Cats roar in opener

Northwestern quickly disposed of Towson in Saturday's season-opener. Mike Kafka was efficient, the running backs -- more than one -- looked good and the defense smother the Tigers while forcing four first-half three-and-outs. Still, you have to wonder how good of a gauge Towson is.

First off, apologies for taking a few days off recently. My brother is getting married this weekend, and I have been immersed in family and friend festivities. There shouldn't be any more weddings coming up, so I'll be able to devote myself better in the coming weeks. (Luckily the wedding came during Towson week, and not when there was a real game.)

OK, there's my apology. Now, about the Towson game…

It's hard to tell what to make of this one. Northwestern looked even better than I look in my wedding-day suit, but man, Towson just sucked.

The question, of course, then becomes, Was Towson so abysmal because Northwestern was on-point? Or did Northwestern so thoroughly dismantle the Tigers because, well, they're Towson?

Northwestern indeed looked good, but I would lean toward the latter.

The most telling stretch of this 47-14 beatdown came at the beginning of the second quarter, when Dan Persa – on his first pass of the season – tossed a 72-yard touchdown to a wide-open Andrew Brewer. It was good stuff from Persa and Brewer, sure, but what happened next shows you just how crummy Towson is.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Towson return man opted to let the ball bounce…and then bounce between his legs…and then he returned it all the way out to the seven yard-line.

The comedy continued: On first down, the quarterback ran the wrong way. On second down, the ball clanked right off the receiver's hands. And third down was a hapless no-gain screen pass.

Oh, there's more. After the QB faked himself out, and after the receiver swatted the ball away, and after Towson showed you how not to run a screen, the long-snapper air-mailed the ball over the punter's head and through the end zone. Safety. Sad. 30-0.

So yeah, Towson is bad, even when Northwestern didn't force them into mistakes. And when Northwestern did force the Tigers into mistakes, they would do things like commit two penalties on their first two plays, or have four three-and-outs in the first half, or allow Northwestern to outgain them 257-30 at one point.

To be fair, though, the Wildcats did some things well too.

Quarterback Mike Kafka was throwing darts and completed his first six passes – including a 27-yarder on third-and-17, which was his first pass of the day. He completed eight of his first nine passes and finished an uberefficient 15-of-20 for 192, good for 9.6 yards per attempt.

The running backs looked solid, especially Arby Fields, who scored two touchdowns on his first four carries. He gained 48 yards on just six carries, good for an average of eight yards (and .33 touchdowns) in his college debut. Even Stephen Simmons, who averaged 2.9 yards per carry last season, netted 77 yards and averaged 4.3 yards per run. And on his few scampers, Kafka showed flashes of his running acumen as well (though he ended with only six yards).

I think that's enough of a recap. If you watched the game, then you saw the mess that is Towson football – which was picked dead-last in the Colonial Athletic Association – and you don't need any more details.

And that's why I don't think we can really take much from this game; I reckon a lot of you are thinking the same thing. After all, this is the same Mike Kafka who had three picks in two games last season, the same Stephen Simmons who averaged less than three per carry and whose longest run in '08 was 21 yards.

NU looked good, but Towson looked like a practice squad.

(At the same time, I would read nothing into the Cats' relative struggles in the second half, which started with a three-and-out of their own and was followed by a Towson TD. It's got to be exceptionally hard to stay focused when you're winning 30-0 – after a comical playground-style safety – with just a couple minutes gone in the second quarter.)

Yeah, Fitz talked about things he was upset with during the old on-the-way-to-the-locker interview. But really, with the score sitting at 37-7, the game was already over. And it's hard to keep your edge when you have quintupled your opponent at halftime.

So while the season has started, there are still more than a few unanswered questions. Again, that's not to say that Northwestern didn't look good. Kafka was picking apart the Towson defense, the receivers were getting open, Simmons and Fields and everyone else who ran the ball looked good.

But man, Towson looked BAD.

I feel obliged to again reiterate that I don't mind NU scheduling this game, getting a taste of game action in a hyper-safe situation. Actually, Northwestern's schedule is laid out quite nicely – with a steady increase in difficulty from Towson to Eastern Michigan to Syracuse to the conference opener against Minnesota. Thus, I don't think there's anything wrong with a Towson season-opener.

But the fact that the opponent was Towson means we don't know exactly what to think. Not just yet.

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