Yesterday we got to know NWestern a bit better through Q & A with Rodger over at Sippin' On Purple. The questions that Rodger answered yesterday we also posed to Lake The Posts. Due to a severe miscommunication on my part, LTP wasn't able to get all of the answers back to us until early this morning. In any case, we appreciate his time and insight, and another perspective on the Wildcats.
JDMill: First, what's with the name of the blog?
Lake The Posts: It's a nod to the longtime fans of NU football prior to our rebirth of
the program in 1995. Prior to Gary Barnett's arrival, ANY win by NU
was worthy of the students ripping down the FG posts, march them the
mile east to Lake Michigan and throw them in said lake. It became a
term of endearment for a win, "we're going to Lake The Posts today
when we upset INSERT TEAM here".
JD: Northwestern was beating PSU in Happy Valley 28-17 after 3
quarters and then managed to give up 22 unanswered points in the 4th to the
Nittany Lions. What the hell happened?
LTP: Good grief. We're STILL asking that question. Actually, most fans were asking questions long before the 4th quarter. As in "why the hell are we not letting Kain Colter play QB?". Despite being a beast of a
dual threat the week before, Mick McCall decided he was going
primarily with Trevor Siemian. Slight problem. Trevor was off all day.
Penn State was susceptible to the run, and we had modest success with
Venric Mark, but on the key series of the second half, our two most
dynamic players - Colter and Mark - came up with zero touches for
entire series. It was, in my opinion, classic overthink on our
playcalling part and also a great defensive gameplan early on by Bill
O'Brien to confuse our sophomore slinger, Siemian.
The 'Cats are known to give up lead after big lead as much as we're
known for winning close games. This is the third straight blown lead
against Penn State of the double digit variety, including a 21-point
variety the last time we visited. The Nittany Lions have become THAT
program for us, the one that gives fans a sense that no matter what
the names of the players on the field may be, that history will swoop
in and play havoc with the result. 'Cats fans are pissed. We really feel we let one get away.
JD: Northwestern has beaten 4 teams from BCS conferences (including the B1G),
but many would argue that those 4 teams (Syracuse, Vandy, Boston College &
Indiana) are the worst teams in each of their respective conferences.
Convince us that beating the doormats of four BCS conferences is noteworthy.
LTP: You can join in on the argument since we have that common opponent
that really spiked Minnesota's credibility. Thanks to you and USC,
Syracuse has 3 losses. Vanderbilt, well the jury is still out since
they beat Mizzou last week, but have had a tough schedule and BC
stinks. The BC game, in retrospect is the one where we really realize
how many missed opportunities we had (5 FGs!) to blow them out and
that win looks worse in the rear view mirror. As it relates to the Big
Ten, well, you know as well as we do that you play the card your
dealt! I think we think people perceive NU like many Glenn Mason teams
- start out with a good record, but talk to me in November. This team,
however, felt different chemistry-wise, until Saturday.
JD: Two quarterbacks. Trevor Siemian has 67% of the Wildcats passing production,
but Kain Colter is still throwing the ball over 11 times/game. That doesn't
sound like a simple "wildcat" or change of pace QB. Both Siemian and Colter
have 2 TD passes against 1 INT. For those of us that haven't watched
Northwestern play a down of football this year, how is this offense
balancing these two?
LTP: Let's take Penn State out of the equation. If you want fear, watch the
Indiana game tape. There have been 3 types of games..pre Indiana which
was a platoon by series approach with Colter running two types of
options with more passing and Siemian being the more consistent dink
and dunk passer with a good deep ball. Then Indiana happened. Colter
and Siemian made Cyrus McCormick proud and looked like an
interchangeable part at QB as Colter would go from QB to WR back to QB
on the same 3 consecutive plays. it was one of the most amazing
performances I've seen from an NU player as he rushed for 161 yards
and had 130 rushing yards Then, we forget who we were and put Colter
as a WR most of the game vs Penn State. Colter is a special, special
athlete who toys with defenses. He's perfected the art of handing off
the ball and taking it literally back out of the RBS hands for big
JD: The Wildcats are doing a lot of damage on the ground this year with over 230
yards/game rushing, ranking them 16th in the nation for rushing. Venric Mark
is the stud and the workhorse, averaging 19 carries/game, 5.4 yards/carry,
101 yards/game, while Colter carries the ball over 10 times/game for over 6
yards/carry. Is that the story of this running game? Just a talented RB and
a running QB who can change pace?
LTP: Mark is the surprise story of the year. A converted WR, we thought
"scat back", but he plays with a combo of between the tackles hard
hitting and a dose of lightning bug speed. He's awesome. You have to
see it to believe it, but the guy is tiny, yet moves the pile one
minute and then turns the corner on you the next. When you mix
Colter's option ability in to the mix, it can be unstoppable.
JD: The Gophers were beaten and battered by the Hawkeyes on runs up the middle.
Does Northwestern have the horses on the offensive line to play smash mouth
LTP: Absolutlely. The left side of our line is lights out, while the right
side is a work in progress, but don't be fooled by the style and size
of our play, we spend a lot of time between the tackles. We really use
tempo to our advantage (we ran 100 plays vs BC) and the key is to not
let us getting that tempo going. Once we get a flow, it is hard to
stop, as it is like 3 separate offenses in one, when Siemian gets in
JD: Fill in the blank: If the Gophers can slow down _________, they will have a
much greater chance of beating Northwestern.
LTP: The option run early. See Penn State. We had three straight three and
outs and our quick pace offense can be a killer on the D if we don't
move the chains.
JD: Okay, on to defense. On pass defense, Northwestern is giving up nearly 288
yards/game and almost 7 yards/pass attempt. True or False: if the Gophers
are going to beat Northwestern they will do it through the air. Explain.
LTP: True. Our run defense has been stellar and our passing d is not good. However we thought it would be bc of poor coverage and despite the B1G worst numbers on pass d we've steadily improved. We actually have 3 players injured this week so any more injuries (all were backups) and we are in trouble.
The real storyline here has been our inability to get to the qb. We simply don't have the playmakers on the d line who can get to the qb by beating their man 1on1. We also tend to blitz rather infrequently. We've got to get more pressure.
JD: Nothing about Northwestern's defense makes me nervous. They are giving up
over 5 yards/play and just shy of 390 yards/game. Give me something (a name,
a stat, a formation... anything) about the Wildcats defense that should make
Gopher fans nervous.
LTP: The rush defense should. We've been excellent so far this year until the second half of Penn State when the time of possession took it's toll. Penn state had the ball for 40 minutes and we wore out. We are 15th in the Nation in rush defense yielding 102 ypg. Our lb corps is very good. Chi Chi Ariguzo is having an all B1G year. If weather is a factor and it becomes your rushing offense against our rush d, we win.
JD: What is your prediction for the game?
LTP: No clue on this one. Fans are eager to see how we respond to the soul crusher last week. Cats must get out to a few prolonged drives early in this game to get our mojo back. I'm guessing the usual nail-biter.
NU 24 MN 20