Renewed hope after MSU win

Wade Askew

Two weeks ago I wrote that we as Northwestern fans needed to hold out through the hurt of demoralizing losses to Duke and Ohio State for one of “those moments.”

Later that week, we almost witnessed one of those glorious games that remind us why we are fans in the first place. Then NU turned the ball over four times in four possessions to blow a fourth-quarter lead against Michigan, and I was that much closer to admitting myself to a clinic.

But when both the team and its fans needed it the most, C.J. Bacher and the Wildcats delivered one of “those moments.”

In Saturday’s first overtime period, Bacher floated a pass off of his back foot that drifted just over the out-stretched hand of a Michigan State linebacker (raise your hand if you thought the pass would be picked off), and Omar Conteh brought it down to give the Cats a seven-point lead (raise your hand if you thought the defense would hold. Come on, be honest.).

When Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer tossed his fourth straight overtime pass to nobody in particular – and I scoured the field for flags – I had officially witnessed my first Cardiac Cats classic as an NU student. Well, other than the Nevada game earlier this year, but I watched that on Tivo while I was still home in Atlanta after already knowing the outcome. It just wasn’t the same.

But to say this was just another thrilling overtime victory would be an understatement.

It may have saved our season.

A loss would have dropped the Cats to 2-4, 0-3 in the Big Ten. Any hopes of going to a bowl game would have been virtually dashed, and any program credibility that remained after the Duke loss would have evaporated.At 3-3, a bowl game is back in the picture, though it seems a 6-6 record will not warrant an invitation, what with the Duke black eye and an abundance of mediocre Big Ten teams. Still, a 7-5 record again looks doable with Minnesota and Eastern Michigan left on the schedule, as well as an underachieving Iowa team. Winning those three games would leave NU needing just one more victory out of Purdue, Indiana (at home) and a suddenly resurgent Illinois team. Then, hello, Motor City Bowl.

Am I getting way ahead of myself? Absolutely. But things like that happen when your team wins a season-salvaging overtime barn burner against a team that broke your heart like no other just one year ago.

We went from having our hopes beaten, bloodied and buried after being on the wrong side of Division I’s most dramatic comeback in history a year ago to having our dreams suddenly creep back into the realm of possibility against the same team this season.

Will our defense have to improve dramatically? Yes. Can we expect Bacher to throw for over 500 yards every week? I don’t think so.

But with what has been perhaps the craziest year in the history of college football, I am now just stupid enough to get my hopes up again.