Miami [Ohio] 44 - NU 14

Steve was on the road this weekend, here's his report on the game...<br> <br> In the end, the Miami and Air Force games will both go into the record books in the same column, but that's about the only similarity between the two games.<br>

To put it bluntly, Saturday's loss to the Redhawks was embarassing.

It was embarassing to watch our offensive line get beat play after play by a smaller defensive line.

It was embarassing to watch our offense fail to establish any rhythm or even get a running game going to prevent a steady string of 3-and-outs.

It was embarassing to watch an officiating team who couldn't even remember the the pile-on is in bounds.

It was embarassing to watch our tackling slowly deteriorate late in the game.

And it was embarassing to see that we hadn't put last week's disappointing loss behind us.

But perhaps most embarassing of all was the attitude and class of a large group of Northwestern fans.

Allow me to digress a bit on a tangent -- while certainly not applicable to every fan, a sizable chunk of the folks at Ryan Field week in and week out are pretty lousy fans.

These are people who won't stand up and cheer on a crucial third down, but when a dippy little United Airlines t-shirt is shot from a canon 40 yards away, they're in a frenzy.

These are the people who shush and frown at you if you clap or cheer loudly, asking you to "tone it down" when all you're yelling is the old D-FENSE! cheer -- acting like you're at a tennis match or church.

These are the folks who don't say anything during a game except "here we go again" when the other team gets so much as a first down. It's not even entertaining cynicism or pessimism, just a lousy attitude.

And most embarassing of all, these are the "fans" who didn't get off their butts to clap or make some noise during the game but had the vocal chords to solidly boo for most of the last quarter. I can understand booing the pros -- it's their profession and they get paid a lot. And the refs deserved a boo chorus after that missed touchdown. But these are still college kids. No one was happy with the game and there was a lot of frustration, but booing in college is just plain classless.

If you're gonna hush those who make noise during a defensive stand, at least have the decency to keep your silence instead of booing. Utterly classless.

Like I said, not an indictment of all fans, but it wasn't just a few of these bad apples here and there the first two home games. It's a growing amount of "fans" who want golf claps, high tea and no noise unless it's a boo. Do the rest of us a favor and keep your bad attitude and your librarian shushing at home unless you're gonna come to the game ready to cheer for the Cats.

By contrast, I was impressed with the class and spirit of the large group of Miami fans who made the trek to Evanston. They weren't taunting or rubbing anything in -- they stood up and cheered their team with boisterous energy and made their presence known without becoming Cheeseheads. The fans in Evanston should have at least been taking notes, since they weren't getting on their feet to cheer.

But I digress ... back to the game, about all you can say is that the Cats better set an earlier curfew before the next 11 a.m. Big Ten kickoff because no one on the offense seemed alert out there.

The rain held off and it was actually a pretty decent day for football as things kicked off. Miami's opening drive was really the only time they had to march a full field all day. They had a couple nice third down conversions and Roethlisberger took advantage of a minimal pass rush to take the Redhawks down for six.

That was really all they needed, because the NU offense never had an answer. What was our biggest strength coming into the season, the offense, has become our greatest liability -- primarily thanks to an inexperienced and ineffective line. Miami gave Big Ten opponents a blueprint on how to stop the Cats by stacking 8 or 9 on the line all day. RB Jason Wright never got going, having 20 yards at the half on 9 carries. And when the Cats had to pass in third and long, QB Brett Basanez barely had time to take a three-step drop. The pressure came from everywhere and no one on our larger line seemed to be able to put a helmet on their defender. Basanez was knocked out late in the first half and taken to the locker room, and frankly, I was amazed he held out that long. He took a lot of nasty hits early and often on what was a long day.

The Cats defense improved after the opening drive and held out about as long as they could for the offense to get going, but in the latter part of the second half, Miami put a couple quick scores together to take over the game for good. When you give Roethlisberger a short field and plenty of time, sooner or later, he'll make you pay.

I saw some good signs from our defense. Our corners played better than they had the last two years. We got beat a couple times, but we also had some nice breakups and were at least turning around for the ball. As for the pressure, it wasn't great, but we did actually run a safety blitz once ... and it worked in the pressure, but we missed the tackle and big loss, and Miami made us pay with a TD pass the next play.

The biggest defensive weakness was the tackling, which progressively got worse as the day wore on. It wasn't a good day for the D, but this loss is more on our complete inability to even get a positive gain on offense to enhance field position or avoid a three-and-out. After a nice punt down to the one yard line, the D forced a punt and we had the ball at Miami's 40 -- but got nothing. And we only had one drive in the entire first half where we had more than one or two first downs in a row.

There just wasn't much to like at all for NU fans except a couple nice runs after the catch by the receivers and some blocks of the placekicker. The Cats didn't come to play Saturday and were outhustled, outcoached and outclassed by a better team.

This wasn't the same team NU fans saw last week, and hopefully it was an abberation by a team still stinging from a tough loss. The first thing the Wildcat players and coaches need to work on Monday in practice is offensive line play. It all starts with the line and against Miami, it ended quickly with embarassing line play.

SjT GAME BALLS

The kick block unit. One PAT blocked. One field goal blocked. A couple others darn close. Nice to see we're doing some work on special teams.

Brian Huffman. An opening punt downed at the 1, another at the 11. He had one duck, but that was late and his first off kick of many on the day and year. Hopefully the offense will give his leg a rest nextweek.

Brandon Horn
. He wore D'Wayne Bates' old number and for two plays in particular, Horn reminded Cats fans of that great wideout from South Carolina as he caught the ball, made nice cutback moves and raced down the field for big gains. The only ray of hope on a dismal offensive day.

THINGS TO WORK ON

Offensive line. We need to get some kind of running game going to have any hope. And even if we face a stacked box, at least break even instead of taking a 5 yard loss.

Offensive line. Someone better start protecting our passers or we'll have to go 20 deep on the depth chart. Blind-side blitzes, outside pressure, inside pressure -- whatever it was, we were outhustled,outmaneuvered and outplayed by a smarter, quicker and smaller defensive line today.

First down yardage. We could add a lot more than three this week. Tackling was suspect. Pass rush was pathetic (though that's an improvement over nonexistent). And our penalties were back to last year's dumb, stupid SELF-INFLICTED WOUNDS form.

But the biggest factor seemed to be our play on first down. In the first half, I only remember one or two series where we got positive yardage on first down.We'd get a five yard loss on that delayed draw (yeah. bring the QB and RB to the same spot and stand there for a few seconds so all defenders converge - real smart play call!), an idiotic penalty or a sack offthe pass rush. We just were playing from behind with second and third and long all day.

AROUND THE HORN

* I'm telling ya folks, MICHIGAN is on a mission this year. If they survive a road trap in Oregon next week, they can go on autopilot until the Buckeyes come to the Big House. Lloyd Carr's focused on coaching this year after Tressel showed him up last year by winning a title, so the Maize and Blue are on a roll and looked simply awesome in routing Notre Dame.

* On the flip side, OHIO STATE just wins, baby. They have the poise and confidence from a competent coach (are you listening, Texas?) to not fret and always win the close games. Just do enough to get the W. A scare to be sure, but they're used to it by now.

* WISCONSIN? Whaaaaaaa? Getting crushed at home by a team who lost to Kansas? I dunno how to explain it. I'm not surprised Vegas scored. I'm shocked Wisconsin couldn't. While the Big Ten's Big Two look like they could both earn BCS bids, no one seems to want that trip to Orlando.

* Well, perhaps IOWA does. At least they finally beat Iowa State. But next weekend's game with Arizona State will tell more about whether this team is ready for the big time.

* PURDUE did bounce back nicely with a hard-fought win at Wake Forest. Still no rest for Tiller in an unusually tough nonconference slate.

* MINNESOTA eats another cupcake, INDIANA finds better luck against non-Husky teams and MSU drops a big one at home. Respectively: Is hockey season here yet? Is basketball season here yet? And BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO from the folks in Spartan Stadium. Welcome to East Lansing, Mr. Smith.

* Halftime in the Rose Bowl and Lincoln. PENN STATE's offense looks as ineffective as ours. But their D is stepping up big-time [but the lost to Nebraska]. And Illinois has some grit to hang with UCLA.[But the didn't win]

Two weeks on the road might be better for the Cats. Hopefully only the real fans will return to Ryan Field in October and we'll be rewarded with better line play.

GO CATS!!! BEAT DUKE!!!


Stephen J. Truog has his own NU oriented Web site


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