by Jonah Rosenblum (@jonahlrosenblum)
It was honestly quite hard to figure out reasons to keep watching Northwestern's victory over South Dakota after halftime. The Wildcats already led 28-0 coming out of the locker room, and the Coyotes had fumbled away their lone chance to get back in the game, literally fumbling a snap toward the end of the first half that ruined their one chance to get back into it. That being said, there were still a few reasons to keep watching:
1. For one, the more points Northwestern scored, the better its chances of cracking the Top 25. The Wildcats began the weekend in 28th, according to the Associated Press poll, and in 30th, according to the USA Today Coaches' Poll. With teams ahead of it like Arizona caught up in difficult matchups against teams like Oregon, Northwestern has a chance to move up a few spots this weekend. And in that case, the more scores, the merrier for the Wildcats.
2. Kain Colter was back in the game, announcing his presence early in the second half with a beautiful rollout and line-drive pass to Tony Jones for a first down. With the starters left in toward the end of the third quarter, Colter mounted an effective response to South Dakota's first score, converting a third-and-five with a solid pass to a crossing Dan Vitale, who secured the first down along the right sideline. Vitale continues to be given considerable looks by the Wildcats' offense. Colter then found Christian Jones over the middle of the field to continue Northwestern's trek into South Dakota territory. Still failing to generate much respect from fans for his passing ability, Colter was 7-of-9 at game's end, positively Persa-like numbers.
3. Josh Vander Maten deserved a score. An able rusher all game long, he finally put South Dakota on the scoreboard with a perilous scramble into the end zone. What made Vander Maten's rush so frightening was that it took forever to unfold as he took off from the right hash all the way across the field, finally entering the end zone right by the left pylon. Vander Maten set up his touchdown rush with a fine pass over the middle to Jay Burns, and overall, completed a respectable 50 percent of his passes against Northwestern.
4. Lost in the shuffle of Venric Mark and Mike Trumpy is one of last year's standout backs, Treyvon Green. The sophomore was once regarded as Northwestern's best hope to find that new electric Tyrell Sutton-like back. Now, relegated mainly to the bench, Green did shine on one play, somehow slipping through a gaggle of Coyotes defenders to rush 33 yards into the end zone. Green finished with 362 rushing yards and four scores during his freshman campaign, but after posting a 70-yard effort and a 67-yard effort during the Wildcats' non-conference stretch, he managed no more than 32 rushing yards in his last four games of the 2011 season. An off-season injury scare presumably didn't help matters. But on Saturday, he had that one shining moment.
5. Since scoreboard-watching was more fun than game-watching during large portions of Northwestern's victory, let's continue on that track. Nebraska's blowout of Idaho State didn't help Northwestern. The Wildcats had a chance to pass the Cornhuskers, who are currently dangling toward the end of the Top 25, but Nebraska's huge margin of victory and the legitimacy of a loss at the Rose Bowl probably give the Cornhuskers the edge for now. Northwestern could have passed Michigan State, which would likely have dropped out of the Top 25 with a loss to Eastern Michigan, but the Spartans at least regained some of their dignity by pulling out the victory.
6. Stat-watching can also be pretty fun, and who would have thought that an 100-yard rusher would become commonplace for Northwestern football. Between Mike Trumpy and Venric Mark, however, the Wildcats have a couple of guys who are capable of consistently reaching triple digits. Mark pretty much had the century mark on lock Saturday, after he finished the Wildcats' first drive with 61 rushing yards. He had 117 yards and three rushing touchdowns by the end of the third quarter, and has easily begun to catch national notice with his impressive non-conference run. Mark enters Big Ten play actually averaging just around 100 yards per game.
7. Several streaks of perfection remained intact on Saturday. First, Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian again avoided throwing a pick, although both quarterbacks came close on at least one occasion. Northwestern has yet to throw an interception in four games this season. Siemian, however, nearly tossed a pick, when he was obliterated while attempting a throw. The ball fluttered out of his hand, just barely eluding the hands of a diving South Dakota defender. Later on, a Kain Colter laser zipped right through the hands of a South Dakota defender. Meanwhile, the Wildcats also kept their luck with the uprights intact, as Steve Flaherty picked up right where Jeff Budzien left off, nailing a 39-yard field goal, right from dead center.