Evidence in: NU capable of turnaround

Andrea Cohen and Andrea Cohen

Usually I try not to write these columns about football. I figure that after the average Northwestern game, the three articles we print about Saturday’s matchup are already leaning toward overkill.

But after this weekend’s gutsy performance by the Wildcats, I have a football beat writer pacing around the office, muttering, “That game was just so good, I want my story to be good,” my dad calling me to say NU looked like a Top 25 team, and my email flooded with NU football fans talking about bowl game possibilities.

Last week that same beat writer was disgruntled, my dad only talked about UCLA football, and those emails were calling for Randy Walker to be fired.

That’s the kind of game NU’s 16-7 win over Wisconsin was.

It was the kind of game that can change a season; the kind of game that can save a coach’s job; the kind of game that can make you a fan.

From Jason Wright gaining 17 yards off sheer will on a severely sprained ankle in the fourth quarter, to the defense holding the No. 20 team in the country to one touchdown, it looked like the “evidence” Randy Walker has talked about needing all season.

He has said that his players “didn’t know how to win,” and nobody was convinced that the Cats really learned the lesson with their rather unimpressive overtime victory over Indiana.

Well, now they know for sure. The question is, what will they do with it?

Wisconsin was shorthanded and the game was sloppy, but NU played determined, disciplined football for 60 minutes. Unlike the other times we started to get excited about NU football this year, the other shoe didn’t drop.

There was no deflating 80-yard touchdown given up, no second-quarter collapse, and no quitting. The little errors — interceptions, missed field goals — weren’t blown out of proportion. NU kept its composure.

Suddenly Walker’s prediction that his team will win out doesn’t seem so crazy — the team that played Saturday should beat Penn State, could beat Purdue and Michigan, and should absolutely slaughter Illinois.

But speculating either way on how this team will play is bound to make you look like an idiot and likely to break your heart. As we learned the hard way in the 42-17 loss to Minnesota, you just never know — this Cats team can look unstoppable one minute and horrendous the next.

But for the first time since last season’s game against Ohio State, fans have a legitimate reason to believe NU can be a good team. There’s a reason to make the road trip to Purdue, to put the Walker debate on hold, and to discuss bowl eligibility.

It really is amazing what one game can do.