The stats from Saturday are just as brutal as the score, and for perhaps the first time this season, the defense totally fell apart. The numbers don't give much reason for optimism as the 'Cats enter the stretch run:
The offense was really bad, but the most frustrating portion of this game for Northwestern has to be the defense. They were holding Big Ten opponents to right around 20 points per game and hadn't played a lousy game to this point. All of a sudden Iowa torches NU for 483 total yards and 48 points. Jake Rudock averaged over 12 yards per attempt and Iowa's top two backs, Mark Weisman and Akrum Wadley, had almost six yards per carry. The 'Cats were dealing with injuries, but the back-ups had shown they are more than capable of filling in. If the defense doesn't get back to its old form, you can forget about bowl season.
Northwestern threw the ball just three times on their 21 first downs in the first three quarters. The 'Cats should favor the run on first and second down, considering Justin Jackson is averaging nearly five yards per carry on those downs, but the play-calling became far too predictable Saturday. Too often Northwestern was left with third-and-long because of their poor choices on the first couple downs. They were playing right in to the hands of a stout Iowa defense by running the same thing on first down every drive.
Iowa took down Northwestern's quarterback a total of five times. The 'Cats allow 2.88 sacks per game, ranking 108th in the nation in that category. Iowa also had two QB hurries, and NU's offensive line was mediocre in pass protection again. Sometimes Trevor Siemian held onto the ball too long or refused to step into his throws. He wasn't nearly as bad as his 8-18 for 68 yards stat-line suggests though. Siemian played a decent first half and made some very nice throws, while the receivers had several drops. Zack Oliver wasn't any better in the limited playing time he received. Clearly, the offense's struggles go far beyond Trevor Siemian.
Pat Fitzgerald is out of legitimate options at kick returner. Treyvon Green returned four kick-offs for an average of just 18.3 yards. Ibraheim Campbell didn't end up playing, and putting Miles Shuler back to return after his injury against Nebraska would not be advisable. There really isn't another decent option for kick returns, and it shouldn't take stats to tell Green isn't a solid return man. He's not that fast or elusive and didn't look all that comfortable returning kicks. Northwestern should take a touchback every chance it gets from here on out.