Northwestern Season Not Over Yet, Rutgers Win Potentially Salvaging


When you look ahead, beyond today’s 21-7 win over Rutgers, Northwestern has two very winnable games, and probably a third potentially winnable game, remaining. (Minnesota 10/30, Purdue 11/20, @ Illinois 11/27).

They also have a triad of very likely losses in: @ Michigan 10/23, Iowa 11/6 and @ Wisconsin 11/13. So what they did today was absolutely crucial, as they entered this game 2-3 overall, 0-2 in league play. Getting that third win was massive, as now it leaves them with a puncher’s chance of making a bowl game.

They would just need to sweep that troika of winnable games, and they’re in the postseason. Not bad, (actually even a 5-7 finish isn’t awful) when you consider the sentiment on bye week, following that historically terrible loss at Nebraska.

Many a Northwestern fan has been saying that this team is right down there with 2019 as the worst of the Pat Fitzgerald era, but if they finish around .500, no one will be able to make those claims anymore.

Quarterback Ryan Hilinski was one of the two main heroes today, finishing 18 of 33 passing for 267 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. He easily could gone well over 300 yards passing on the day, but there were some blown calls, for pass interference, which stymied some of the offensive drives he led.

The other main hero was wide receiver Stephon Robinson, who accomplished a breakout game, with 5 receptions for 115 yards. It would appear that Northwestern entered this one rather inspired, given how well they performed overall as whole.

Maybe it was being home underdogs to lowly Rutgers? Perhaps it was the presence of the 1995 and 1996 Big Ten title teams for Homecoming?

“It’s about pride,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the game.

“I think we did a good job with Ctrl+Alt+Del, they did a great job resetting.

Whatever it was, a very beleaguered and much maligned defense, especially so against the run, stepped up today- holding the Scarlet Knights to just 63 yards on the ground and a very meager 1.8 yards per carry.

RU didn’t do much through the air either, as quarterback Noah Vedral threw for just 152 yards, on a very paltry under five yards per attempt. He was relieved by Evan Simon, who really didn’t do much better.

“I think we’ve had some good quarters, but this was our best game collectively, as a defense.” Fitzgerald, before discussing how eager the team was to play again, in the wake of the 52-7 shellacking at Nebraska.

“Felt like those two weeks took forever,” Fitz added. “It left a real sour taste in my mouth. I said at the time I wish I could have played that game in Lincoln right now.”

Maybe this mid-season, Homecoming, upset victory will turn things around? Is this going to kickstart a back half of the season which might be better than the first half?

“To start a fire, you’ve got to have a spark,” Fitz said. “Hopefully, this is the spark. We’ve kind of been our own worst enemy here in the first half.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.

He co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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