Some of Northwestern's defensive players were given the wrong wristbands during the first half of a 31-24 loss to Cal on Saturday, a source told Inside NU.
On the television broadcast of the game, cameras caught a Northwestern staffer switching out the play cards from a wristband following a long touchdown throw to put the Golden Bears up 24-7.
The long touchdown throw came at the expense of safety Traveon Henry, who appeared to be beaten on the play. As part of a film breakdown of the game's key plays, a writer picked apart that play and had some questions about what seemed like a coverage error.
Assuming I'm right about Northwestern's coverage call on this play, there are two questions: first, why it took until the pump fake for one of the defensive backs to react to the receiver in the flat, and, second, why the other wasn't looking only to the deep route. The point of cover 4, to a large extent, is that it positions players to have an advantage against deep routes, without the natural downfield seams of cover 2 and cover 3. It is supposed to be weak to quick throws that force the secondary to tackle in space and combinations that stress the coverage rules deep (like running a curl in front of the safety to open room for an outside receiver running a post), not to a single receiver running deep. There is a basic problem of execution here, possibly exacerbated by poor communication.
This equipment error may have contributed to Northwestern's struggles stopping Cal in the first half. The Golden Bears managed to rack up 270 of the team's 414 yards of total offense in the first half, including 156 in the first quarter alone. In the second half, though, Northwestern's defense tightened up, giving the Wildcats a chance to mount a comeback.