First it was junior safety Godwin Igwebuike, tweeting “Thanks for the int,” before the Duke game in September and following through with an interception.
Then it was sophomore safety Jared McGee, taking to Instagram to call his shot before the Michigan State game and then picking off Spartan quarterback Tyler O’Connor in the fourth quarter.
This week against Indiana, junior Kyle Queiro is trying his luck. Last night, the safety tweeted “Thanks for the INT.” Queiro is wearing a cast on his left hand today, which might make keeping the streak alive more difficult.
UPDATE (2:20 p.m.): Kyle Queiro’s tweet seems to have worked. In the fourth quarter, the safety leapt up with one hand and picked off a pass from Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow. Check out the video below.
On a week-by-week basis, Northwestern and Indiana have been complete opposites this season.
The Wildcats (3-3, 2-1 Big Ten) have lost, lost, won, lost, won and won. The Hoosiers (3-3, 1-2) have won, won, lost, won, lost and lost.
But even polar opposite first halves of their respective regular seasons have brought the two Big Ten foes to the same point — 3 wins, 3 losses — with potential to break out as solid teams in the second half.
A mere 1.5-point spread separates the two teams entering this Saturday’s homecoming matchup in Evanston, when Indiana will seek to end a four-game losing streak against NU that dates back to 2009.
Indiana’s biggest strength: Its defense. Under the eye of new defensive coordinator Tom Allen, the Hoosiers’ defense has been one of the biggest surprises of the Big Ten this season, moving from 121st in the nation last season to 49th this season.
Although the team lost its last two games, both against elite opponents — 38-17 vs. No. 2 Ohio State, then 27-22 vs. No. 8 Nebraska this past weekend — its defense recorded arguably its best two performances yet. The unit allowed just 19 completions combined for Heisman Trophy candidates J.T. Barrett (9-for-21 for 93 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception vs. Indiana) and Tommy Armstrong (10-for-26, 208 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions).
Led by linebacker Tegray Scales, who ranks fifth in the country in solo tackles, and cornerback Rashard Fant, who ranks third in the country with 10 pass breakups, the Indiana defense is improving with each week and will pose a stiff challenge for Clayton Thorson, Justin Jackson and Austin Carr.
Indiana’s biggest weakness: The offensive side of the ball, long the staple of Indiana football, has faded almost as quickly as its defense has risen.
The offensive line lost four starters from last season and has struggled in the big, physical trench battles of the Big Ten. That’s hurting the Hoosiers’ run game, as former 1,000-yard running back Devine Redding has begun to slow down (135 yards in the last two games vs. 245 in the first two) and the Hoosiers have sorted through a half-dozen other runners without finding anyone particularly effective.
Meanwhile, first-year starting quarterback Richard Lagow has proven interception-prone: he’s tossed nine picks in his last four games, including five in an ugly 33-28 home loss to Wake Forest on Sept. 24. Lagow does, however, still rank second in the conference in passing yards to date.
Indiana’s biggest question mark: Can the Hoosiers take advantage of their steady improvement and soft second-half schedule to jump into the Big Ten’s upper echelon?
A long, bleak period of Hoosier football — which includes just one winning season (a 7-6 campaign in 2007) in the last 21 years — appears to be on the verge of giving way to a much brighter era.
Indiana stands at .500 with just one more tough game (at Michigan), should-win games against Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue and could-win games against NU and Penn State comprising the rest of its remaining schedule. A strong closing stretch, starting with a win in what should be a well-matched showdown on Saturday against the Cats, could launch the Hoosiers into unprecedented realms of success.
But will Indiana be able to overcome its lack of experience and capitalize on the opportunity to change the reputation of the program moving forward?
Northwestern’s 0-0 double overtime tie against then-No. 3 Indiana was certainly surprising, given the Wildcats’ difficult start to the season, and the goalkeeper who oversaw the shutout received some conference recognition as a result.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Robbie White was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after making six saves in Sunday’s game against the Hoosiers, the Big Ten announced Tuesday.
In his first career start for NU, White faced 28 shots and constant pressure from a strong Indiana attack, but he managed to stand tall and make the saves needed when called upon to break the Cats’ five-game losing streak. White is the first NU player to win Defensive Player of the Week since now-graduated goalkeeper Zak Allen won the award in Oct. 2015.
It’s bittersweet news for the young keeper, as the Cats announced today that White will undergo surgery for a lower extremity injury he suffered in the late stages of the game and is expected to miss eight to ten weeks as a result. Nevertheless, White’s auspicious start leaves hope that he can solidify NU’s goalkeeper position in the future.
Northwestern fans can begin making Homecoming plans, as the Wildcats announced Wednesday the date and time of next season’s Homecoming game.
NU will take on Indiana on Saturday, Oct. 22, with the Homecoming game’s kickoff set for 11 a.m . It’ll be the first time the Cats have faced the Hoosiers since 2012.
Other Big Ten teams have announced their Homecoming game dates and times as well, bringing more clarity to NU’s schedule next season. The Cats are slated to face Iowa on Oct. 1 at 11 a.m. and Michigan State on Oct. 15 at 2:30 p.m. for both schools’ respective Homecomings.
NU supporters will hope for a better outcome than last season’s Homecoming game. That day, the Cats were run over by then-No. 17 Iowa, 40-10.