Northwestern: Living and Dying By a Kicker

Leroy KleimolaCorrespondent IJanuary 1, 2010

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1: Kicker Stefan Demos #1 of the Northwestern Wildcats follows through on a field goal attempt against the Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2010 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  Auburn was called for roughing the kicker. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Northwestern Wildcats suffered a heartbreaking loss this morning to a penalty prone Auburn Tigers team.  Northwestern, after getting chance upon chance gave up this game in overtime.  While the Wildcats showed plenty of heart and courage in the game (They came back being down by 14 not once-but twice), it wasn't enough to come back and beat the Tigers in a sloppy game in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

However now that I have stopped crying, I can analyze the game today into three sections that hurt both Northwestern and Auburn: penalties, turnovers, and special teams.

First of all Auburn shot themselves in the foot over and over with penalties. First of all with Auburn up by a touchdown and Northwestern having the ball on fourth and 10 Auburn ended up getting a penalty for face-masking on Kafka which gave Northwestern new life and letting them tie up the game.  There was also a roughing the kicker penalty plus a couple unsportsmanlike penalties for excessive celebrations. 

Auburn gave Northwestern way to many chances.  I know a lot of people blamed the officials for being too "one-sided."  Yeah, right.  The penalty in overtime against Northwestern hurt them too.  And the only play that the officials "messed" up on was that catch that they ruled incomplete. 

Turnovers also hurt both teams with Northwestern having five, and Auburn having four.  Kafka threw five interceptions and none hurt more than the first two.  The tipped pass, which wasn't Kafka's fault, and then the Interception in the end zone that got returned 100 yards for the touchdown absolutely destroyed Northwestern's morale in the first quarter. 

Auburn's turnovers were also at costly times.  The fumble, that set up Northwestern's chance to win the game with 32 seconds was probably the most costliest for the Tigers. But that leads me to my third point of the game: special teams.

Stefan Demos, probably feels like the lowest person on this planet tonight.  The poor junior from Scottsdale, Arizona, really felt the pressure today.  He played very bad missing an extra point, three field goal attempts and punting horribly for most of the day.  Auburn didn't play bad on special teams but didn't play spectacular either.  It was just a matter of Demos being nervous and not stepping up when he needed to step up. 

As far as the last play of the game is concerned its like this.  I was very upset at first.  Now that I have had time to think about it I have realized that I am behind this move.  Pat Fitzgerald has always been given grief about being too conservative and he took a gamble and lost. 

If Northwestern makes this play work, Fitzgerald is looked at like a genius and Northwestern is touted as a team that overcame a 14 point deficit and won.  So in conclusion it was a great game even though Northwestern got the short end of the stick.