Beyond The Box Score: Northwestern Chokes Away Game Against Penn State

Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

Sorry Northwestern Wildcats fans we’ve seen this story before and it just doesn’t end well. The calender’s turned to October with Northwestern again sporting an undefeated record until today as they fell against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald still can’t get that big win when his club is ranked and unfortuenntly Northwestern looks like a pretender for a Big Ten Conference title. Let’s get to the depressing game bites.

THE FALLING FIVE

Venric Mark: Well you can’t blame the Wildcats jitterbug running back for this one. He was excellent on the zone read looks and Penn State was surprised with his power on some inside runs. It looked like he clinched this one for the Wildcats with a 75 yard punt return late in the 3rd quarter but it was obviously not to be. Northwestern didn’t give him enough touches though in general. When he’s your best overall player you can’t give him just 13 rush attempts, especially when the game is basically a one possession contest.

Kain Colter: I’ve gone on record saying that I don’t think Colter should be your every down quarterback but he’s obviously got a purpose especially in the red zone. Yet, Northwestern refused to use him on the last two drives and it cost them. Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof continued to bring blitz pressure and that’s what Kain can run away from. Oh well.

Trevor Siemian: He’s going to be a good one and I’m already a fan but in this one he really didn’t have it. Against blitz pressure he looked scared and even jumpy which caused nearly two easy interceptions for Penn State’s defense. Most of his throws were high and that laid his receivers out to dry against a physical secondary. The only time he really got rhythm was last in the 1st half when Penn State decided to rush just 4.

Northwestern’s defensive line: They did a solid job for most of the game against the run yet they just couldn’t get Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin to the ground. It cost them as Penn State kept drives alive and eventually gassed the whole defense but especially this unit. Really even more disappointing when you think this is arguably Northwestern’s most talented group of front in years, at least depth wise.

Fitzgerald/Offensive coordinator Mick McCall: Where was the option that worked so well against the Indiana Hoosiers? The few times we saw it Northwestern was gaining at least 5-6 years per rush. The Wildcats were not aggressive early against a pretty solid defense and really didn’t get creative when it was clear the traditional dropback game wouldn’t work. How about a trick play? How about a reverse? Something to change the momentum. Conservative play calling from Fitzgerald clearly trickled down the staff. I thought Pat was learning as his coaching career continues…

MOVING FORWARD: Northwestern looked tight to start this game and that honestly surprises me. Sure this group of players hasn’t necessarily been in this big position but the coaching staff certainty has and still they weren’t able to just have them focus on the game. Almost certainly Northwestern will fall out of the rankings but they can’t get down going into next week at the Minnesota Golden Gophers. That’s a winnable game and then the Wildcats would host the Nebraska Cornhuskers at home. Winning the Legends division isn’t outside of the realm of possibility especially given the teams ineligible. If you get to Indy, you can get to Pasadena.

 

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