With the bowl loss only days behind us, it’s time to reflect on this season’s highs and lows. A few superlatives to wrap up this year and remember why we love (and sometimes hate) Northwestern football. Come back tomorrow for more awards.
Game of the Year: Northwestern beats Iowa
Sure, Northwestern has the privilege to play at historic Wrigley Field this season, but the upset win over the Hawkeyes the week before takes the cake for game of the year. Not only did we upset Iowa for a third straight year and rush the field, but this game also shaped the rest of our season. Red-hot quarterback Dan Persa ruptured his Achilles tendon while celebrating his game-winning touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields. Northwestern lost its final three games of the season without its leader. The silver lining? He can be back ahead of schedule just in time for spring football.
Redshirt freshman of the year: Punter Brandon Williams
Last year, fans bemoaned kicker Stefan Demos on a weekly basis due to the blunders he’d constantly make on special teams. From missed extra points to weak punts to sloppy kickoffs, every kicking issue rested on Demos’s shoulders. If you ask me, that’s a lot of pressure. To prevent another Outback, redshirt freshman Brandon Williams stepped up and after a great spring training camp, spent this season as the Wildcats’ go-to punter. He was a solid punter and Northwestern ranked 45th nationally in net punting (37.2 ypp). Williams also had the best percentage among Big Ten punters of punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (38.1 percent). Williams’ biggest contribution was his influence on Demos. With fewer kicking responsibilities, Demos was able to focus on his job as kicker and had a remarkably better season.
True freshman of the year: Quarterback Kain Colter
After Dan Persa went down during the Iowa game, it was expected that Evan Watkins would be able to easily fill his shoes. Although Watkins got better throughout his time on the field, it was third-string quarterback Kain Colter who made the biggest impact on offense. Coach Fitzgerald used both quarterbacks during the final three games, Watkins for his passing abilities and Colter for his scrambling and speed. Watkins struggled to reach his targets, but Colter found holes in opponents’ defense and gained crucial yardage. Despite playing only three games, Colter ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns, with a 4.9 yards/run average, a team-high for RBs with more than 10 carries. Dan Persa will be back next season, but Wildcat fans can rest easy knowing Colter’s on the back burner.
Quote of the Year: “Coach? I really haven’t heard anything from him, he’s just … he hates them. I know that for a fact. He hates Iowa.” –- Adonis Smith
The media hype leading up to this season’s Iowa game was pretty crazy. The Wildcats upset the Hawkeyes last season after their starting quarterback was injured, ruining their bid for an undefeated season. Iowa was preparing for revenge. Then came the short, nine-second video clip heard around college football. The true freshman’s quote added a hint of blood to the waters. Iowa Hawkeye blogs picked up NNN’s video (which has since been removed) and it was all anyone could talk about before the kickoff. After NU upset Iowa, rather than be upset about Smith’s quote, Coach Fitz was able to poke some fun at it, inviting Smith up to the podium to sound off on the game since he had more colorful quotes to add. Just imagine what Fitz would’ve said if we lost.
Best @fakeevanwatkins tweet: If they polled cheerleaders from around the country instead of coaches, we all know who the mythical national champion would be. #WATKINS
We found out halfway through the season that it was actually two old guys behind @FakeEvanWatkins, our favorite womanizing, arrogant Twitter persona, but that didn’t make the Twitter feed any less funny. Every few days, we’d get another gem, showing off Watkins’ yet-to-be-seen phenomenal skills and wild partying ways. During the low points of our season, the loss to Purdue and Penn State come to mind, it was Watkins’ fake Twitter feed that always brought a smile to my face.
Editor’s note:Northwestern did not beat Iowa twice in a row, but three times. Thanks to commenter Daniel to pointing out the error.