clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Halftime Thoughts: Northwestern 12, Boston College 10

- Just a week after limiting Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers and his batch of explosive receivers, Northwestern's secondary came out sluggish against the Eagles passing attack. Quarterback Chase Rettig is finding open receivers, exploiting holes in the defense's back end. Early on, the secondary looks more like it did against Syracuse than it did against the Commodores.

- Questions lingered into this week's game following a 7-for-15 passing performance from Kain Colter against Vandy. He underthrew Rashad Lawrence on a deep pass early in the first quarter, but atoned for his mistake by hitting Tony Jones in stride on what seemed like the same play.

- The offense's complexion changes completely upon Siemian's insertion. Not only is the passing game crisper, the offense as a whole moves with a greater sense of urgency. Siemian's pocket presence is impressive, cool, calm, collected. An underrated characteristic of Siemian's skill set is his mobility. He doesn't have Colter's dynamic running ability, but he can escape rushers and pickup first downs with his legs.

- The box score reflects a thoroughly dominant first-half performance, but poor execution and a host of mistakes and penalties by Boston College has limited NU's ultimate success and, more importantly, its point total.

- An inability to finish drives in the red zone has allowed BC to hang around far longer than NU's ball-dominating offense should dictate.

- A penalty-assisted drive (7 plays, 95 yards) completes a 14-point swing for Boston College. It began with Siemian's fumbled snap; nearly three minutes later, BC takes the lead on a perfectly-lofted 31-yd touchdown pass. Rettig is a savvy quarterback, but NU helped him out on that drive with too many penalties.

- Encouraging to see Northwestern respond before the half with three points. That penalty-stricken defensive effort and ensuing touchdown seems to have instilled some sense of urgency in the offense. Going into the half with a lead -- albeit only two points and far narrower than NU's offensive production dictates -- is important, psychologically.

- The Eagles have managed to hang tough. NU needs to execute better to put this team away. It has dominate the run of play, but BC is well within striking distance. If the Wildcats can't finish plays, execute, and capitalize in the red zone, this one could come down to the final minutes.

- - -

- With Venric Mark resting on a third-and-two around midfield, Northwestern’s strategy changed little, as Trevor Siemian dumped it off to Mike Trumpy for a Wildcats’ first down. Personally, I was curious to see how Mark’s absence would affect Northwestern’s decision-making process, but it appears that in Mark’s absence, life goes on.

- Chase Rettig was able to find the open man a little too easily on Boston College’s first drive. On a critical third down, he found Spiffy Evans along the right sideline for a nine-yard completion and an Eagles first down. Then, he found his leading wide receiver, Alex Amidon, wide open on a hook along the left sideline. Next up, Northwestern decided Rettig was looking a little too comfortable so it brought the pressure, but Rettig was able to see past it, and find running back Rolandan Finch wide open on the left side. There was no one even remotely close to Rettig’s leading dump-off option. Finally, he easily spotted Donte Elliott streaking across the field for another first down. Amidon should have had another catch as he found separation in the end zone, but Rettig’s pass sailed through his hands. Still, it wasn’t a very encouraging sign for Northwestern’s defense.

- The Wildcats’ ability to rush, scramble and fire short passes has turned into a fairly effective triple threat, except in the red zone. The triple threat was particularly effective on third down for Northwestern. The Wildcats converted seven of their first 10 third-down opportunities on Saturday. Part of their success could be attributed to their diversity of third-down plays. For instance, on their fourth drive of the day, Trevor Siemian found Christian Jones right around the first-down marker, and Jones managed to escape a hit or two to come out with the first down. Later on, the Wildcats went back to Mark, who got a good push up the middle to secure another Northwestern first down easily. After a timeout, Northwestern sent five wide as Siemian found Mark along the right sideline for what should have been a first down had Siemian’s throw been a little lower and had Mark not tried to backtrack and turn a good play into a great one. Still, the Wildcats’ first-half success on third down was highly impressive.

- In the first half, Northwestern didn’t punt the ball once. That’s fantastic news for those wearing the purple and white. On the other hand, the Wildcats never touched the end zone either. And as a result, the Eagles, after appearing to be the lesser team for the majority of the first half, nearly took a lead into the locker room. After their pressure seemed to give Chase Rettig the spooks early on, Rettig settled into a groove at first half’s end, finally completing Boston College’s drive by finding his biggest threat, literally his biggest threat, Johnathan Coleman, in the end zone. Northwestern has historically struggled against big wideouts, and that remained a constant on Saturday, as Coleman replaced Amidon as Boston College’s most effective wide receiver. Coleman ended the first half with 68 yards on four receptions.

- Northwestern actually timed its final drive of the first half perfectly, with the Wildcats reaching midfield with approximately 50 seconds remaining on a bevy of short passes. They then went a little bit deeper, finding Christian Jones for a solid 19-yard gain. Finally, they gave one final push, placing Kyle Prater with room in the end zone, but the talented transfer was unable to reel in Siemian’s high pass, and so the Wildcats had just enough time to send Budzien out on the field for a 41-yard field goal, his longest of the season.