The first quarter was a battle of ineptitude for both teams for the most part. On the fourth play of the game, quarterback Kain Colter threw an interception at the Wisconsin 36 yard line. Two plays later, Wisconsin receiver caught a ball at the 50 yard line but fumbled. NU linebacker Damien Proby recovered and Colter drove down the field to the Wisconsin three yard line before a loss of one on a run by Venric Mark and a six yard sack forced the Wildcats to take the field goal. The next four possessions resulted in punts for both teams until a 63 yard play action to Abbrederis got Wisconsin on the board with a 7-3 lead. Northwestern found some momentum just as the half was ending, in the form of an Ibraheim Campbell interception at Northwestern’s 18 yard line. However, a false start penalty and a sack halted that drive and forced another punt. Wisconsin capitalized on Northwestern’s missed opportunity on the next drive. Running backs Melvin Gordon and James White alternated plays, with a few passes from Joel Stave mixed in, to take the Badgers to Northwestern’s one yard line. White ran right through the middle for the touchdown to put Wisconsin up 14-3. Five minutes later, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon found a hole and shed some tackles for a 71 yard touchdown run, which was upheld by a review despite video that appeared to show him down at the one yard line. Wisconsin was driving yet again with just over a minute left in the half when safety jimmy Hall intercepted a Joel Stave pass at Northwestern’s 16 yard line. The Wildcats were able to drive for a field goal before halftime. After a pass to start the second half, Wisconsin tallied off five straight rushing plays to get to Northwestern’s 37 yard line. A 35 yard pass set up a third down pass from Stave to Jacob Pedersen for the touchdown and the 28-6 lead. Five straight punts followed to finish out the third quarter. Wisconsin started the fourth quarter with another touchdown pass, this one to tight end Derek Watt for the 35-6 lead. After a failed drive by Northwestern, the Badgers were able to run the down to one minute with rushes by White, Gordon, and freshman Corey Clement.
What went well:
-The defense played well for almost a quarter, so at least we know they’re potentially capable of it.
-Ibraheim Campbell is still really good—he had an impressive interception near the end of the first quarter, just tapping both feet in bounds while securing the ball. Jimmy Hall also added a nice interception right before half to keep Wisconsin from extending its 21-3 lead before the break.
-Punter Brandon Williams got some good practice in today? I don’t know.
What went poorly:
-Northwestern could not stop runs up the middle. They couldn’t do it last week against Carlos Hyde and Ohio State, and they didn’t stop Wisconsin running backs Melvin Gordon and James White this week. The fact that they struggle so much with this forces them to load the box and sell out to stop the run, leaving them susceptible to the play action pass. Wisconsin took advantage, scoring at least two touchdowns on the play action and several play action passes for 40-plus yards.
-The offense looked more out of sync than they have all year. It didn’t help that both Kain Colter and Venric Mark went to the locker room in the first quarter. Colter returned for one play but didn’t see game action the rest of the game. Mark was declared officially out for the game in the middle of the third quarter. With those two playing, things may have been more interesting but even when they were in on the first couple of drives, Northwestern couldn’t find much of a rhythm at all.
-Siemian had a monster game last week against Ohio State and looked like a completely different player this week. He overthrew players, threw the ball when he should have kept it, kept it when he should have thrown it, and just looked generally uncomfortable in the pocket. To be fair, he got sacked five times so some of the jumpiness is understandable.