A week after routing Syracuse, the Western Michigan Broncos rowed into Ryan Field and gave the 'Cats a first-quarter scare. The offense stagnated and the defense yielded large chunks of yards to a quarterback operating under the pseudonym "Tyler Van Tubbergen." Fitz pumped his fists to little avail. Automatic kick machine Jeff Budzien missed a 42-yarder. The Broncos went up 3-0. The 'Cats finally scored a touchdown after about 17 grueling minutes. On the next play, Van Tubbergen found a wide-open receiver streaking down the field for a 75-yard touchdown. Charlton Heston sunk to his knees in front of the Statue of Liberty. Mighty Casey took his second strike, looking. Edvard Munch was hired to paint literally every Northwestern fan at the game. Things looked grim.
Northwestern fans react to a 10-7 Western Michigan lead
The scare, however, was temporary, and the 'Cats rallied behind Treyvon Green to run up a 24-10 lead at the half. Green rushed for 158 yards while Kolter added 106 on the ground. Ibraheim Campbell intercepted another pass, making that 5 straight games dating back to last season. Campbell has grabbed picks off of tip drills, on overthrown passes, by jumping routes, and through the long con known as the "The Viscount's Rake" which involves hiring a confidant to serve as an opposing team's offensive coordinator who designs plays specifically to go in Campbell's direction and then, in the dead of night, uses counterfeit university documents to rename opposing sports facilities after a fake donor so they have to play their basketball games at the "Ernest P. Worrell Family Arena." In the summer, Campbell will intern with a consortium of suave international jewel thieves.
In the end, the 'Cats were too much for P.J. Fleck's squad. The game was never in doubt in the second half, and it's possible that the 'Cats just came out flat in a bad first half that will henceforth be known as the "Van Tubbergen Mutiny." Fitz prefers not to dwell. Ever since that horrible football laboratory explosion, he spends his time after games in torn clothes, wandering around Sheridan Road, unable to remember anything about the game except for the fact that he has an undefeated Maine squad coming to Evanston on Saturday.
Maine is Northwestern's only FCS opponent. The Black Bears are 3-0, including a win against an FBS opponent. Granted, that team, UMass, is in its second year in the FBS and had come off an opener where massive Wisconsin linemen sat on them for 60 minutes.
UMass plays at Vanderbilt this week, and I plan to go to the game wearing purple
boxing trunks and scream I WANT VANDERBILT! DO YOU HEAR ME OLD MAN?
I DON'T CARE IF THESE CLUBBER LANG REFERENCES ARE GETTING STALE
Regardless of their record, Northwestern should beat Maine handily. But games against the FCS this season are hardly gimmees. In Week 1, four FCS schools scored upsets, including season-derailing victories by North Dakota State over Kansas State and Eastern Washington over a ranked Oregon State team. FBS schools pay these teams for record-padding-- after a loss, angry FBS coaches should be forced to remain on the 50-yard line to present their opponents with over-sized novelty checks made out to "I'll See You In Hell."
Northwestern, of course, is no stranger to the FCS home upset. That is because Northwestern received a grant in 1975 to explore every possible avenue of football-based humiliation. Circumstances certainly did not favor the 'Cats that year. The New Hampshire game was the emotional home opener in Fitz's first year as the team attempted to handle the loss of Randy Walker. New Hampshire also had a ludicrous speed offense coached by none other than Chip Kelly; I assume that most of Kelly's offensive concepts are based on neutralizing Tim McGarigle.
(I should add here that I know McGarigle had graduated before the 2006 season, but I assume Kelly was preparing for him anyway because of a little-known NCAA by-law that said if McGarigle was living on a houseboat reliving the tragic memories of the Sun Bowl, it would be legal for him to suit up for one last season, but only if he initially refused to play and then told the NU coaching staff that this time he was playing by his rules and also because this time it is personal. There is also an NCAA by-law that says we haven't had a dumb McGarigle joke here for awhile and I'm going to work it in this way even though it makes much more sense to reference his stint as an opposing linebackers' coach for Western Michigan because we don't do things by the book here at BYCTOM. Go ahead and take away my badge, Chief, but I'm working this one my way.)
Maine in the nineteenth century was of course the United States's primary front in a war against rapacious British land-grabs from Canada. In the 1830s, an area claimed by the U.S. as the northern part of Maine was the subject of a border dispute arising from vague provisions of the Treaty of Ghent. That treaty attempted to restore the borders to those agreed upon in 1783. One can only speculate that the Treaty of Ghent did not resolve this issue because delegates became too distracted by the Ghent nightlife, which is how the phrase "like a diplomat at Ghent" became a winking euphemism in nineteenth-century foreign policy circles.
Meanwhile, tensions increased as lumberjacks from New Brunswick began lumber-jacking in the disputed territory. American and Canadian lumberjacks organized themselves into armed militias. The Governor of Maine denounced the Canadians as "unruly wood thieves." Maine land agents were captured. Sabers were rattled. A skirmish was interrupted by an unexpected bear attack, as one would expect during nineteenth-century conflicts.
Finally, British and American diplomats formed a compromise treaty. According to Wikipedia at least, this compromise involved both sides allegedly hiding maps and accusations that the British forged a map made by Benjamin Franklin to convince Americans to accept the treaty. I have no idea if that is true, but I'd prefer to assume that all nineteenth-century diplomacy hinged on things that Nicolas Cage would do in one of those movies where the Declaration of Independence is actually a code for a Secret Declaration of Independence that replaced a list of accusations against King George with a number of rhyming clues about a Crown Jewel hidden in one of Alexander Hamilton's wigs that is being held in Teddy Roosevelt's right nostril at Mount Rushmore and there are evil treasure hunters trying to get to it first in order to compromise America's Freedom.
Wait a minute, it says here that the American territories were won by the Duke of
Portland in a crooked horse race and his descendants can use any inhabitant for
The U.S. and Canada remain in dispute over the Machias Seal Island off the coast of Maine. The territory is referred to as a "grey zone" with both sides attempting to flood the island with lighthouse keepers. It is also the setting for a movie I'm producing called "The Gray Zone: Bear Puncher," where Liam Neeson exploits the murky international boundaries to guide illegal bear hunting expeditions but of course something goes wrong and Nesson is forced to punch dozens of increasingly-larger bears and, if we get the budget, a gigantic lobster with a granite chin.
JUST MAINE, NOTHING ELSE GOING ON HERE
Northwestern looks like a legitimate challenger for the LEGENDS crown as
Nebraska's defense was dismantled by a good UCLA team at home and Michigan was nearly done in by a plucky Akron team supported by the powerful Michigan Suffering Lobby. Michigan State is undefeated but is planning to play every single eligible man on their roster at quarterback for a snap this season.
You'll notice this post has not looked past the Maine game. But the fact is that if Northwestern defeats the Black Bears (in a civilized, un-Neeson-like manner, we presume), they will be 4-0 heading into a bye week before a looming showdown with Ohio State. And, if Ohio State beats Florida A&M and a tough Wisconsin team that has spent the past week sending threatening telegrams to officials, we could see a showdown between the two unbeaten teams in what we can calmly describe as a GODDAMN FOOTBALL APOCALYPSE 2013 AT RYAN FIELD. And the Four Horsemen of the Football Apocalypse shall appear: Sack, Fumble, Hamstring Injury, and NCAA Sanctions for Allegedly Selling Your Own Pants. Lee Corso could potentially put on a Wildcat Hat. The game will be a sold-out free-for-all with Northwestern fans going all out to claim up to 25% of their own stadium. Pat Fitzgerald could end the game needing experimental fist replacement surgery.
It's all very exciting, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We all know Fitz has nothing but Maine on his mind. He has contacted the State Department for Grey Zone maps to better understand the Maine mindset. Next week, he will focus on the bye week by scrutinizing tapes of patio furniture and lawn maintenance equipment. Let's hope for a quiet week unmarred by bear attacks of the literal and football variety.