September 17, 2007

The cold, hard truth

The truth isn't always found on a scoreboard, in a box score or in the standings. The truth happens on the field - it's something you see with your own eyes and know in your heart.

So even if quarterback C.J. Bacher's pass on the final play against Duke had found its way into Tonjua Jones's outstretched arms in the back of the end zone and the Wildcats had pulled out another last-gasp win, the truth still would not have been altered. The Wildcats lost 20-14 on Saturday night, but even if they had won 21-20 in another of their patented comebacks and stood a perfect 3-0, every one of the 23,716 fans in attendance at Ryan Field still would have walked out of the stadium knowing the truth, and every Wildcat player would have realized it, as well.

The cold, hard truth is this: Northwestern just isn't a very good football team right now. The Cats are erratic on offense and suspect on defense, and they have not yet been able to string together four quarters of solid football.

The truth played hide-and-seek with Northwestern in the first two games of the season - a business-like 27-0 thumping of an overmatched Northeastern team and a come-from-behind 36-31 thriller over a should-have-been-overmatched Nevada. But it revealed itself fully over four quarters on a crystal clear and cool autumn night, where the Wildcats were beaten by a Duke team that hadn't tasted victory over a two-year, 22-game span.

Yes, Northwestern's record is still 2-1 and the Big Ten is still wide-open, looking far less formidable on grass than it did on paper just three short weeks ago. But the won-loss column in the standings doesn't help the Cats avoid the many grim truths about Saturday night's loss.

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