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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern 35, Maine 21

What happened:

After the Northwestern defense forced a three-and-out, the offense responded with a nine-play, 76-yard touchdown drive. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter found wide receiver Tony Jones three times on the drive for 37 yards, including a touchdown.

From that point on, Maine largely outplayed the Wildcats. Despite a blocked field goal by Tyler Scott, the Wildcat lead stayed at 7-0 until just before halftime.

In the second quarter especially, Maine dominated time of possession and total yardage, yet failed to convert on another field goal attempt. With under a minute left in the first half, Maine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski threw an interception to linebacker Damien Proby who returned it for a touchdown. Wasilewski, though, finished the first half with 124 passing yards. Maine also led Northwestern in total offense (179 yards to 169 yards), time of possession (18:54 to 11:06) and third-down conversions (six to four).

After Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien missed a 49-yard field goal early in the third quarter, Maine took over. On first down, Wasilewski was pressured by Proby and tried to escape the pocket to his left. In desperation, Wasilewski attempted a left-handed pass that landed in the arms of Northwestern defensive lineman Dean Lowry. Lowry returned the interception for a touchdown.

Later in the quarter, Wasilewski scrambled up the middle for 15 yards where he was met by Northwestern safety Traveon Henry. Henry was called for unnecessary roughness, setting up Maine at the Northwestern 26. Wasilewski was shaken up on the play. But returned a few plays later to throw a touchdown pass to tight end Justin Perillo. Take away the two pick sixes for Northwestern and the offenses were tied at seven.

Northwestern’s offense responded with an eight-play, 74-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a Mike Trumpy rushing touchdown.

On the ensuing drive, Maine scored on a long drive of their own, going 77 yards in just seven plays. Wasilewski found John Ebling in the back of the endzone for the score.

Colter and co. answered with another 70-plus-yard drive. Colter scored on a five-yard rush to put Northwestern up 35-14 with 7:49 left in the game.

With just over five minutes left in the game, Wasilewski dropped back on third down and was hit by Lowry. The ball came loose and Northwestern defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo fell on it.

The game’s sloppiness continued just two plays later when Northwestern running back Warren Long fumbled the football. Maine’s Christ Mulumba recovered the fumble. Maine capitalized on the turnover with a Nigel Jones touchdown run with 2:22 remaining in the game.

Northwestern recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock on the following drive to seal a 35-21 victory.

What went well:

For most of the contest, Maine outplayed Northwestern. One of the few bright spots, though, was the defense’s ability to capitalize on opportunities. The defense forced three turnovers and special teams blocked a Maine field goal. Although it’s nothing to be satisfied with, it is nice to know that Northwestern’s defense has the ability to bail out the offense with big plays.

What went poorly:

There is no doubt that Northwestern’s offense misses the presence of Venric Mark. Neither Colter, nor Trevor Siemian could get any type of rhythm going with the offense. They finished the game with just 373 total yards, compared to Maine’s 379. The Wildcats also picked up three fewer first downs than Maine did. Neither Colter, nor Siemian eclipsed 100 passing yards individually as they threw for a combined 122 yards. All indications are that Mark—Northwestern’s most dangerous offensive player—will be back for when Ohio State comes to Evanston in a couple weeks and there is little doubt that they will need him.