Northwestern '08: A Look Back at a Great Season

Leroy KleimolaCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2009

As I sat back and thought about the Northwestern Wildcats-Missouri Tigers Alamo Bowl, and yes, I shed a tear or two, I thought about the season that had unfolded and the magic that Wildcats fans watched.

Northwestern vs Syracuse:  Northwestern opened up the 2008 season against Syracuse.  They got off to a great start as they jumped out to a 9-3 lead, thanks to a safety and a 16 yard touchdown pass.  The Wildcats played sloppy football but played better as the game went on. 

Running back Tyrell Sutton had a fumble in the third but quickly recovered as he also came back and caught a 12 yard pass from quarterback CJ Bacher to make it 16-10.  Northwestern won easily as the Wildcats beat the Orangemen 30-10.

Northwestern @ Duke:  After one of the most toughest losses of the 2007 season, the Wildcats came into Durham, North Carolina hoping for a better game. Northwestern jumped to a 17-10 lead.  But Duke battled back.  CJ Bacher threw for 226 yards. Tyrell Sutton scored two rushing touchdowns and Omar Conteh scored the go ahead points as the Wildcats scooted past the Blue Devils 24-20. 

Northwestern vs. Southern Illinois:  Northwestern, going for it's third win of the season, jumped to an early lead against Southern Illinois.  The Salukis answered back with a touchdown to lead 7-6 at the end of the first, but that would be it for them.  Amado Villarreal kicked four field goals, and Tyrell Sutton rushed for three touchdowns. 

The Salukis' Larry Warner, scored a touchdown and ran for 55+ yards.  The Wildcats were too much for the Salukis' as Northwestern won easily 33-7.

Northwestern vs. Ohio University:  Northwestern got all they could handle when Ohio came to town.  Amado Villareal kicked 3 field goals, and Ohio kicker, Barrett Way had two field goals blocked and one field goal missed to the right wide.

Bacher threw for 133 yards, and Tyrell Sutton ran for 76 yards before leaving midway during the third.  Northwestern held off Ohio for it's fourth win of the year, and being undefeated in non-conference play, as they won 16-8. 

Northwestern @ Iowa:  Playing its first tough game of the season Northwestern came into Iowa City winners of four straight.  Iowa came in blazing, jumping up to a quick 17-3 lead, however a fumble late in the second quarter gave the Wildcats life, as CJ Bacher threw a pass to Rasheed Ward, to cut the deficit to seven. 

Northwestern would come storming back, as Eric Peterman would score two touchdowns, and stop Iowa on fourth down with less than a minute left.  The Wildcats eased on by the Hawkeyes 22-17, for their best start since 1962. 

Northwestern vs. No. 23 Michigan State:  After beating MSU in overtime last year, Michigan State came in seeking their revenge.  They got it early.  MSU took advantage of Northwestern mistakes, as the Spartans capitalized on turnovers to jump up to a 17-0 lead at the end of the first.  Javon Ringer, MSU's running back, ran for two touchdowns, rushed 35 times for 124 yards. 

Northwestern didn't "wake up" till the third quarter but by that time it was too late.  The Wildcats lose a heartbreaker, 37-20, to drop their record to 5-1. 

Northwestern vs. Purdue:  Northwestern, coming off their stinging loss to MSU a week prior, came up against a Purdue team hurting.  Purdue jumped up 6-0 off a pair of fieldgoals, but Northwestern came back strong.  Bacher threw to Peterman for a 45 yard touchdown pass.  Eric Peterman then threw a touchdown pass himself.

CJ Bacher threw for over 230 yards.  Purdue quarterback, Curtis Painter, threw for 273 yards but had three interceptions.  Penalties hurt the Boilermakers, as they had one penalty after another.  The Wildcats handed the Boilermakers, their fifth loss of the season, as they clawed their way to a 48-26 victory.

Northwestern @ Indiana: Coming off a huge win against Purdue, Northwestern went to Bloomington looking to capitalize off a Indiana team that was missing it's starting quarterback, Kellen Lewis.  However, replacement quarterback, Ben Chappell, had other plans.  He threw for 219 yards passing and threw for a touchdown. 

Indiana jumped up to a 7-3 lead, when Tyrell Sutton scored a rushing touchdown to make the score 9-7.  However, late in the third quarter Tyrell Sutton would break his wrist and be out of the game, it would later be relieved that he would need surgery and it wouldn't be clear when he would play again. 

Northwesterns' CJ Bacher threw for 155 yards but the Wildcats couldn't keep up as Indiana matched them score for score squeezing past the Wildcats 21-19.

Northwestern @ No. 20 Minnesota:  Northwestern coming off their hurtful loss to Indiana faced Minnesota at their homecoming game with yet another loss.  It appeared CJ Bacher was suffering from a hamstring injury and would be out for the game but would be on the sidelines if necessary. 

The Wildcats would have their most memorable game of the year.  Northwestern jumped out to a 10-0 lead at the end of the first.  Mike Kafka would run the option all day most times carrying the ball himself.  Eric Decker, the wide receiver from Minnesota answered back with a touchdown.  And at the half the score was tied 17-17. 

Kafka would do his part as he would rush 27 times, breaking the schools record with 217 rushing yards.  The most by a quarterback since Zak Kustok.  With six seconds left, the Gophers instead of running the clock down and going into overtime decided a desperation hail mary pass.  As the ball flew up in the air, Northwestern defensive men, David Oredugba deflected the pass into Brenden Smith's extended hands. 

Smith took a couple of blocks and ran the ball back all the way for a 48 yard interception return, as a stunned Minnesota crowd watched Northwestern celebrate in the endzone.  The Wildcats won their seventh game of the season upsetting the Gophers 24-17. 

Northwestern vs. No. 12 Ohio State:  Northwestern, came home feeling pretty good about their victory against Minnesota.  Ohio State came to Ryan Field after suffering a humiliating loss too Penn State.  After taking a much deserved week off, the Wildcats faced the Buckeyes at home.  It wasn't a pretty game as Ohio State had way too much firepower for the Wildcats to compete.  After the end of the first, Northwestern was tied with Ohio State 7-7.  That tie was short lived. 

 Ohio State responded back off mistakes by Northwestern, as quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw for 197 yards.  The Buckeyes scored twice in the fourth quarter and destroyed the Wildcats 45-10.

Northwestern @ Michigan:  On a day when temps stayed in the mid-20's and freezing rain fell most of the day, Northwestern struck deep in the heart of Ann Arbor.  Michigan jumped to a 14-7 lead at the half, and for a while it looked like the Wolverines were finally going to win a game.  However, Northwestern responded with 14 points in the third quarter.  Michigan, couldn't answer back. 

Michigan, who lost their eighth game of the season, were assured of a losing record with that loss, their first since 1967.  Northwestern won at the Big House, for the first time since 1995.  The Wildcats froze out the Wolverines 21-14.

Northwestern vs. Illinois:  The Northwestern Wildcats, trying to get a better bowl game, also looked to keep the Illini out of bowl contention. Only a year after they went to the rose bowl.  Northwestern came out early throwing jumping to a 13-0 lead at half.  Illinois fought back and was down 16-10 in the fourth.  However a touchdown pass to Eric Peterman, who had 111 receiving yards, sealed the Illinis' fate. Northwestern pulled away from there.

CJ Bacher threw for 230 yards as the Wildcats won the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk for the last time.  Stephen Simmons filling in for hurt Tyrell Sutton rushed for 70 yards.  The Wildcats beat the Illini 27-10. 

So the Northwestern Wildcats sat back and waited to see what bowl game they would get.  Finishing in fourth place, tied with the Iowa Hawkeyes, they had many different bowl  representatives there.  When all was said and done, Northwestern was invited to the Valero Alamo Bowl to face the Missouri Tigers. 

The Missouri Tigers, picked to be contenders at the beginning of the season, didn't do as well as they wanted to do, and weren't too happy about their bowl pick.  Northwestern tried to take advantage of that, as they were ranked for the first time in the AP poll in the season.

Northwestern vs. Missouri (San Antonio, Texas):  Northwestern got a huge jump when it was announced that Tyrell Sutton would be ready to play in the bowl game.  Northwestern jumped up to a 7-0 lead when an interception led to a 35 yard touchdown by Eric Peterman.  Missouri and Northwestern both kicked field goals, and then the Tigers' Jeremy Maclin ran back a 75 yard punt near the end of the first half to even the score at 10-10. 

Northwestern responded back in the second half with a touchdown, but missed the extra point.  This would come back to bite them.  The Tigers' Danario Alexander scored a touchdown to give them their first lead of the game 17-16.  Missouri would score again off a fieldgoal to make the score 20-16. 

Northwestern then scored a touchdown to lead 23-20.  Missouri tied up the game 23-23 off a 37 yard field goal.  With five seconds left Tigers kicker, Jeff Wolfert, missed a fieldgoal wide right sending the game into overtime.

Maclin again scored a seven yard touchdown, in overtime, giving the Tigers a 30-23 lead.  When Northwestern got the ball, they couldn't do anything and a last desperation pass by CJ Bacher fell harmlessly. The Tigers handed the Wildcats their sixth bowl game loss, 30-23.  Bacher had a career game throwing for 304 yards, three touchdowns, and only one turnover.  Tyrell Sutton was also good in his comeback, wearing a huge brace on his wrist, as he rushed for 114 yards on 29 carries.

(Northwestern played a great game, but couldn't come away with the victory.  It will be a great year for them next season, and I'm looking forward to next year!)


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