Final: Northwestern 16, No. 21 Stanford 6

Telling stat: 6 points for Stanford

Um, remember when Stanford was favored by double digits to win this game? The Cardinal couldn’t even score double digit points. That was quite the statement from Pat Fitzgerald’s defense. Northwestern held the Pac-12’s best rushing offense to 3.1 yards per carry. I don’t care how far Stanford traveled. That’s impressive.

Key play: Clayton Thorson 42-yard TD run

How about the redshirt freshman? What a play it was for his confidence to break free and score 42 yards. That’s why he was one of the most highly touted dual threat quarterbacks in the 2014 class. I’m sure Fitzgerald was smiling ear-to-ear when he saw his signal-caller bust loose. He put to bed any notion of Northwestern using a three-quarterback system. That job is Thorson’s.


-Anthony Walker was EVERYWHERE

The outside linebacker had a big sack and a fumble recovery for a Northwestern defense that needed a playmaker. It seemed like every Stanford ball carrier got a piece of Walker. There’s a reason that Stanford couldn’t get anything going offensively, and a major part of that was No. 18.

-Desmond Howard’s national champs go down

If you were buying the Stanford kool-aid, hopefully you didn’t think that the Cardinal would win it all. The ESPN analyst did. In fact, he had David Shaw’s group winning the national championship. That will likely be in serious jeopardy after losing to the Wildcats. That’s like picking a five-seed to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and watching them lose to the 12-seed in the first round. Ouch.

What it means: Northwestern is legit

Put me in the group of people that was underestimating Fitzgerald’s group. I didn’t expect the Wildcats to put together an opening performance like that against a solid, physical Stanford team. For all the people saying that Northwestern needs to get back to its ’95 days, Saturday was a flashback. I’m not saying that this team is anywhere near the team 20 years ago, but for one afternoon in Evanston, it felt like it.

What’s next: vs. Eastern Illinois

There should be no hangover from an impressive opening week victory. Northwestern has a mobile quarterback, a stout defense and more importantly, confidence. Keep in mind, the Cats did go on a four-game losing streak after opening Big Ten play with a win against Wisconsin last year. Still, it’s hard not to come away impressed with Fitzgerald’s team after that effort.