Game 288: UNLV @ Northwestern

Two quick-strike rushing touchdowns from Charles Williams and a Chucky doll were the highlights for UNLV on Saturday. It was Northwestern’s moment to bounce back from a lackluster loss at Stanford two weeks ago. Clemson transfer QB Hunter Johnson scored his first career rushing and passing touchdown, thus injecting some hope into an offense full of questions. He did throw one interception, however, which prompted UNLV to introduce the world to Chucky.

The University of Miami started the trend a couple years ago with the turnover chain. Any time a defense player forced a turnover, out came the sparkly and somewhat gaudy gold chain that would be draped around his neck – a trophy to celebrate his feat. Since then, many other schools have copied the tradition, but with a different motivational prop. Tulane has their turnover mardi gras beads, SMU has their turnover chalice, Colorado State has a turnover belt, and Boise State has a turnover throne. The creativity is endless, as proven by UNLV. When Johnson threw his lone interception of the day, a black lock box on the sideline was opened, and out came the turnover Chucky doll. Creepy, but uniquely effective. While on the sidelines, I asked a UNLV official if I could have a peek at the inspirational horror icon, but alas, it was only to emerge from its black box upon a turnover. Northwestern wasn’t about to give up the ball anymore either.

A perfect fall afternoon started with our annual College Football Tour tailgate and continued to Ryan Field, where a nice crowd gathered for the Wildcats’ home opener. Huge letters adorned the north endzone proudly proclaiming last season’s achievement: “2018 Big Ten West Champions.” Replicating that feat this season would be a surprise, according to the media pundits. But, that’s what Northwestern does – surprises.

The emergence of QB Hunter Johnson could give hope as he inspired the band to play “Go U Northwestern” twice today with two TDs. I had a front row seat to his proud smiling face during the postgame press conference where he described his first career touchdowns in this way: “It got us all fired up and ready for the rest of the game.”

With the 30-14 final score, coach Pat Fitzgerald was just happy to be in the winning column again. He was noticeably frustrated with anyone asking him about next week’s impending battle with Michigan State: “Can I enjoy tonight first?”
For Northwestern, the hope is to enjoy many games this season, while avoiding any turnover props to appear from the opposing sidelines.

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