Senior cornerback Montre Hartage could have the highest NFL draft stock of anyone on this 2018 Northwestern football team, but even his skill set couldn’t save the Cats at home versus Duke today. On a day with autumn like conditions, winter has come to the Wildcats’ nine game winning streak (which had been the longest among all FBS teams), as they fell 21-7 at Ryan Field.
Hartage is a stud, but the NU pass defense, as a whole, stumbled today. You can’t really single anyone on the Cats out specifically, as it was a total team let down. The story of the game was the Duke passing attack, as quarterback Daniel Jones was clinical, efficient and precise.
He finished 16-22 passing for 192 yards, three touchdowns (9 yards to T.J. Rahming, 52 yards to Jonathan Lloyd, 7 yards to Davis Koppenhaver) and no interceptions.
Much like last year, when NU lost at Duke 41-17, the Cats’ pass defense was suspect.
“He’s a hell of a football player and we played like garbage last year,” Fitzgerald said of Rahming on Tuesday, heading into this one.
This year, it was Lloyd, not Rahming, who put up the biggest numbers (5-94-1). Also, credit to the Cats defense for making halftime adjustments. Jones did almost all of his damage in the first half, throwing all three of his scoring strikes in the first 30 minutes. He also had 159 of his passing yards in the first half, 192 of them through the first three quarters.
Fitzgerald on early enrollee freshman cornerback Greg Newsome II getting beat on that long touchdown play: “This is college football, this happens to a lot of guys, you gotta learn quick and have a short memory.”
Said senior defensive end Joe Gaziano on the defense’s halftime adjustments: “Today we focused more on tweaking what we already had game plan wise and going into the game I think we had a sound game plan in understanding what they were going to try to do to attack us. We had the right play calls, we had everything lined up, we just weren’t executing in the first half.”
Perhaps the improvement we saw from the Northwestern pass defense will carry over to the next week against Akron, and beyond. In Montre Hartage, the Cats have a veteran leader who can help them bounce back from a really rough day.
At Media Day, Fitz compared him to former Wildcats DB Sherrick McManis, who’s been with the Chicago Bears since 2012 and in the NFL since 2010.
“The on the practice field competitive nature, in the running work outs, the work ethic in the weight room, the leadership in the film, and Montre is Sherrick, they’re carbon copies,” said Fitzgerald. “I think Montre has a bright future this year, but he’s going to play football a long time.”
Audio of our interview of Montre Hartage is below:
He’s also the classic story of a guy who who was overlooked and lightly recruited, and thus used those slights as inspiration to improve, make his mark and show his doubters that they were wrong about him. NFL scouts have taken notice of Hartage’s skills and abilities.
“Montre is a guy that we took on our last scholarship, to see what he has become, all 32 (NFL) teams have come in and asked me about 24,” said Fitzgerald.
“He’s worked tirelessly in the weight room, film room, and his leadership has been a learned skill.”
Hartage’s teammates have taken note of his work ethic as well. Said starting tailback Jeremy Larkin:
“He’s always working hard on and off the field, and he wasn’t very highly recruited, so to get to where he is right now, shows you how hard he’s worked. “
Added super-back Cameron Green: “He has a dog like mentality, when he’s out there he wants to try to make every single play, which makes him stand out among the others out there.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.