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Northwestern back on winning track, enters halftime with 14-3 lead

Northwestern had fresh offensive life due mainly to the work of its junior quarterback Kain Colter, who scrambled his way out of two third-and-longs. His winding runs up field were all the more impressive given how many Iowa defenders he made miss. Colter’s wanderings opened up some space for simple handoffs, as Venric Mark and Mike Trumpy both found open space near the end zone. Colter finished off another third down, this one a third-and-short, with a sneaky run around the left end for the touchdown. With most of the defense buying Colter’s fake handoff inside, he had plenty of room to the left.


Dan Vitale came up firing with an impressive tackle on Northwestern’s open kickoff. On third down, the Wildcats looked weak, giving up a wide open pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley on the right sideline to move the Hawkeyes to midfield. James Vendenberg then found Mark Weisman out of the backfield for a 15-yard gain and another third-down conversion. On third-and-14, Northwestern gave up another open pass, this time up the middle to Damon Bullock. Fortunately for the Wildcats, Bullock couldn’t stay upright and tumbled over two yards short. Northwestern got lucky that it only gave up three points, given that it allowed three third-down conversions, and nearly a fourth.


Kain Colter began Northwestern’s second drive with a screen to Venric Mark on the right sideline for 15 yards. He looked a little shaky on that throw, as he threw the easy pass a little behind Mark. He looked even shakier on the next throw as he heaved it way downfield to Tony Jones. Jones was never wide open, he never had a step; in fact the defensive back was behind him so that Colter’s deep lob was easily picked off.

Ibraheim Campbell showed up early with an impressive hit on Mark Weisman. Weisman has run over the entire Big Ten this season, but Campbell more than held his ground with a thunderous hit. Weisman’s next run up the gut was also stuffed, forcing third-and-six at midfield. Iowa converted its fourth third-down of the game as Vandenberg easily rolled left and found a wide open Jordan Cotton. On their next third down, however, Vandenberg mysteriously tossed the ball to Weisman well short of the first-down line, bringing up fourth-and-three. Why he wouldn’t test Northwestern’s secondary deep after four third-down conversions, I have no idea. A delay of game on Iowa ended the first quarter, with the Hawkeyes facing fourth-and-eight from the Northwestern 38.

Iowa ultimately punted to begin the second quarter and managed to pin Northwestern on the one. That ended quickly as Venric Mark exploded through a huge hole up the middle for a 72-yard run. The more impressive part of the play, however, was that Micah Hyde became the first player in the Big Ten to catch up to Venric Mark all year long, catching up from five yards down to make the tackle. Amazingly enough, Northwestern was averaging 7.5 yards per carry at quarter’s end. Mark’s 72-yard rush couldn’t have hurt that average. The Wildcats also successfully debuted a new power formation, which after a couple of hiccups, resulted in a Colter keeper for the touchdown.


The Hawkeyes continued to move down the field with relative ease, but some pressure from the Wildcats forced Iowa into a second-and-18. Damon Bullock began to be used in Weisman’s place but even he could only make it a slightly more manageable third-and-11.With the blitz forcing Vandenberg to throw it early, he tossed it deep down the middle of the field, a throw that has killed Northwestern in the past, but this time Demetrius Dugar was there to make his best play of the year, inserting his arm into the fray and breaking up the pass with a perfectly timed hit.

Trevor Siemian apparently got sick of the bench and decided to enter the game. His opening pass to Rashad Lawrence was a little low, limiting his ability to get yards after the catch. Thankfully for Northwestern, on third-and-one, Colter was back in, and the triple threat worked as he pushed for three yards around the right end. Siemian then came back in and a chop block moved Northwestern back. Venric Mark made up for most of the penalty yardage, bouncing outside effectively for nine yards. Kain Colter’s run made third down manageable. Then, Colter wasn’t watching the snap, but fortunately for Northwestern, the fumble was wiped out by a false start penalty, and so the Wildcats had third-and-12. On third-and-12, Colter was again effective, finding Lawrence in the slot, but Lawrence made the odd decision to cut toward the middle and was stopped a half-yard short, forcing a punt.

James Vandenberg put up one of the more beautiful passes you'll see with a simple flick of his wrist lobbing it 19 yards to Keenan Davis along the left sideline. He then followed by bouncing a much easier throw to Jordan Cotton. His next throw to a well-covered Damon Bullock was dropped, forcing a third-and-eight at midfield. Again though Vandenberg had an opening on third down, finding Jordan Cotton open along the right sideline. Even though he badly underestimated how much distance he would need, Cotton was wide open enough to stoop down on his knees and make the easy catch. Northwestern's third-down defense has been abysmal thus far. Iowa converted on third-and-one, as well, to push it to the Wildcats' 27. Both teams were devastating on third down in the first half, with Northwestern converting five-of-six and Iowa converting four-of-seven heading into a third-and-seven from the Northwestern 24 with 53 seconds to go. Tyler Scott finished Iowa's drive with a rapid pursuit to Vandenberg's blind side, bringing him down for a six-yard loss. Scott's speed was fairly remarkable, pushing Iowa back to Northwestern's 30. Vandenberg bailed Northwestern out on fourth down with a weak pass to Keenan Davis. Davis hadn't even turned around yet, and if he had, all he could have done was scoop up the grounder.