SjT: One Half - Whole Win

A tale of two halves today in <b>Happy Valley</b>. The first half looked very much like last year's <b>NU-PSU</b> struggle that no team was able to seize control of until that tipped TD pass to <b>Brandon Horn</b>. <p>[This year it was the defense and ground game that turned it around].

At one point the Game Chatters joked about NRR, NRL, NRM, NRTD.
But even the first half looked like the Cats Offense had stalled - even Noah Herron [the N in the code above] wasn't having a terrific game...but as Steve continues...
The second half, however, looked like the Illinois game last year. Noah Herron [Getty Images left] left. Noah right. Noah everywhere and our O-line looking absolutely dominant. This time, it was against a heck of a defense to boot.

By the end of the day, it added up to a big win for Northwestern, 14-7!

We should have put this one away early but weren't able to capitalize on the 7-0 lead and make it two scores against the woeful PSU offense. We had a nice drive going in the middle of the second, but an outburst of penalties turned 1st and 10 into 3rd and 33. Ugh.

Then that turnover right before half killed us -- we were running the ball so well the two prior plays and had plenty of time to move downfield, but just made a bad pass. The blocked field goal killed, too.

But what an amazing second half effort from our offensive line and Noah Herron. What more can you say about these guys? Noah took a big shot, got back up and -- with the help of his line -- ran over one of the better defenses in the nation.

Nice to see Jonathan Fields [Getty Images-right] step up a little -- but we really missed Mark Philmore on the returns. And Baz bounced back nicely from the pickoff and hit some big passes (spreading it around nicely to the tight end and more!) on that second TD drive. And that Kim Thompson drop of a sure TD ... aaarrrgggh! But he's a frosh and will learn.

So you think JoePa wishes they had replay a couple years back?:) They made the right call both times, but the refs initially ruled both NU's ball. So without replay, that'd be two more bad calls against PSU.

But overall, a huge win for the Cats. This not only keeps alive bowl hopes - but also hopes of finishing above .500 in Big Ten play with one or two more wins. That could be big in determining what bowl we go to if and when we get those two more needed wins.

Plus, it's a win AT Penn State. In the last decade of NU football, we've now seen the Cats beat every team at least once and win at every opposing stadium save Ohio Stadium. Along the way, three Big Ten titles in a decade and still on track to get 5 bowl berths in a decade. Looking where Northwestern football has been the last few decades, there's no doubt we've come a long way. Still a ways to go (a bowl WIN would be nice:) ), but let's not lose sight.

And for this year's team, to come back after two heartbreakingly close losses to start the season and work their way back into this position at this point really says a lot about the coaches and these kids. We've been banged up and counted out -- but we're playing some good football right now, especially on our lines -- stopping the run on D and opening running lanes on O. Now we get to see how far we've come by matching up against what looks to be the Big Ten's most talented team (certainly on a roll as of late) in the Big House.

Around the league ...
* MSU came back from 17 down early, but lost late to OSU. This shakes up the bowl picture even more ... for MSU, it means they need to run the table hosting Wisconsin and visiting PSU and Hawaii. For OSU, it gets them 6 wins, so all they need to worry about with playing at Purdue and hosting Michigan is bowl position. (Alamo battle next week at West Lafayette?:) )

On an NU note - that helps eliminate some competition unless MSU runs the table (which they could do). Though Indiana is making a hard charge as well for a 6-5 season.

All the other games are late, but Iowa/Purdue might be an Outback (or even Citrus - if we get two BCS teams or Iowa runs the table and knocks of Wisky as well) showdown ... the axe game looks to be another notch in Minny's freefall ... and Indiana/Illinois are already airing it out, scoring 33 in the first quarter alone.

But for now, all that matters is that the Cats get a HUGE road win to move to 4-2 in Big Ten play and keep bowl hopes alive. It was a nice team effort, but you just gotta love the play of our O-line and Noah in that second half.

GO CATS!!! BEAT MICHIGAN!!!
-SjT


Stephen J. Truog has his own NU oriented Web Site
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