputtered in the hands of his freshman replacements. Despite staunch play early in the season, the defense ultimately imploded by season’s end when it allowed 848 rushing yards and 118 points in the final two regular season games.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE 2011 WILDCATS: The future is definitely bright in Evanston. Persa’s injury-shortened season was stellar (3,100 total yards, 24 total touchdowns), and motivation won’t be an issue when he returns for his senior campaign next fall. He’ll have his top target coming back in Jeremy Ebert (62 catches, 953 yards, 8 touchdowns), a fellow senior that was also named to a First Team All-Big Ten squad. The fantastic 2010 freshman class should provide quite an impact with the likes of Mike Trumpy and Adonis Smith in the backfield, Venric Mark on both offense and special teams, and some sort of involvement for the dynamic Kain Colter – perhaps wideout – after his impressive showing during the TicketCity Bowl. Despite the positive outlook for the offense, the defense will take a hit with the loss of four senior starters (DT Corbin Bryant, LB Quentin Davie, LB Nate Williams, CB Justan Vaughn). Kicker Stefan Demos is also a senior, so defense and special teams will both need new faces to step up and contribute in order to keep pace with what should be a prolific offense.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Isn’t this why we love sports? The tantalizing prospects of a big season are dashed, but before the curtain goes down the audience gets a little teaser of the potential to come. I love Persa and Ebert in 2011. I love the current freshman class taking over the offense by 2012. If Pat Fitzgerald can restock the defense to keep pace, this is a team that could be a dark horse challenger for the Big Ten crown sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, you will have to get your kicks somewhere else for the next eight months or so. If it helps you bide the time at all, the ‘Cats 2011 schedule can be found here .
Until then… it’s been a pleasure!
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