Basanez, Sutton steal NU’s show (Sports Column)

Tania Ganguli

They sat at the press conference side-by-side, answering the other’s questions, making fun of each other and complementing each other perfectly.

Brett Basanez and Tyrell Sutton.

Basanez, who’s spent three years in the glare of shining Northwestern running backs, sat next to its latest, and the pair wouldn’t let anyone forget how perfectly their roles blended.

What prompted Sutton’s huge game?

“I was really sick of seeing Baz get all the glory,” he joked.

And Sutton’s 62-yard touchdown run?

“How slow did he look?” Basanez said. “I thought for sure he was getting caught.”

“We both thought I was getting caught. I was looking over my shoulder, scared,” Sutton added, but he wouldn’t let Basanez get the last dig.

“I ran like Baz, just running out of fear.”

Whether it was fear, killer instinct or friendly competition with teammates, something drove those two into games in which they seemed unable to do wrong. Catching them was difficult, tackling them was nearly impossible.

Sutton routinely dragged defenders with him when they tried to tackle him.

And I can’t remember how many times I saw someone I thought was a running back power through the defensive line, only to find out it was Basanez who wasn’t backing down. While Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco slid short of first downs on keepers, Basanez pushed through until he moved the chains or someone stopped him.

Then there was his passing game. Not flawless by any means, but he connected with his receivers so beautifully that the mistakes were easy to forget.

What’s not easy to forget is how strange this seems. Not too long ago, it was difficult to imagine Basanez would leave behind his history of poor decisions, happy feet and erratic passes.

But the Brett Basanez we saw Friday was one we better get used to, because this is what he looks like all grown up.

Poised and composed, he found his receivers time and time again. The receiving corps helped his cause by always being right where they were supposed to be. When they weren’t, Basanez responded by making the right decision. Don’t take that for granted in a quarterback.

Scrambling is the wrong word for his determined carries through holes created when the Badgers defense focused on every other weapon out there. Scrambling implies being flustered when there’s nowhere to go.

But part of the reason it worked so well was Wisconsin could never just focus on him, they had Mighty Mouse to worry about.

That’s what made their performance so perfect. When receivers were covered, Basanez would swing it over to Sutton who would do his thing. I realize this is what offenses are supposed to do, but it’s rarely worked out quite so well.

And it has everything to do with Sutton and Basanez.

Two guys on opposite ends of their careers. These two are taking the Wildcats offense to a level it hasn’t been for a few years. The seamless transition between 1,000-yard rushers (just a few more games before Sutton gets there) has meant they’ve always had a phenomenal back. But now that tailback has a quarterback who can shred offenses just as easily as he can.

What’s changed? Maybe Sutton knows.

“I’d like to say he’s definitely sexier now that he’s older.”

That’s probably it.

Sports editor Tania Ganguli is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]