After all. When you're a super heavy and your challenger is a welterweight, you don't waste time with jabbing and feinting and fancy footwork. No. You simply load up your haymaker and throw that sucker until that challenger is face down on the canvas. This, allegorically, is just what the 'Cats did in their 42-21 win over the Panthers.
* We, then, will honor the occasion and present a report as straight forward as that personality the 'Cats adopted at Ryan Field. We will start it, as we should, with their offensive line, which goes 310, 295, 300, 300 and 310. EIU's defensive line, in contrast, goes 230, 284, 297 and 241, and its linebackers are an even smaller 221, 215 and 215. Heck. 'Cat wide receiver Demetrius Fields, who checks in at 210, is nearly as big as any in that trio, whose members were in fact outsized by NU superbacks Jack Konopka (295) and Drake Dunsmore (235) and freshman wide receiver Christian Jones (220).
It was no wonder, then, that running back Jacob Schmidt would later say, "We ran the ball well. We ran the ball a lot. It was good. We knew all week we could run the ball against this defense. We showed that."
And why'd they know they could run?
"Illinois State kinda got after them last week (in the Panthers' season opener) and our O-line definitely outsized them. We thought we could expose that. We did that."
"We were talking about it all week," added the 295-pound left guard Brian Mulroe. "We wanted to run the ball on these guys. It's a great feeling to know you're going to get a chance to get after guys all day long."
* Here is why he and his line mates so embraced a playbook that featured the run. When they pass block, they normally retreat and absorb the blow of the defender across from them. But when they run block, they are the ones delivering the blow. Now just think about that. Wouldn't you too like to be throwing the haymaker instead of receiving it?
* Now to the numbers. The 'Cats rushed 67 times for 320 yards (4.8 ypc) and five touchdowns. They threw only 16 times, completing a dozen for 117 yards and one touchdown. Not only that. In the third quarter they threw only two passes, one each by Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, and they again threw only twice in the fourth, both by Siemian. But, in stark contrast, they rushed 36 times in those final 30 minutes.
* Colter ran for 109 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. True freshman Treyvon Green, who got significant time with Mike Trumpy out after suffering a concussion against Boston College, ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Schmidt ran for 57 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and Adonis Smith ran for 55 yards on 17 carries.
* Schmidt, you might recall, suffered a season-ending injury last fall while fumbling the ball away at the goal line against Michigan State. He would later say that this play haunted him throughout the off-season and so, on Saturday, he was asked if he thought back to the Spartan game after his score. He chuckled. "I'd be lying if I said no," he then said. "It felt good to get it in."
* After his last carry, a straight plunge early in the fourth quarter, Smith was helped off the field with what appeared to be a right ankle injury. "I asked him if he was going to play (next week against Army)," Fitzgerald later said. "He said, 'Yeah.'"
* Of the freshman Green he said: "When we recruited him he reminded me of (former 'Cat star) Tyrell Sutton. He's thick. He runs behind his pads. And I like the passion he plays with too. He's excited to be out there."
"He just has a natural ability to find the hole. He's got great vision," Schmidt said of him. "I haven't seen his break away speed yet. But he's got great vision, he's got a knack to find that hole, to jump cut or whatever he's got to do get positive yards. If you can do that, you're going to have a chance to play."
* Colter, as he did against BC, again choreographed the 'Cats with aplomb, going 10-of-13 for 104 yards as well as rushing for those 109. ("He's playing beyond his years. He's a talented young man," said Fitzgerald.) But, as he did against BC, he again absorbed some wicked blows, most notably on his final touchdown run. Here, early in the third quarter, he scrambled right from the eight, collided shoulder to shoulder at the two with Panther safety Nick Beard, lost the ball, kept his feet, collected the ball out of the air and staggered into the end zone. "I realize it after the game," he said later when asked if he knows he has taken a big hit. "But during the game, especially in the red zone, you smell blood, you want to score a touchdown. So you've got to get those tough yards. But definitely in the open field with maybe two defenders on me, I need to just get down. Get the yards I can and slide. It's going to be a long season and I like to think I need to be in there to help the team any way possible."
But, someone asked, didn't you slide once?
"I think I might have slid once," he said with a smile. "I think that's a record for me."
* Turns out that, last week, Fitzgerald walked into a quarterback meeting with his cell phone on speaker and announced, "I want you guys to listen to this."
"It was (Yankee manager and Northwestern alum) Joe Girardi on the phone and he congratulated us on the win at BC," remembered Colter. "And he also said, 'Tell Kain Colter he needs to slide.' He said, 'My nine-year old son taught (New York Jets QB) Mark Sanchez how to slide and he'll be able to teach you too.' It was funny. It was a good little wake-up call realizing Girardi's watching the games and seeing me play. But it's not a joking matter. I do take it seriously, so I feel I do need to slide to try and keep myself healthy throughout the season."
*Now this wasn't a masterpiece the 'Cats punched out. A coverage mistake by safety Ibraheim Campbell handed the Panthers their first touchdown; a pair of interference penalties (both in the end zone) by corner Jordan Mabin and middle linebacker David Nwabuisi set up their second; and a breakdown among the subs led to their third with just 1:20 remaining. There was also a shanked punt, a kickoff out-of-bounds, a missed field goal attempt and possible interceptions dropped by defensive end Tyler Scott and corner Jeravin Matthews. That gives Fitzgerald plenty to talk about at Sunday's film session.
* Still. The 'Cats did what a good team should do in their Saturday home opener against Eastern Illinois. They took an overmatched opponent and ground it down and finally pounded it into submission.