It’s shouldn’t have been close and yet despite a major statistical advantage for most of the game, the Northwestern Wildcats had to fend off the Iowa Hawkeyes late on homecoming in Evanston. Iowa was able to move the ball a bit between the twenties, especially in the 1st half, but they couldn’t maintain many drives to score. Surprisingly, Iowa bruising running back Mark Weisman was not much of a factor although he left the game early with a hip injury. If Northwestern could play just 45 minutes they might be ranked in the top 5 in the country but when Iowa went to a traditional dropback passing game, the Wildcats started to crack. In the end, they had enough points thanks to their 1st half onslaught and were able to play a little softer on the outside. Without further ado, let’s get to the full breakdown…
T.G.F.V.M (Thank God for Venric Mark)- Another plus 100 yard rushing game for the little guy with a heart of gold. He was hurt late last week versus the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Wildcats offense really went into a shell afterwards. Today he showed excellent power inside the tackles, gaining YAC on nearly every play. His 72 yard rip early in the 2nd quarter really set the tone. The only shocking thing on that play was he was caught from behind! The only regret Northwestern fans have of Venric is he wasn’t tabbed as a freshman to be the starting running back.
“Kain Colter is our quarterback”- No it’s not Lovie Smith saying that but it mind as well must be. The Wildcats are going to stick with Colter the rest of this season win or lose. His ability to make plays with his feet is truly impressive and that will open up even more passing opportunities. His touchdown pass to Christian Jones was against man to man coverage and while it wasn’t perfect, he let his man catch up to the ball. Additionally, he had a solid 3rd down pass to the far sideline that Demetrius Fields hauled in to sustain a drive.
Demetrius Dugar- The much maligned Northwestern corner came up big today and with the injuries the secondary has seen, it was even bigger. He held Kevonte Martin-Manley to just 7 catches for 46 yards. Of course he was basically playing 10 yards off the entire game although he did make a big pass deflection to kill a nice Iowa drive in the 1st half.
Tyler Scott- The man child got it done again today. He was moved around a lot but was still able to get quite a bit of pressure on Iowa signal caller James Vandenberg. There were also more than several occasions where he was held, although the refs missed it. When you think of a “high motor” player you think of Tyler.
Northwestern’s special teams- They didn’t allow Iowa to get much of anything through the kick or punt return game, they blocked a punt (when’s the last time that happened?????) and did a nice job, outside the last punt, pinning Iowa’s offense with bad field position. This seems like one of the few years in the Pat Fitzgerald era that the ‘Cats can rely on the 3rd phase.
MOVING FORWARD: Northwestern is assured of their 3rd straight winning season with the win and they’ve already exceeded my expectations. When I looked at this team on paper during the preseason I thought they’d barely get to 6 wins and make a minor bowl game. Now it looks like 8-10 wins isn’t out of realm of possibility and this is despite two collapses to Nebraska and the Penn State Nittany Lions. The most important thing I saw from this game is the style Northwestern needs to play with. Run the option, use short passes and the zone read run game. They aren’t going to air it out like one of the Mike Leach led teams while he coached the Texas Tech Red Raiders. All that matters in the end is wins after all. The Wildcats are off next week as they get their much needed bye. In 2 weeks, they’ll have to travel to Ann Arbor to take on the white hot Michigan Wolverines. Assuming Northwestern has Nick VanHoose back at corner, along with Quinn Evans and Hunter Bates, a win isn’t out of the question. However, I’d say they’ll win the two after that against the Michigan State Spartans and Illinois Fighting Illini to finish at 9-3. That’s not too shabby in a rebuilding year.