On Saturday, the Northwestern Wildcats reminded their entire fan base why the term "Cardiac Cats" has become such an apt description of the team's exploits. After building up a 22-point lead against Syracuse midway through the third quarter, Northwestern promptly blew the entire lead before a last-minute, game-winning comeback.
The game alone is like a crash course on the ups and downs of the Northwestern sports fan experience, but after a victory, it's generally easier to focus on the positives. As Rodger Sherman of Sippin' on Purple writes, "The win is very, very nice, but the game leaves NU's fanbase with just as many question marks as we had going in."
Question marks are to be expected after blowing a 22-point lead in a matter of minutes, but some of the ones surrounding Northwestern aren't so bad. Like the team's potential quarterback controversy, for example. After leading the game-winning drive, some may be calling for Trevor Siemian to take over at QB:
[Starting QB Kain] Colter looked alright passing the ball, making most of the passes he needed, but Siemian came in and finished the job admirably. Let's not make it seem like Colter had a bad day - 14-for-21, two touchdowns, no picks, could have been better if not for some dropped passes - but he wasn't the star we expected. Siemian might be the guy.
Expectations entering the season were high for Colter after he showed flashes of star potential last season, but he never asserted himself as a dynamic playmaker in Saturday's game against Syracuse. Siemian admittedly didn't look great on his first possession, but he found a rhythm late in the game and really moved the offense.
As good as Siemian looked late in the game on Saturday, it's going to be hard for the coaching staff to ignore what happened on defense against the Orange. The secondary was expected to be a work in progress this season, but what happened on Saturday is almost unacceptable, as Sherman writes:
The analysis that Northwestern's passing defense would be problematic was no joke. 470 yards passing! Holy smokes! Someone's gonna hit five hundo against the Cats this year. There was A bad pass interference call, but there were MULTIPLE legitimate ones, not to mention two plays where our guys just, you know, kinda fell over instead of defending passes.
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib entered Saturday's game with 33 career appearances under in his belt. In those games, he threw for over 300 yards just once, tossing a career-high 318 yards against Rhode Island last year. He just threw for 470 yards against the Wildcats. So yeah, it's definitely a work in progress.
Northwestern does have a victory, though, and that's ultimately what's important. The Wildcats continue their season next week against the Vanderbilt Commodores, a team that nearly upset No. 5-ranked South Carolina on Thursday.
For more on the Wildcats, head over to Sippin' on Purple.