Then it appeared like the wheels came off...well maybe not.Now they have demonstrate that they can win.
I suspect the turning point of the game was the Harridge ejection. Chance Harridge was not having a very good day, most likely because he was getting slammed every time he held the football. He was used to all the plays working, and Saturday, the NU defense made sure they didn't.
Harridge's ejection opened up the door for another QB, and gave the Air Force team something to rally behind. The Falcons are a bunch of Seniors - playing their last season of football and they are a group of men who have been trained to react to adversity. They were not going to go quietly, and they didn't.
But once again, the defense didn't break. Give any team 3 interceptions and they're going to get some points. The key to NU's success in the early quarters last Saturday was keeping Air Force pinned in their end of the field, back where they became more predictable, and stopable.
So the Wildcat Defense never did really break. Both Air Force touchdowns in the fourth quarter, in fact all the points, came off interceptions. One was when the Offense was on the field.
So, do we blame the offense?
There were rumbles that Jason Wright had hamstring problems, all denied later. Regardless of an injury to the #1 back, Noah Herron [3-9/3-67 &-2 TDs] and Terrell Jordan [2-12/2-39] seemed to pick up the slack.
Those who would question the apparent drop off in the rushing attack should remember that coming in Air Force was pretty good at run stopping, and given what I saw from the Kansas game, I'd build my defense around stopping Wright. It appears thats what the Falcons did.
So, what's left? Play calling? I've heard complaints that the Cats went conservative, tried to not lose the ball, didn't show a killer instinct.
It seems to me that all three interceptions came off the type of plays that went for big yardage last week. The Air Force's Falcon Backs are hybrid linebacker/safeties. You should be able to pass on them, the way you can usually pass on a one to one linebacker matchup.
But it seems to me that Brett's passes were getting tipped by the defensive linemen. Not the kind of thing that makes for good completions, and not the kind of thing you can work on in QB drills.
The Coaches have now watched the films, and probably know what broke down. They'll take the necessary step to work on what failed. The results should be obvious against Miami of Ohio.
I suspect that if you really dig down deep you'll agree that Northwestern lost last Saturday to a good team that, instead of folding when the team's leader was ejected, finally reacted to the intensity of the game. Prior to the fumble, the punch and the ejection, Air Force was on its heels looking for leadership.
Harridge cracked, and paid a price, but his ejection provided the spark that put his team back on track. They awoke, tightened up their defense, played the other facet of their offense, and came back to win.
Whatever your opinion of what caused the outcome, the Wildcats demonstrated Saturday that they can be a very good football team, and that they can play the game.
-- da Coach
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