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Northwestern 41, Eastern Illinois 0: Player grades from Northwestern's dominant performance

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Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Every Sunday after a Northwestern win or loss, we'll be handing out player grades as a way to analyze the Wildcats' performance from an individual perspective. Rather than rush out the grades on Saturday, we'll sleep on them, and wake up Sunday ready to accurately evaluate NU's players, coaches and opponents.

Today, after Northwestern's second win of the season, it was good, but not perfect:

Offense

Clayton Thorson

Grade: B

Stats: 11/16, 152 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT; 2 carries, 7 yards, 1 TD

Thorson threw his first touchdown pass Saturday, when he found a streaking Austin Carr for a 44-yard score, but the quarterback still made mistakes that need to be fixed before heading to Durham next weekend. Early in the game, Thorson overthrew a wide-open receiver in the back of the end zone, and made a couple throws that should have resulted in interceptions. I would have liked to have seen Thorson throw the ball a little more against EIU to build momentum going into the Duke game, but for now his mobility will have to carry the offense.

Justin Jackson

Grade: B+

Stats: 22 carries, 78 yards, 1 TD

"That guy is actually good," a Northwestern freshman said yesterday referring to Jackson, "Why is he playing here?"

Northwestern continued to rely on Jackson vs. EIU, and he now has 50 carries in two games this season. But the Wildcats maybe relied on the sophomore a little more than they should have. Jackson has gotten off to a strong start, and he seems to always find the right hole to cut through. But he did have some trouble with the option today, and we can't help but worry about how his workload will take a toll on his body.

Receiving Corps

Grade: B-

Stats:

Austin Carr: 2 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD

Dan Vitale: 4 catches, 40 yards

Besides the 44-yard pass to Carr, the Wildcats passing game was uneventful. Thorson has yet to really test his arm and throw the ball down the field, depriving his receivers from showing off what they can bring to the team. Look, when Vitale is the leading receiver with four receptions, it is hard to give the receivers anything higher than a B-.

Backup Running Backs

Grade: A

Stats:

Warren Long: 12 carries, 72 yards, 1 TD

Corey Acker: 5 carries, 57 yards

Austin Anderson: 8 carries 56 yards

Jackson's backups were definitely a bright spot in the Wildcats win. Long, Acker and Anderson combined for 185 rushing yards and a touchdown. If Jackson's workload does start to wear him down, it's reassuring to know how deep Northwestern is in the backfield.

Defense

Matthew Harris

Grade: A+

Stats: 2 INTs, a 94-yard touchdown return

Harris was pretty close to flawless in the Wildcats' win. Along with scoring the first defensive touchdown of the season for Northwestern, Harris was solid in coverage. The Northwestern secondary only allowed 68 passing yards in the victory.

Anthony Walker

Grade: A

Stats: 7 tackles, 2 TFLs

Walker is coming off of arguably his best game as a Wildcat, and he continued to impress against EIU. It's evident that Walker has great field vision and his ability to read plays is getting better every game.

Special Teams:

Grade: C+

Jack Mitchell was perfect on the day on extra points and nailed both of his field goals. However, Hunter Niswander did not punt the ball particularly well when he was deep in Northwestern territory. Niswander's longest punt on the day was only 37 yards.

The kickoff defense also struggled, as it conceded 120 return yards to EIU's Devin Church. The tackling on special teams was lackluster and needs to improve.