After a toothless second half collapse at home against Nebraska two Saturdays ago, it seemed as if Northwestern had hit rock bottom. But Saturday in Iowa City, the Wildcats sunk to new depths. Their performance was a complete, unmitigated disaster. Here's how it transpired:
- Since becoming Northwestern head coach in 2006, Pat Fitzgerald has had an oddly poor record in games following a bye week. His only win in such situations came earlier this year against FCS outfit Western Illinois. Fitz didn't have any reasons for the trend, but it continued Saturday. After an atrocious second half performance against Nebraska, this Saturday's first half was equally embarrassing.
- From the start of the third quarter against the Huskers to the end of the first quarter against Iowa, Northwestern was outscored 48-0. Forty-eight to zero. In three quarters. Against one pretty good team and one decidedly average team.
- Prior to being replaced by Zack Oliver in the fourth quarter, Trevor Siemian had an absolutely horrid day. He completed just 8 of his 18 passes for 68 yards, and was sacked five times for a total of -47 yards. So through three quarters, Northwestern's and Siemian's average yards per drop back was 0.91.
- As has been the case all year though, it wasn't just Siemian's fault. In fact, it's become the story of the season: the offensive line was porous, Siemian held onto the ball far too long (on one first half play, he had a ton of time, but rather than hang in the pocket he tried to roll left and literally ran right into a sack), and the receivers, who we thought coming into the year might be some of the best in the Big Ten, couldn't get an inch of separation.
- Justin Jackson was the one shining light for Northwestern. He totaled 106 yards despite some questionable blocking, and isn't just going to be a special player in the future, he already is.
- This was also the worst the defense has played since the season opening loss to Cal. An Ibraheim Campbell-less secondary was burned on multiple occasions, including by a first-quarter flea flicker, and the defensive front was consistently dominated by Iowa's offensive line.
- Another special teams breakdown cost the Wildcats early. Iowa freshman Jonathan Parker took the opening kickoff across midfield, and then a late hit penalty on Jimmy Hall meant the Hawkeyes started their opening drive at the Northwestern 31-yard line. They proceeded to punch it into the end zone on four plays, putting Northwestern in an early 7-0 hole.
- Northwestern's only points came off an Iowa mistake that momentarily let the Wildcats back into the game. Punter Dillon Kidd fumbled a long snap in his own territory, which gave NU the ball at the Iowa 18-yard line, and Northwestern was able to pound the ball into the end zone.