Since Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure started in 2006, Northwestern has generally been known for its offenses.
From 2006-2012, his teams averaged 25.7 points per game and served as one of the blueprints for the spread offense in college football. We’ve already detailed how that’s changing, but one of the side effects is that the Wildcats’ defense has had to take on a bigger role.
It began last year, when the Cats averaged only 18.6 points per game during the conference schedule. Now, in two games this year, Northwestern has scored 24 and 15 points, respectively, and for the most part the offense has looked completely inept. The defense hasn’t been spectacular, but it is certainly the reason that NU has even had a chance against either Cal or NIU.
The Cats’ shut out the Huskies in the first half Saturday, and effectively shut down their strength—the run game, allowing only 71 yards on 19 carries (an average of 3.7 yards per carry). But in the second half, as the pressure to get points on the board began to mount, NU’s defense bent and the NIU took advantage. Defensive end Deonte Gibson admitted that the offense’s struggles can sometimes cause the defense to get too eager to make game-changing plays, which can lead to basic mistakes.
"I definitely pressed a little bit," he said. "(But) you play defense, you play offense…one can’t dictate the other."
The point is, for the most part, the defense is doing its job. It’s unrealistic to think they will shut everyone out, but they are holding teams back enough that the offense should be able to keep up. It’s up to them to figure out how to hold up their end of the bargain.