Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NU 21, Io_a 17: Wildcats Steal W, Secure 3rd-Straight Bowl Berth

WOW. That's about all I can say at this point. After showing little life in the second halves of recent games, I was grateful for the ending that Dan Persa and the 'Cat defense gave us to end the "home" season at Ryan Field. I tip my hat to all of the seniors, most of whom have made the journey for 4-5 years with Coach Fitz and have helped make this such a solid and exciting football team to watch every week (well, almost every week).

Unfortunately, as many of you know, Persa is officially out for the remainder of the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon on the go-ahead TD play. It was a spectacular way to go out, for sure, but we will certainly miss him for our last three(!) games in the season. For now, the offense rests on the rather large shoulders of backup QB Evan Watkins, whom I'm sure is salivating at this opportunity to make his first collegiate start at Wrigley Field. At least, that's how it is according to his Twitter feed.


My High-Fives and Scratches, coming up after the jump:

Wildcat High-Fives go to...

QB Dan Persa: 32/43 passing, 318 yards, 2 TDs, 1 rushing TD, game-winning TD
This was, far and away, Dan Persa's best game of the season. That says a lot, considering his performances have basically kept him on this list throughout the first 10 games of the season. But in a game that the Wildcats desperately needed after falling behind yet again in the second half, Persa delivered. That's what great quarterbacks are capable of doing. Assuming your recovery goes well, Danny, I'll be one of the first people to hop on the "Persa for Heisman" bandwagon for next year. You definitely deserve it.

SB Drake Dunsmore: 8 catches, 65 yards
It's good to see superback Dunsmore back to playing at full strength again after rehabbing an ankle sprain the past few weeks. He played the possession receiver to help spur several first downs in this game, and that's what he does best. Welcome back, Drake. Mr. Watkins, you and Mr. Dunsmore are going to become very close friends.

NU Linebackers & Secondary:
On a dreary day that would have made people expect more from the running games, the 'Cats back seven did their best to stifle the rushing efforts of Adam Robinson. Aside from a couple of big runs early in the 3rd quarter, Robinson was stifled, leaving Iowa in disadvantageous 2nd-down and 3rd-down situations. Kudos to them as well for coming up in the clutch, knocking down batted balls and nearly getting the game-clinching interception on two different occasions. I'll take any day where our defense only coughs up 17 points in a game, BY FAR.

Io_a QB Ricky Stanzi: 1 very untimely INT
Thank you, Ricky, for your patented Stanziball. In one grossly miscalculated heave, you sucked out all of the momentum that your team had built in the 3rd quarter and gave it to the 'Cats. We would score on two consecutive long drives after that, and the rest is history.

Wildcat Scratches go to...

The Weather:
This was one of the few games that I have attended this year, and the weather definitely made it a downer for quite a bit of the first half. Southerly winds whipped at the faces of fans and players alike. The rains came down in the second quarter to try and drench out unprepared onlookers. It was a miserable day, for sure, but not as miserable as the soggy, ice-cold tilt in the Big House from two years ago. The silver lining? The 'Cats won both of those games.

RBs On The Ground (Trumpy, Smith, Fields): 18 rushes, 53 yards
Whatever mojo we may have had in the running game has once again vanished. Mike Trumpy's contribution was more significant in the passing game (5 catches, 55 yards), while Smith and Fields were practically non-existent. With Dan Persa out for the season, Trumpy or Smith needs to step up in a big way to carry the load for QB Evan Watkins, as he's not the mobile quarterback that Persa is.

Yellow Laundry: 6 penalties, 62 yards
Granted, one of those penalties (unsportsmanlike conduct) didn't seem to make any sense in the context of the play, but NU is still running quite high on this category. We need to cut down on those drive-killing events and get the quarterback a reasonable down-and-distance to work with.

There are two games left in the regular season! I'm definitely excited for the final matchups against Illinois and Wisconsin, if not just because I get a chance to see Evan Watkins in action to find out what our future holds in 2012. With Illinois's defense suddenly going AWOL, I predict that this will be a tight-but-very-manageable game. We should end up 8-4 on the season, accumulating an astounding 25 wins for Fitz over the past three seasons. How's about that? GO 'CATS!

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