Every week, InsideNU writers Josh Rosenblat and Henry Bushnell will wrap up Northwestern game coverage with some final thoughts (we'll try to stay away from topics addressed in game columns), along with our big takeaways from the rest of the Big Ten. Today, Kevin Trahan is replacing Henry. Following Northwestern's 29-6 win over Penn State, here's the 2014 Week 5 edition of the Weekend Rewind:
Prevailing thoughts on Northwestern
It's should be a crime for Northwestern to under-utilize Dan Vitale, an absolute crime. For the first time since the Gator Bowl victory, Vitale caught seven passes. For the first time since the 2013 season opener against Cal, Vitale had over 100 yards receiving. Vitale's 113-yard performance against Penn State was a career best and he was utilized all over the field. He was used as a safety valve for Trevor Siemian and as a deep threat. He was used in the screen game and Northwestern even tried a little inside pitch play to him.
Vitale is Northwestern's best offensive weapon and, as I've said consistently over the last two seasons, he needs to be used like one. It happens far too often that Vitale has a good game and then seemingly goes missing for weeks. If Northwestern's aim is to compete in the Big Ten West, Vitale has to be a major part of it.
- Josh Rosenblat
A really, really good front seven
I grew up watching the Chicago Bears and the Iowa Hawkeyes (yeah, yeah, I suck), meaning I never really got introduced to this whole offense thing. I tended to be more excited when my teams were on defense, because I honestly felt safer about their chances than when they had the ball. Specifically, my teams had outstanding front sevens. I watched guys like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Israel Idonije (and many others) wreak havoc for the Bears every Sunday, and guys like Adrian Clayborn, Pat Angerer and Jonathan Babineaux the Saturdays before.
I don't follow Iowa as closely anymore, though no Hawkeye front since then has come close to matching the Clayborn years, and the Bears are, well, a work in progress (though I'm excited about Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton). But yesterday, I watched Northwestern's front seven play better than I've seen any front seven play in a really, really long time. The Wildcats were in the backfield on nearly every single play, and they stopped the run with an ability that I haven't seen an NU team do.
What's encouraging is that this is in no way the end of that unit's dominance. Ifeadi Odenigbo, Greg Kuhar, Anthony Walker and Xavier Washington are all still young. Dean Lowry, Drew Smith and Deonte Gibson are all coming back. This group is arguably more talented than any front seven the Wildcats have seen since the great teams of the mid-1990s, and there's no reason to think it won't get any better. Maybe some of you will think that's an overreaction, but after seeing this group dominate in a way no front seven I've followed has since my childhood, it's hard not to get too excited.
- Kevin Trahan
Around the Big Ten
A whole lot of "meh"
The Big Ten has tiers. There's Michigan State in its own tier. Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska in the next one. And then there's pretty much everyone else besides Illinois and Purdue. I have no idea who's better, say, between Maryland and Iowa or Northwestern or Minnesota. Is Michigan really, really that bad or can Penn State eventually learn to protect Christian Hackenburg?
After one week of Big Ten play for the majority of Big Ten play, those questions have become even tougher to answer. It's a two-horse race in each division and I don't think that's going to change unless something crazy happens, something really, really #B1G.
- Josh Rosenblat
Brady Hoke's concussion management was atrocious
Michigan lost 30-14 at home to Minnesota on Saturday, but that wasn't Brady Hoke's worst crime of the day. During the fourth quarter of a game no longer in doubt, Hoke left his pretty clearly concussed quarterback Shane Morris in the game. This is obviously very against concussion protocol to not even check for a concussion, but Hoke didn't seem to care, calling his quarterback a "competitive, tough kid."
It's absurd that Hoke thinks that's an okay excuse. Football players are always going to beg to go back in games; it's up to the coach to tell them that their safety is more important. The same goes for the medical staff, who for some reason, didn't think it was necessary to test a player who looked like this:
Look at this photo and tell me he is not concussed, TELL ME. (Photo Credit: Leon Halip, USA TODAY) pic.twitter.com/FNR75YG2Sv— Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) September 28, 2014
We'll find out soon whether Morris really did have a concussion, and maybe he was just really out of it, as Hoke suggested is possible. But regardless, it's reckless to put a player in that situation back in the game, and Hoke needs to be severely punished for his actions.
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Michigan State
2. Ohio State
10. Penn State