No. 14 Northwestern beat Auburn 35-19 to win the Citrus Cup and claim their fourth win in the last five seasons on Saturday in Orlando. The Wildcats found themselves in strict control of the game from start to finish. They marched 75 yards in nine plays in the opening game of possession. They commented on another result before the end of the first quarter thanks to a second touch pass from Peyton Ramsay.
It was Ramsey’s best game as Northwestern Wildcat. The Indiana transfer set a high season mark with a passing 291 yards, tying his three passes to the three touchdowns he threw in a road win over Purdue earlier this season. Ramsey even decided to show off the wheels a bit, speeding up to 50 yards a day, including a 30-yard landing in the third quarter that helped the Wildcats take control again after Auburn cut the deficit to 14-13.
Ramsay was assisted by the Wildcats who ran back the Cam Porter, who darted 98 yards by himself. He also finalized the match with a fourth quarter relegation to make the score 35-19.
Bo Nix finished passing 292 yards to Auburn and led the team at 32 yards, but that wasn’t enough to keep the Tigers in game. Let’s take a look at the top four fast food meals from Orlando.
1. Northwestern’s defense can play with anyone
This was a fitting tribute to longtime defense coordinator Mike Hankowitz, who had just coached the final of a long and successful career. While Auburn finished 19 points and 361 yards off attack, six of those points and 75 yards came late in the fourth quarter when the match was already decided, and Northwestern was happy to let the clock melt. Prior to that, the Wildcats defense kept Auburn in check all day outside of Elijah Canyon’s big play.
Where Northwestern really won the match was in third place. Auburn only converted two of 13 attempts down the third, zero to 6 in third when they needed four yards or less. Time and time again, Hankowitz attacked the Knicks for forcing him to make quick decisions, and many times, he couldn’t. Hankwitz was a classic and a fitting way for him to end a great career.
2. The Northwestern program is a good football program
There is a tendency to write off this team as a bunch of arduous attempts. It is presented in a way that says working hard and exceeding expectations is a negative trait. It’s also a way to insult the team by saying it’s not as good as its results. Well, although I don’t think anyone would confuse Northwestern in terms of the type of team that can compete for the national titles, it is among the top 25 programs in the country.
There was a lot of talk about the number of players missing in Auburn in this match, and while this absence had an effect on the team’s ability to win the match, they ignored that Northwestern was dropping a few players. Eko Liotta, who led the team with four bags this season and has 5.5 tackles to lose, has not played. It is at the transportation gate. The same can be said of sprinters Drake Anderson and Isaiah Bowser and second recipient of the team in Kerik McGowan.
Their absence did not prevent the wild cats from putting 457 yards and 35 points over auburn.
3. An appreciation of how Pat Fitzgerald handled bowl games
Some shows see them as brawls and an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming season. Northwestern approaches the games as a vacation of sorts, but they totally plan to have a good time in them. I mean, just see how Fitzgerald wears it. He looks like a dad ready to dominate his kids on Shuffleboard.
Fitzgerald’s teams play forever to win, and they won’t play afraid. So when they encounter a fourth, short position in their area, they are not going to make the bet. They are going for that. Repeatedly. It’s refreshing to see, frankly, that more teams have to follow suit during the regular season.
4. What does the future hold for Nix?
When you think that they were led by a temporary coach who wouldn’t be stuck and a whole team of assistants not knowing their futures, what can you take away? Add unsubscribe and unavailable players for undisclosed medical reasons, and things get a little murkier.
However, I wonder what the future holds for Bo Nix. Nicks is auburn legacy and was hand picked by Jos Malzan as QB. Would Brian Harsen feel the same way? It’s hard to imagine the Knicks heading into 2021 as an indisputable start. While he has all the talent and potential in the world, it is hard to deny that he did not show much growth during his sophomore season. The moments of sparkle are so few and far between that causes the hair to be pulled from your head. This does not mean that the potential is not present. If Harsen and his new staff can help the Knicks develop further, they have the legitimate Heisman candidate in their hands. However, I expect Auburn to be aggressive in this off-season transfer market to bring at least some competition.