This wasn't the rain. The rain basically stopped in the first quarter. This wasn't the injuries. Yes, our 10 points and 160 total yards were Peters and the three starting receivers being out, but 378 yards rushing for the worst offense in the Big Ten was nothing other than an old-fashoined whoopin'. Line up, wet field so it's going to be a slopfest, who wants it more? They wanted it more. So, so much more.
I rarely do this, but I've started this post before the end of the game. As Northwestern racks up more yards, I keep going up to adjust the total rushing yards listed above. We know the result here, so I figure I might as well just get started. And as I type that, Northwestern converts a fourth down for a touchdown while trying to run out the clock. HOOOO-boy.
I've been doing that game comp thing this year and now we have a comp for Purdue. We went to Purdue and dominated in the slop. Northwestern came here and dominated in the same way. So I think this 6-6 season has comps across the board now.
Wet games where one team dominated the line of scrimmage: Purdue win, Northwestern loss
One team clearly dominated the other team in a complete mismatch: Akron win, Minnesota loss
Field goal in the NEZ of Memorial Stadium decides the outcome: Wisconsin win, Eastern Michigan loss
Illinois has the ball, down four, driving for the winning score: Michigan State win, Nebraska loss
"That game really shouldn't have been that close for the favorite": 8-point UConn win, 9-point Iowa loss
"Whoa, this game is tight" and then two quick turnovers and the game is over: Rutgers win, Michigan loss
There's even symmetry with the schedule. Two wins, then four losses, then four wins, then two losses.
(I've gone with Mahler 9 today, and the recording I have of Mahler 9 rolls right into the one movement of Mahler 10 which he kind of finished before his death but not really. It's rarely performed because it kind of just stops. But you can tell he was writing about his own death. Gustav has guided me through this entire season.)
Overall, I'm perfectly content with this season. I predicted 7-5, we finished 6-6, but with everything factored in (who we beat, how we beat them, NERDstats, schedule, turnover luck, injuries), I think 6-6 is solid for a year-before-the-year. These last two losses (and especially if there's a bowl loss meaning a "losing season") will sting all offseason, but we've finally arrived at The Season. All those freshmen who started in 2017 will be seniors, all these injured players will return, and we'll either get The Season or we'll start a different journey with a different coach.
I might have eventually said I regretted uttering "five full years for the new coach, no questions asked" an hour after Cubit was fired, but now we're finally here. There are no experience excuses, there are no "Cubit left the OL room empty" excuses, there are no "you just can't build depth by this point if you take over right after a scandal", nothing. We're finally at "we expect a big season". I'm so thrilled these seniors get to go out with a bowl, and then the next set of seniors - time to summit the mountain. As I said a few weeks ago... we won with turnovers this year; time to win with yards next year.
This game? Man, what a gutpunch. It's so hard to have to tell everyone I know that my team is OWNED by Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. Even when they're having a 3-9 season, we can't beat them. If we lose next year, will the streak reach 10? Completely and totally owned by a team that wanted it more from the first snap. Four yards, then four yards, then four yards, on repeat all afternoon. That's not "Iowa concussed our quarterback". That's the eighth-worst offense in all of college football putting up yard after yard. TWENTY TWO first downs for an offense worse than Rutgers. Awful awful awful.
I keep referencing the injuries under the assumption that everyone read my post last night. So I should probably go over that. With Bhebhe out (and then Doug Kramer injured in the first half), the offense was missing 6 starters from the opener and the defense was missing four (technically five on defense, but that's only because Sydney Brown was injured for Akron and didn't start). There's not enough depth to fully overcome that. There should be enough depth to not get completely housed by the worst Northwestern team this century, but it's still a big hurdle.
By the end of that post I talked myself out of a loss (I always do that) and predicted a non-cover but win. In the end, I should have stuck with my gut. If you read the whole post, it's "at some point this implodes upon these injuries". It imploded, baby. And then some. Injuries made it a 10-10 game. Our failure to battle in the trenches made it 29-10.
So now we head into Bowl Selection Sunday (not tomorrow - next week. I can understand why you're not aware of that) with a bad taste in our mouths. I'll likely be back to researching bowl projections tomorrow (thing discussed at a party last night - kind of want Detroit?). For now, losing to Pat Fitzgerald again and confirming his worldview has stolen my happiness. Even in a season where someone finally reveals the little man behind the curtain, he turns around and forces us all to shut up. So I'll shut up.
Up next? ACC in Detroit (Florida State?), SEC in New York City (Tennessee?), or Pac 12 in Santa Clara (Cal?). I'm going to stop typing now and just try to think about that.
Because thinking about how much Northwestern just completely owns us is so incredibly depressing.