There were high hopes for the Northwestern Wildcats going into this season as they began the season being ranked in the AP Top 25. They went 4-0 until the Ohio State Buckeyes handed them their first loss of the season in Evanston.
It’s all been downhill from there. The Wildcats have lost five in a row and are still winless in the Big Ten. It is not likely that they will win enough games to become bowl-eligible either. What happened to them? Why have they not been able to win in the Big Ten?
The answer is simple. It is something that plagued the Wildcats last season as well. They cannot hold onto late leads and lose in close games.
Last season, the Wildcats blew late leads to the Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan Wolverines and Nebraska Cornhuskers. Their last three losses this season have come by a combined 13 points, one of which was to the Cornhuskers again just this past week on a successful Hail Mary as time expired. The two previous losses by the Wildcats came at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes in overtime by a score of 17-10 and the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a score of 20-17.
The 40-30 loss to the Buckeyes on October 5 even saw the Wildcats with a 23-20 lead going into the fourth quarter. Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde then came alive and helped the Buckeyes score 20 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win over the Wildcats. The only loss in which the Wildcats did not have a late-game lead was in a 29-point loss to the Wisconsin Badgers on October 12.
It’s a devastating trend for the Wildcats. It does not look like it’s going to get any better for them. They need to win two of their last three games to be bowl-eligible, and it is not very likely that will happen.
Their next two games are at home against the Wolverines on November 16, and then the Michigan State Spartans will come to town the following week. The Wildcats will travel to Champaign on November 30 to take on the Illinois Fighting Illini, which is their best chance for another win this season. It still won’t be enough. Hopefully the Wildcats will learn how to hang on to their late leads next season. It’s time for this devastating trend to end.