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Final non-conference matchup is make or break for Northwestern soccer

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Coach Pat Fitzgerald stepped to the rostrum final Saturday tasked with addressing the how’s and why’s of Northwestern’s seemingly inconceivable one-score loss to Southern Illinois.

He credited the Salukis for his or her recreation plan after which spoke of the Wildcats’ failure to win the turnover battle, their inconsistency, their self-inflicted wounds and the influence of accidents on the secondary. Fitzgerald’s feedback had been much like the prior Saturday, when NU fell to Duke in what ought to have been a winnable, non-conference matchup.

Will his post-game remarks this upcoming Saturday run by the Cats’ woes and miscues but once more? Let’s hope not.

Favored by a rating towards non-conference opponent Miami (Ohio), NU wants a win Saturday. Certain, perhaps not for the Huge Ten West standings, however this system’s standing and bowl hopes experience on their efficiency.

NU is lower than two years faraway from a Huge Ten West title and a Citrus Bowl victory over Auburn. But, the Cats went 3-9 in 2021 and, if Saturday does not pan out, there’s a very actual potential they may go 1-11 in 2022.

That is troubling for a program that has skilled inconsistent success lately. NU, for probably the most half, had no bother recording successful seasons till 2019 got here alongside. Since then, apart from 2021, it has been a bumpy street for the Cats. It has been almost a decade since NU final recorded two back-to-back dropping seasons in 2013 and 2014, and doing so once more in 2021 and 2022 will surely be steps within the unsuitable course.

Certain, the 2021 and 2022 groups have been riddled with accidents. Final season, it was then-sophomore working again Cam Porter and quarterback Andrew Marty. Now, it is a depleted protection that misses key gamers like senior defensive again AJ Hampton, junior security Coco Azema and junior defensive again Cam Mitchell.

Issues are actually difficult proper now, and youthful gamers are doing their finest to step as much as the plate. Fitzgerald and his gamers alike have spoken in regards to the “subsequent man up mentality” within the secondary.

However you possibly can’t blame a number of dropping seasons on accidents. And it is troublesome guilty it on a scarcity of expertise. A number of of the Cats’ present stars, together with junior working again Evan Hull, junior offensive lineman Peter Skoronski and Porter, performed an integral half in this system’s run to the Citrus Bowl in 2020.

Three video games into 2022, it is most likely too early to assign blame. But when NU fumbles one other winnable matchup towards the RedHawks on Saturday, something and every little thing ought to be on the desk – together with altering up starters and firing coaches.

The worth of this matchup might sound insignificant within the grand scheme of issues. It is a non-conference matchup in September with no actual Huge Ten penalties. But, it might present a preview of what lies forward within the Huge Ten.

It is arduous to image the Cats, who misplaced by a rating to an FCS crew, triumphantly leaving the sector in Completely happy Valley subsequent weekend to a ranked Penn State crew. Taking over Wisconsin for Homecoming and Ohio State for fogeys weekend appears downright horrifying.

Following the loss towards the Salukis, Fitzgerald mentioned adjustments and enhancements would occur at observe, although he mentioned the identical after the crew fell to the Blue Devils.

This weekend’s matchup might present proof that these adjustments labored. Or, it might present a preview of the powerful months to come back.

Coming into this season, I believed NU might attain a bowl recreation. I believed hitting 6-6 can be a naked minimal, even given the 2021 season. After dropping two winnable, non-conference matchups, I am not so certain the Cats can pull it off. In the event that they fall to Miami, their likelihood is lengthy gone.

Past 2022, probably the most vital consequence of NU’s woes might include its 2023 recruiting class. Ranked thirtieth within the nation, the category consists of two four-stars and will probably be one of many Cats’ finest lessons thus far – if all of them stay dedicated.

Shedding to a few non-conference opponents as clear favorites, together with an FCS crew, may very well be sufficient to pressure decommitments, which would not bode nicely for the Cats.

Saturday’s matchup towards the Pink Hawks is not only a light-hearted, non-conference recreation. My eyes will probably be glued to the sector, nicely conscious that so much rides on NU successful.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @ charvarnes11

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