NU demands some respect after dispatching Wisconsin
There was an interesting transformation as dusk settled on Evanston.
Northwestern took control of the Big Ten West with a workmanlike, fundamentally sound 17-7 beatdown of Wisconsin at Ryan Field.
The final score made it seem like a competitive game, but it felt like the Wildcats were the aggressors from the opening kick. With a 14-7 halftime lead, their defense gave the Badgers no hope. NU forced 5 turnovers on the day.
Then after the game, the Wildcats got a little mouthy. At least by their standards, anyway. These are still Northwestern students, so it was trash talk with a strong vocabulary, of course.
Cornerback Greg Newsome and defensive end Earnest Brown seemed to egg each other on during the postgame Zoom interviews.
"Coming into this season, we knew what we had," Newsome said. "We just knew everybody else didn't think we had anything. But we woke up the country now and we need our dang respect."
Countered Brown, "We just need the respect that we deserve, because everybody's thinking we came off a 3-9 season that we're (crud). Like naw, forget all that. We keep fighting and fighting to get everybody's respect around here, but after this game I feel like we should get it right now."
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald even got into the act. After the game, he sent a tweet tagging ESPN analyst Joey Galloway. Apparently, Galloway dismissed Northwestern's chances as a Big Ten contender earlier this week, saying the Wildcats were like a bunch of Rece Davises running around.
Galloway was referring to College GameDay host Rece Davis, who actually graduated from the University of Alabama, but that's beside the point.
"Not bad for a bunch of Rece Davises, eh Joey Galloway," Fitzgerald wrote in his tweet.
This is a perfectly reasonable time to gloat. Wisconsin was favored by a touchdown, but turned out to be the team that hadn't been tested. The Wildcats (5-0) need to win two of their last three games (at Michigan State, at Minnesota, Illinois) to earn a trip to the Big Ten title game for the second time in three years.
"That (Rece Davis comment) really ticked our guys off, I'm not going to lie to you," Fitzgerald said after the game. "It was, I thought, incredibly disrespectful, but that is what it is. It's not the first time. I just talked to the guys about putting fuel in their engines."
After going 3-9 in 2019, the Wildcats have built an impressive defense, led by one of the best backfields in the Midwest. Safety Brandon Joseph, a redshirt freshman from College Station, Tex., nabbed his fourth and fifth interceptions of the season Saturday.
NU's starting cornerbacks are suburban natives. Newsome played at Glenbard North High School before transferring to IMG Academy, while Cam Ruiz is from Lakes High School in Lake Villa. Newsome snagged his first interception of the season against Wisconsin.
"Greg has shown that he's an All-Big Ten and, in my opinion, beyond type shut down corner," Fitzgerald said. "Cam Ruiz is getting better and better. Quite frankly, he's really hard on himself and I think he's learning to deal with the momentary failures that happen back there."
Northwestern managed just 24 rushing yards on 23 carries, so the offense wasn't a thing of beauty. But there were some timely highlights.
Libertyville's Riley Lees -- a high school QB turned wide receiver -- threw his first college pass and hit Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman for a 36-yard gain in the first quarter. The play was originally ruled a touchdown, but replays showed RCB stepped out of bounds on the one. The Cats lost a fumble on the next play, so they missed a chance to go up 14-0 early.
Late in the second quarter, though, Indiana grad transfer QB Peyton Ramsey found Chiaokhiao-Bowman for a 25-yard touchdown that made it 14-7.
"I remember seeing the ball up in the air on the touchdown and I just thought, 'Wow, 12 (Ramsey) is great. He just put this in the perfect spot,'" Chiaokhiao-Bowman said. "The rest is history."
Actually, this one wasn't over until the conversations ceased. But Northwestern is all alone atop the Big Ten West.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls