Game 122: Purdue @ Northwestern

Northwestern needs to review the rules of football. Lately, it seems as though they believe that the game lasts a mere thirty minutes. Take this past weekend’s tussle with Purdue at Ryan Field in Evanston: The Wildcats played an extremely competitive first half and then morphed into a submissive punching bag for half number two. When we reached the ticket gate and asked if any tickets were available for today’s game, the response from the ticket window was, “Of course, we have hundreds!” That was the first indication that Northwestern had better make room for another notch in the loss column. Perhaps I should have asked for half off the ticket price knowing that the Wildcats would only offer one half of entertainment …

The fans that filled half of Ryan Field witnessed an impressive first drive by Northwestern sparked by a long pass play that set them up inside the ten-yard line. A quick score soon followed giving the Wildcats a surprising 7-0 lead. Purdue fought back and took a 17-10 halftime lead, but Northwestern played the first thirty minutes with some vigor.

For the second half, we decided to mosey toward the upper deck to take in an alternate perspective of the game. Not to mention, listening to chants like, “1-2-3-4! First down!” and “Boiler up!” from surrounding Purdue fans began to grate on the nerves. The views from high up Ryan Field were outstanding. To the east, slivers of Lake Michigan could be seen with all of autumn’s colors in front. To the north, the architecturally beautiful Bahai Temple poked out of the trees. To the south, Chicago’s skyline, from the John Hancock building to the Sears Tower, stuck out proudly in the distance.

Thank goodness for these views, because there wasn’t much left to view on the field. Northwestern’s offense shut down, and Purdue tacked on two more scores to zip up the ‘Cats. From the purple perspective, the play calls began to raise questions. The Wildcats ran the quarterback draw more often than Paris Hilton says, “That’s hot.” This play is often reserved to catch the defense off guard. However, after the twentieth time of running the play, the element of surprise loses its luster. Granted, Purdue covered receivers well forcing NU QB, Andrew Brewer, to run up the middle and dive. But, the forward pass was treated like a foreign language in Northwestern’s playbook. When the Wildcats had the ball with under one minute remaining in the game and down by 21, they finally began to throw the ball down field a bit as though there was a 22 point play in their bag of tricks. Throwing the ball in the first quarter is what got them their first score, so the reason why they chose to run the ball incessantly without mixing in the pass remains a mystery.

Another typical day in Evanston with lazy fans and a lazy team gave the Wildcats their fourth straight loss lowering their record to 2-5. Purdue moves to 5-2 and looks ahead to a big showdown with the Badgers in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Wildcats downfall may be partly due to the death of their head coach this past summer, Randy Walker. Coach Walker taught his kids to respond in the face of adversity and his death may be the largest lesson he gave. So far, the Wildcats have not bounced back the way Walker may have liked, but just like the healing process, some of the best responses take time.

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