Mistake by the Lake: Northwestern rains on Vanderbilt, 23-13

As announced, ALDLAND was in Evanston, IL on Saturday for live coverage of week two’s only SEC/Big Ten matchup. I could use this space to talk about how systematically unprepared Evanston is for big time football on a socio-infrastructural level– be it the lack of parking, tailgate space and supplies, and uniformly green playing surface or the general irritability of the fan base– but we easily overcame all of those would-be hurdles on our way to an enjoyable afternoon on Lake Michigan’s southwestern shore, and, more to the point, you might think I was trying to distract you from what happened once the sun went down and the lights came on at Ryan Field. (Just don’t ask anyone in Evanston for directions to Ryan Field on gameday and expect a helpful answer.)

The Commodore offense could’ve used some better directions to Ryan Field on Saturday as well. The not-so-mild ‘Cats effectively shut down a running unit that’s supposed to be one of the SEC’s best, and the passing attack was mostly ineffective all by itself, particularly in the second half, during which the Black & Gold donned snapback Honolulu Blue costumes and threw bubble screen after useless bubble screen on their way to three big points.  On the other side of the ball, NW’s no-huddle approach to offense, coupled with an extremely mobile quarterback, shredded the Vandy defense with ease.

Looking ahead to the meat of the in-conference schedule, the Commodore faithful may need to revise their optimistic outlook in light of a uniformly weak showing against a comparatively weak opponent.

ALDLAND takes you live to the Brain Bowl, Evanston IL

Since Brendan wanted to neither preview nor review the Michigan/Alabama game he attended last weekend, this weekend’s Vanderbilt/Northwestern matchup will be ALDLAND’s first live-covered football game of the season. I, along with CFB preview podcast guest Marcus and VSL‘s Bobby O’Shea, will be in Evanston this weekend for the meeting of these two institutionally similar teams.

In the abstract, both teams represent the smallest and only private schools in two of the nation’s biggest conferences. As the modified graphic above indicates, this isn’t the first time the Commodores and Wildcats have met to play FOOTBALL. Some light googling indicates that these two schools have met three times, and each has a 1-1-1 record against the other. This season, both teams have a record that, at least vis-a-vis this weekend’s game, probably is misleading. Vanderbilt is 0-1 after a close loss to a top-ten, in-conference opponent in a game they at least could have won. Northwestern is 1-0 on the strength of a 42-41 shootout win over one-time-sort-of-powerhouse-ish Syracuse. I’m not saying they should’ve lost to the Orange, but I am saying that their surrender of 41 points and the final possession to CNY’s favoritest tells me more than them posting 42 on a Big East defense, to say nothing of the margin of victory. (And their otherwise feisty supporters seem to agree.)

On Wednesday, Vanderbilt was a 3.5-point favorite on the road, and the line hasn’t moved since. Given the high hopes in Commodore Country James Franklin has built since his arrival before last season and the sense around the Midwest that Northwestern, while not a doormat, has plateaued, this feels a bit narrow. Still, NW will make a formidable host for the visitors, for whom this is an important game they absolutely should win on their way to higher heights back in the SEC. As O’Shea writes in his preview this week, a win in the Chicago suburbs would be a strong statement to the Black & Gold’s national recruiting base as well.

As with last year, find us on Twitter during the game, and come back here for a recap afterwards.


B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Northwestern

B1G Roadtrippin’: Michigan at Northwestern

A couple weeks ago, ALDLAND took you to the opening of the Big Ten season in Ann Arbor. Now we are taking you on a B1G roadtrip to Evanston, Illinois for the Michigan-Northwestern game. But first, I am sure you have a lot of questions. For instance, you might be asking yourself “who is this cool dude with an awesome hair and beard combo writing this article? He isn’t that one guy, or that other guy who usually bring us the ALDLAND content we know and love!” I’m Brendan, the guy who has promised that he would write about five different articles and has not once written any of them due to a debilitating addiction to FIFA. Debilitating, I tell you!

Anyway, on to the roadtrip/game coverage. If you go to a game at Northwestern, make sure you stay in Chicago, and not in Evanston. Evanston is a fine college town and all, but there isn’t a ton to do and it’s only a 40 minute train ride from Chicago to the stop nearest to the stadium. Plus, you can do fun things like have pizza! Who doesn’t love pizza? Communists, that’s who.

Tailgating in Evanston can be a lot of fun, especially if you are a fan of a team that brings a lot of people to away games. We tailgated for several hours with a bunch of Michigan fans, discussing such varied topics as how much we all love Denard Robinson and how great Denard Robinson is at running with a football in his hands. I learned about an interesting game called Dodgebeer, but that’s a whole different article.

Northwestern’s stadium holds about 40,000 fans and is largely uninspiring. Those of you lucky enough to have taken in a blowout loss at Vanderbilt Stadium would be instantly familiar with Ryan Field. Except you might be confused by the atmosphere, because Northwestern has Dan Persa as their QB and not Larry Smith, and consequently actually get somewhat excited for football games. Nevertheless, their fans were personable, and several complemented me on how I was “a lot nicer than those Iowa fans.” Iowa fans, what the heck?

The game started off well for Michigan, as Denard Robinson orchestrated a Michigan scoring drive capped by Steve Watson’s first career catch and touchdown. Miraculously, he did not throw a pick. This changed in short order, as Denard, clearly momentarily color blind, started giving the ball to the Northwestern players like it was candy on Halloween. Denard’s generosity allowed Northwestern to tie the game and eventually take the lead. Michigan’s offense continued to be lackluster, and at the break they found themselves trailing 24-14.

Sometime between the end of the first half and the start of the second half, Brady Hoke either put the fear of God into Michigan, or Northwestern forgot how to play football, because in the second half Michigan put on a clinic, scoring 28 unanswered points to give them a 42-24 victory. The second half featured an extended cameo by backup QB Devin Gardner after Denard hurt his hand and had to take a drive off. Gardner showed why he has the potential to be a star at Michigan, driving the Wolverines down the field like a seasoned veteran and scoring on a one yard run.

What did this game mean for the now 6-0 Wolverines? Well, it means they are bowl eligible, for one. I’m not sure how many doubts this answered about Michigan’s ability to play on the road, as they came out flat in front of a crowd that was at least a third Wolverines fans. Nevertheless, 6-0 is 6-0, and the country will see whether Michigan is for real this week when they take on the Spartans in East Lansing.

For Northwestern, this had to be a tough pill to swallow. They moved the ball almost at will in the first half, but failed to understand the significance of the first down line in the second half and consequently scored no points. Things are not going to get any easier for Wildcat fans, as Northwestern travels to Iowa City next weekend. A loss there and it’s looking like a trip to the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl for the Wildcats. However, the plus side of that is: pizza.

I hope you have enjoyed my first article for ALDLAND. I hope to write more in the future, however I think my friend Jeremy just called to see if I want to play FIFA . . .