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Quick Thoughts on Northwestern-Minnesota, Big Ten hunting

The Northwestern Wildcats won an ugly game over the Minnesota Golden Gophers to become bowl eligible despite failing to score in the second half.

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

It was fun figuring Northwestern should be able to hold on to their lead after going up 21-10 in the first half and being right, but... well, I was kind of hoping they would score more points by the end of the game. I say it all the time: a win is a win, and Northwestern has been winning.

It's nice to be 6-1 after seven games, especially since there hasn't been a time all year when we've walked away from a game and said "hey, Northwestern played well for 60 minutes." Seriously, hasn't happened a once.

  • Hoo boy, that Venric Mark. He only ran for 182 yards because the field has end zones instead of just being endless planes, continuing to the waterfalls that encircle this flat planet we live on. He only broke loose a few times, but when he did, he broke loose in ways no Northwestern running back has in a while. Much credit must be given to the offensive line for opening up holes big enough to four or five Venric Marks, and Minnesota for opting to play without safeties.
  • Other than those few plays, the offense was a gaping mess. 26 non-Venric yards on the ground, 67 yards passing. The second half was an endless slog of three and outs.
  • Much will be made of how Kain Colter went 10-for-10 while Trevor Siemian went 1-for-7. I think something should be made of this, but not "much". Some of the blame has to do with the freezing wet conditions that probably made throwing and catching very difficult. Some of it goes on a bad throwing game for Siemian. Some of it goes on Colter dropping a pair of passes - this time while wearing gloves - although both balls could have been thrown better by Siemian. And a lot of it still goes on the fact defenses can prime themselves for passes when Siemian comes into the game. No Northwestern fan is surprised Colter was able to throw some conservative passes for short gains, but seemingly the opposing defense was. Keep Colter's passing coming and mix it up a little bit more when Siemian's in the game and we're clicking.
  • We finally had an opportunity to see Kyle Prater go one-on-one against a defender on a deep route. But Siemian massively underthrew the ball and Prater had to slow to a jog, then come back to the ball when he could've had separation deep.
  • Lost in the offensive mess was a great day for the D. Nick VanHoose is, well, great, breaking up three passes that would have been touchdowns. Coverage downfield often allowed the defensive line, especially Tyler Scott enough time to get to the QB, especially as they were looking to heave the ball late in the game. The pinball interception by Quentin Williams and David Nwabuisi was pretty cool. However, let's not kid ourselves: NU's best defensive player was probably Max Shortell. Watching Minnesota fail to do anything offensively with Shortell in was eerily reminiscent of last week when NU stuck with a faltering Siemian down the stretch. Marqueis Gray had the offense working well and scampered for a 26-yard touchdown in the first half, then Shortell came in and got aboard the overthrow express.
  • Another caveat on those QB stats: I think three of Colter's completions were shovel passes to Dan Vitale.
  • I was sort of disappointed with Northwestern's decision-making late, with regards to the coaching staff. I know it was rainy and cold, and that last year we praised Fitz for going for it on fourth downs against Nebraska rather than kicking intermediate range field goals, but Jeff Budzien is perfect on the year. I can see going for it on some fourth-and-whatevers because it's rainy, but taking a timeout, then taking a delay of game to back yourself up for the punter is some weakness right there. I might have preferred giving Budzien a chance to kick, especially in an eight-point game where points make it two possessions.
  • I was briefly extremely excited when I saw No. 81 blocking on the left side of the line on Kain Colter's goalline touchdown, assuming it was our fallen hero Evan Watkins. Sadly, it was not: sometime since we profied him NU changed offensive lineman Paul Jorgensen's number to 81, perhaps to make him an eligible receiver. Watkins was, in fact, not traveling with the team and making extremely accurate assessments about Friday Night Lights as it related to the game. This also led to what I believe was Kain Colter's first appearance taking snaps out of the victory formation on the season, as Watkins had been handling those duties for home games.
  • I know its silly to talk about the Big Ten, but JESUS, this conference is bad and by default winnable. Iowa beating Michigan State is a real wowzer moment: I thought the Hawkeyes were terrible - they lost to Central Michigan, who got blown out by Navy - but there they were, beating a squad I thought was one of the top teams in the division. There's no reason yet to believe Michigan isn't very good, but still.
  • Oh, and Northwestern has more wins than any team in the conference, so, go U and stuff.

That's all I got for now, more later?