Nadkarni: Time for Northwestern to let its play do the talking


Rohan Nadkarni, Gameday Editor

Where did the time go?

It feels like just yesterday a young, wide-eyed version of myself roamed the field during Northwestern’s Gator Bowl celebration, snapping stalker-ish photos of University President Morton Schapiro while throwing all journalistic credibility out the window.

Now, I’m a few weeks away from turning 21, and I feel like I’m staring death in the face as a new football season approaches.

I’ve written once already about the Wildcats’ high hopes for this season – from top to bottom, the football program expects to win the Big Ten conference. Meanwhile, the hype surrounding NU is reaching heights that it never has before.

Despite all the good vibes this offseason in the wake of the Cats’ drought-ending bowl victory, it’s important to remember that the football field is the greatest equalizer.

Fans are right to be excited, as NU has a young team coming off a 10-win season. But what do we really know about this team? We won’t know anything until we see them on the field.

I don’t know if many people had the Cats pegged as a 10-win squad going into last season. They lost many key seniors, and the secondary looked like it was going to suffer some serious growing pains.

In fact, the team came pretty close to falling short of the 10-win mark.

It took a Trevor Siemian acting job to complete the comeback against Syracuse. Vanderbilt had a halftime lead on NU in Evanston before the Cats scored 17 points in the last quarter. And it was a fourth-quarter field goal that finally put away Michigan State in another close game.

This preseason, the Cats are 22nd in both preseason polls and even grabbed the 10th spot in the Los Angeles Times’ preseason rankings. But as we learned from last offseason, the preseason talk means nothing.

And I’m tired of all the talk. I no longer want to see coach Pat Fitzgerald on ESPN — I want to see him on the sidelines. I want to see NU respond on the field to the highest expectations it has ever had for itself.

This season, the Cats are fighting for more than wins or even a Big Ten title – they are fighting for relevance.

Obviously, the coaches and players are much more eager than you and I could ever be to take the field and back up all the talk from this offseason. From Schapiro to Fitzgerald to the players, the football program has embraced the mounting pressure of the past few months.

Fans are certainly building up to some moments for the season as well. Most notably, the Homecoming match with Ohio State on Oct. 5 could be one of the greatest triumphs or disappointments in recent history.

But that’s a long way away. The season starts with a Cal team that will present unique challenges to NU.

So for me, the best part about this offseason coming to a close isn’t looking ahead, thinking big or preparing my Rose Bowl preview column. It’s that it’s almost time to see the Cats on the field.

Gameday editor Rohan Nadkarni is a rising Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected] If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]