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Northwestern 24, Western Michigan 10: halftime thoughts

After one half, Northwestern leads Western Michigan 24-10. Here are some brief notes following an uninspiring 30 minutes of football:

-- On a day when Legends challenger Nebraska was obliterated by UCLA, and arguable frontrunner Michigan nearly lost to a low-rung Mid American Conference team (Akron), Northwestern got off to a slow start against a different middling MAC outfit. Through one quarter, Western Michigan led the Wildcats 3-0 and outgained them in yards, 71-61.

-- Maybe the most surprising part of Northwestern’s sluggish first quarter was the way Western Michigan dominated the Wildcats along the line of scrimmage. The offensive line failed to consistently open up holes for running backs Treyvon Green, Stephen Buckley and Mike Trumpy, and the Broncos got penetration to fluster quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter, both of whom struggled. The defensive tackles likewise never really generated enough pressure to trouble Western Michigan quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen, who hurt Northwestern more with his arms (126 passing yards) more than his legs (13 yards).

-- A poorly thrown pass from Siemian near the Broncos' goal line in the first quarter led junior wide receiver Christian Jones into the path of an oncoming Western Michigan defender, who crunched Jones, leaving him motionless on the field. Jones hobbled off, reportedly suffering an "upper body injury," but returned in the second quarter.

-- A Kain Colter four-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter put Northwestern up 7-3, but Western Michigan quickly responded with when Van Tubbergen found Cory Davis streaking down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. The long score seemed to undercut Northwestern’s momentary momentum surge, but at that point, the Wildcats had taken control, and quickly showed why by putting together a six-play drive, capped off with a six-yard touchdown pass from Colter to Christian Jones to put Northwestern up 14-10. With just over two minutes remaining in the half, Mike Trumpy finished another scoring drive with a four-yard plunge, staking the Wildcats to an 11-point lead.

-- The #BUDZIEN4GROZA campaign hit a snag mid-way through the first quarter when Northwestern’s senior kicker hooked a 42-yard field goal left, his first miss of the season. Budzien is now 5-for-6 on the season, but remains perfect on PATs for his career (115-115). The Groza voting committee, as we saw last season, is not a forgiving group – Budzien finished the year 19-for-20 on field goals, yet wasn’t even named a finalist for the award. Budzien will need to atone for his mistake later this year by showing off his purportedly improved range, the better in pivotal, game-deciding situations. A 35-yarder to close the half, giving Northwestern a 14-point lead, was a good start.