Yes, it was five days ago, but it's still fresh in our minds. Can you blame us?
The Wildcats' 40-30 loss to the Buckeyes was one of the most anticipated games in Northwestern football history, and it leaves us with both fond memories and bitterness. This is what we wish we could relive as well as what we wish our eyes hadn't suffered through:
What we want to see more of
Atmosphere by Shannon Lane
My one hope for the rest of the season – and for the rest of my seasons at Northwestern – is that Wildcat fans don’t ask themselves why they even bothered trekking up to Ryan Field. Just because Northwestern lost doesn’t mean it failed.
For the first time in a long time, Northwestern’s campus lit up in anticipation of a football game. For the first time in a long time, Northwestern had a legitimate chance to knock off Ohio State. Students gave up sleep and study time to wait in line for College GameDay andMike and Mike. They were excited, electrified and dedicated, and it showed when they filled up the Ryan Field student section.
If you’re like me and wondering why every home game can’t be like this one, the answer is clear: It’s up to us. We can make every weekend game day.
Media Attention by Andrew Simpson
Watching Kain Colter scribble random math formulas onto a window during a College GameDay feature was pretty dorky, but since Northwestern was recognized on ESPN and not another college academic rankings list, it was okay.
With all of the media attention GameDay brought, NU showed itself as not just some well-respected college with a strangely good football team, but as a school with identity, spirit and pride. It gave attention to a team that is generally ignored.
Even though it was just for a day, it felt like Northwestern really was Chicago’s Big Ten Team.
Colter at receiver by Lauren Kravec
We're used to seeing quarterback Kain Colter throw passes, but one of the most electrifying moments of the game came about halfway through the first quarter when he caught a nine yard touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian. It was his first receiving touchdown of the season, the fourth of his career and put the 'Cats up 7-3.
Even though Colter is known for running the option, seeing him line up in the slot makes him an even more threatening offensive weapon. It shows his explosiveness and elusiveness almost as much as when he is at quarterback. Hopefully, we can see some more quarterback-to-quarterback passes at Wisconsin this weekend.
Rashad Lawrence by Grant Rindner
Rashad Lawrence started 2013 slowly but managed to quadruple his output for the season with a mammoth game against the Buckeyes. The senior was everywhere, finishing with eight receptions for a career-best 149 yards. Lawrence showed great chemistry with Trevor Siemian, his former high school teammate, as the two hooked up six times, including a monster 67-yard catch-and-run that set up Northwestern’s fourth quarter touchdown.
While Tony and Christian Jones still look like the top two receivers, having a third option who can run crisp routes and get open all over the field should be huge for the Wildcats.
Forcing turnovers by Andrew Simpson
Ohio State had only turned the ball over five times this season before coming to Ryan Field, but the Wildcats significantly added to that figure Saturday.
While Northwestern, which ranks second in the nation in interceptions, did add another interception to its season tally, the more impressive turnovers came from the Wildcats’ two fumble recoveries, which doubled Ohio State’s season total for fumbles lost. The Wildcats' fumble recovery in the first quarter was key to slowing down a Buckeye first quarter offense that previously outscored opponents 116-21 on the season.
NU was able to convert 66 percent of Ohio State turnovers into points, something the 'Cats will need to capitalize on if they meet the Buckeyes again in the Big Ten championship game.
What we wish we could unsee
Red zone offense by Ben Sanders
Three. That’s the number of times the ‘Cats had the ball inside the Ohio State 10-yard line and failed to get a touchdown out of it. In a game of Saturday night’s magnitude, that is simply not going to get the job done. A lot of their red zone struggles had to do with their poor offensive line play, as Siemian and Colter were forced to run for their lives on multiple occasions; the former was sacked twice deep in OSU territory.
All sporting events are a game of ifs, but just think about this for a second: If the Wildcats had turned just one of those three field goals into touchdowns, this game would likely have gone into overtime.
Run Defense by Ben Sanders
To say it was below average would be an understatement. OSU ran for 248 yards on 5.3 yards per carry, exhibiting just how powerful its offensive line was compared to the Northwestern defensive front. Buckeye running back Carlos Hyde found holes in the Northwestern defensive line and took advantage of them en route to a 168-yard performance. Braxton Miller shared in his teammate's success on the ground. He rushed for 68 yards, which included three crucial first down conversions.
Siemian pick by Grant Rindner
The Wildcats played a pretty clean game, turning the ball over just twice, but a costly interception from Siemian gave the Buckeyes possession at the NU 16-yard line. OSU’s Doran Grant locked down Rashad Lawrence on the play, and undercut him to come up with the turnover. Four plays later, Carlos Hyde managed to break the plane from two yards out and give the Buckeyes a 27-23 lead.
Siemian had a strong day otherwise, but after playing with the lead for much of the game, the interception proved to be a major momentum swing.
Fourth-down conversion by Shannon Lane
When Kain Colter was ruled short of a first down late in the fourth quarter, I immediately received a text from my mom watching on TV back in New Jersey: “Gotta challenge the spot. He made it I swear!!!!” The more I watched the instant replay, the more unsure I was that Kain made it past the line of scrimmage and fell forward for a first down.
Had he earned the first down, Northwestern would have been able to keep its last-ditch effort drive alive and maybe even march down the field to win the game. But, in a big game such as this, the ‘Cats can’t rely on the subjectivity of referees and inconclusive camera angles. If the three previous running plays had worked or the quarterback sneak had been executed properly, then there would have been no need for a challenge.
The excuse that the refs made a mistake simply isn’t good enough.
A sea of red by Luke Srodulski
For students that were here a year ago, seeing thousands upon thousands of Ohio State fans packing Ryan Field brought back painful memories of last year's Nebraska game, where Husker fans seemingly took over the stadium.
Maybe it was just because of how bright and noticeable the red was, but there's no denying how well-supported the Buckeyes were. Scarlet and gray crowded the east side of the bleachers, leaving many Northwestern fans upset. Fans should be happy about how full the stadium was, but next time, they'll hope they can do it without so much help.