Weekly Wildcat Watch

This round-up of Northwestern news includes articles from the Chicago Tribune, ESPN, a Texas Tech blog and more.

OK, back to normal after my bro's wedding weekend…which turned into a wedding week. Had a great time*, I got a sister out of the deal, now it's back to normal. Which means, of course, that after a week off you get your Weekly Wildcat Watch.

* Note to anyone planning a wedding and hoping to get people on the dance floor. There is a not-so-secret and incredibly simple formula to get guests to start cutting rug. Take a pinch of Michael, and add some Jackson. Seriously, the King of Pop will turn any wedding – any event period, really – into a rager. The music at bro's shindig was varied and eclectic, but regardless of what had just played, regardless of what point in the evening it was, not a once did Michael Jackson fail to get people on the dance floor. Just a word of advice if you are at all anxious about making sure people are in good spirits. (And you thought Purple Reign only talked about sports…)

Alright, we'll start out, as always, with a brief recap of the NU coverage you got here at Purple Reign last week. First, here was PR's take on the Towson game. Cliff notes: You couldn't take anything – good or bad – from that game. Towson was a freaking joke, evidenced by this incredible second quarter sequence:

Run-really-far-and-I'll-throw-it-up touchdown pass from Dan Persa

Muffed kickoff return to the 7….

Quarterback runs the wrong way on first down…

Receiver drops pass on second down…

Third-down screen pass fails miserably…

Fourth down punt attempt is airmailed through the back of the end zone…

That was all in about 60 second of game time. Seriously, Purple Reign can't remember seeing a worse team. That's not hyperbole.

Now, the second half was a little blah – just 10 points on offense, not real sharp on either side of the ball, just kind of sleepwalking. But hey, that's what happens when you have more than quintupled your opponent by halftime, 37-7. (Per custom, PR will now mention that scheduling teams so inept is fine because, hell, a win's a win. Still, Towson was awful.)

After that, PR delved into the recruiting saga of Will Hampton, the D-lineman from Texas who recently committed to NU after initially committing to Stanford. Purple Reign had actually talked with Stanford's Scout.com publisher about the Cardinal's recruiting success this summer.

That convo was not about Hampton, but rather the strengths of Stanford's recruiting strategy, which, according to The Bootleg's Jim Rutter, are thus:

"What's happened is a change and evolution in strategy to not only offer early, but to offer some fairly big numbers. They're not being frivolous with their offers, but they're really offering early and offering to a lot of kids….

"What (head coach Jim) Harbaugh is doing is what should have already been done. The previous Stanford coaches were kind of asleep at the wheel in recruiting."

Hence, back in May – very early in the recruiting period – Hampton said this:

"Stanford is everything I'm looking for in a college. It has one of the greatest educational opportunities in the world. I know their last season wasn't that good at 5-7, but their football in the future is going to be great, the facilities are excellent and the players are nice. This trip just solidified my decision to commit to Stanford."

Sounds like a solid verbal, yeah? Well, Hampton is Northwestern-bound now, and PR reckons that this statement by Rutter was quite prophetic and ultimately explains what happened with Hampton, if inadvertently…

"There is a danger of quote, ‘overcommitting,' by having too many guys say, ‘Yes.' That can be managed….But you have a higher danger of getting them to de-committing."

Yes, you do. And the Wildcats are now the beneficiary of that.

In other football news, this is an article about the devolution/enhancement of Eastern Michigan's offense, which first-year coach Ron Ambrose switched from a spread attack to a pro-style outfit.

I say devolution because colleges all over are moving in the direction of the spread; I say enhancement because Ambrose obviously thought it better to ditch an offense that won just three games last season and led to the dismissal of former NU assistant Jeff Genyk as EMU's head coach. Why not change?

The new offense didn't thrive, per se, against Northwestern, but it was good enough to nearly beat the Wildcats. Three inside-the-50 turnovers didn't help the Cats' cause, and those giveaways gave the Eagles some short fields to work with. But still, 27-24.

And finally, in hoops news, this one is about Josh Gasser, who, according to a source, was on campus last weekend checking out NU. Northwestern was one of the first schools to offer Gasser, and while numerous others have come on board – Wisconsin, Arizona State and Maryland among them – the Cats were on Gasser early. That can't hurt; he told Purple Reign as much this summer:

"That's a good thing (Northwestern) has noticed for the past couple years and not just recently. I definitely like that a lot. Just that they've noticed me, they've stuck with me, and that they've been interested. They saw me play my sophomore year and they showed interest and they never really stopped. I know that they want me and I like that."


OK, how about some none Purple Reign Northwestern news, huh?

This story is from the Chicago Tribune. It's more of a series of blurbs than a story, but still, it makes a few good points. Stephen Simmons had nearly 200 yards when you include kick returns, which is good for NU. Brendan Smith led the Cats in tackles, which, because he's a safety, is not good for NU.

This is the Tribune's proper recap of the game. In it, Brendan Smith takes a look-on-the-bright-side approach:

"To be a great team, you have to overcome adversity," said Northwestern's Brendan Smith, whose fumbled punt in the fourth quarter led to a touchdown. "This is good. We needed this. We made strides last year, but we need to know that you have to work every single day."

This is an article from ESPN Chicago's* Scott Powers, who takes a look at how NU linebacker Quentin Davie has put on a ton of weight since arriving on campus.

In Saturday's season-opening win against Towson, Davie debuted his physique. As Bates and he had hoped, Davie flew around the field and knocked around everyone in his sight with his new weight. He led the Wildcats with nine tackles (four solo, five assisted) and 1½ tackles for loss despite also adjusting to playing his first game at inside linebacker after playing the previous two seasons outside.

"On the field, I was feeling pretty good," Davie said. "I had a couple hard hits. I feel much better now. I can go on the beach now and get a lot more looks. I feel more powerful, stronger than I did. It feels great to be 30 pounds heavier."

* Purple Reign is more curious than George what's going to happen with this regional ESPN thing. It seems like Chi-Town is something of a pilot program from ESPN's city- and region-specific coverage. It would be scary if ESPN makes a legitimate, concerted effort to get so huge that they not only cover sports nationwide, but also in cities across America. I mean, is it going to get to the point where's it's ESPN Memphis? ESPN Denver? ESPN Oakland.


The one big, obvious, undeniable pitfall of ESPN at the moment is that it can't deliver good regional coverage. The recap of the Carolina Panthers-Philadelphia Eagles game, for example, comes from the Associated Press, which is where any old outlet would get the recap for that game. But what if they had a Carolina beat writer? And a Philadelphia beat writer? Geez.

Here is precisely the type of story ESPN can't provide – a recap of the Northwetsern-Eastern Michigan game written from the EMU perspective. (What's the over-under on when there's an ESPN Ypsilanti?)

Here's a weird one about a former Northwestern women's basketball player, Clarissa Flores, who is being questioned in the apparent drug overdose death of Christopher Kelly. I won't even try to explain this convoluted scenario…it's worth a look if you remember Flores or if you like a good soap opera plot.

Moving away from the drama – well, legal drama – this one is about NU hoops target Jamel Outler, who committed to Texas Tech. Outlet, a two-star recruit, apparently had offers from NU, USC, Texas A&M and TCU.

And finally, this one is about EMU coach Ron English. It comes last because a) It would have been more timely a week ago, and b) PR sometimes tires of the African-American coaching discussion. Sure, it's more than a little queer that there are only six black coaches in Division I – I boycott the term "FBS" – but there have to be other interesting things about English besides the fact that he's black, which is the crux of this article.

It starts out: Ron English is a minority among minorities: One of only six African-Americans to hold one of the 119 head-coaching positions in major college football.


Again: It's weird that only about five percent of college coaches are black. Just saying that the topic is a bit worn. Not every article about a black coach needs to be about how he's a black coach...IMHO.

That's about it for now. Stay tuned for any more hoops news that arises, and of course the Syracuse game. Purple Reign has had this one circled for some time…hopefully NU isn't overlooking it either.

To reach David Vranicar, publisher of Purple Reign, please write to northwestern.scout@gmail.com. Have a good one.

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