Out with Player Grades and in with Three up, Three down, Inside NU's newest postgame evaluation. Rather than handing out grades to the different contributors, we'll give you three players (or position groups) whose stock went up and three players whose performances were disappointing. Here's the report from Iowa.
Jackson’s numbers were relatively pedestrian (25 carries for 93 yards, 5 catches for 38 yards, no touchdowns) but he made big plays when the Wildcats needed him to. None, of course, were bigger than this (figured you would probably want to see it again):
Justin Jackson is unbelievable. The GOAT. pic.twitter.com/UNjmSl4ZTu— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) October 21, 2017
For the umpteenth time, without Justin Jackson, the Wildcats probably lose this game. What a legend.
At some point I’ll probably stop putting Hall on this list. That time has not yet come, however, as Hall, who tied for the team lead in tackles with 9 along with Paddy Fisher, had another tremendous game. Adding on a TFL, 2 passes defensed, and some crucial open-field stops, Hall helped marshall the troops and led the Wildcat defense to another outstanding performance.
80 yard punt. 80 YARD PUNT. The longest net punt in at least the FBS so far this year (Marshall’s Kaare Vedvik had a 92-yarder, but it went for a touchback) was only part of Niswander’s magnificent day, as he tacked on two more punts that landed inside the 20, including a 59-yarder, which is impressive in its own right. After some struggles to begin Big Ten play, Niswander was able to use the wind to his advantage this week, and seems to be back to his early-season form.
Honorable mentions: Joe Gaziano, Charlie Kuhbander, Kyle Queiro
Thorson had another pedestrian game against an Iowa squad that was missing it’s top safety and star middle linebacker. He had his moments both through the air and on the ground, and his receivers didn’t do him any favors (more on that in a bit), but he also held the ball too long on two of his sacks, and 5.3 yards per attempt isn’t going to cut it. Justin Jackson and the defense bailed him out, but that escape act isn’t going to work for too much longer. At least he didn’t turn the ball over.
Northwestern’s shaky pass defense held up well overall against Nathan Stanley, holding him to a line of 19/33 for 223 yards, a touchdown and a pick, but Mayo struggled mightily. Matt Vandenberg burned him deep multiple times early on, and though he only cashed in on one, it set up both the lone Hawkeye touchdown and several underneath routes later in the game against the newly-cautious cornerback. The pass rush didn’t do him any favors, but Northwestern needs more consistent play from its secondary to stay afloat.
The receiving corps
Again, Clayton Thorson didn’t play well, but he also wasn’t given a ton to work with in the passing game. Just like against Penn State and Wisconsin, receivers had a hard time getting open, and for just about every route-runner Thorson seldom had any kind of window to throw into. Macan Wilson, one of the few who managed to shake free of their man a couple of times, had two key drops, and Northwestern pass-catchers committed THREE offensive pass interference penalties (though two weren't enforced). Northwestern’s issues with the behind-the-scenes aspects of the passing game is helping to keep them behind the sticks.
Honorable Mentions: The pass rush besides Gaziano, Riley Lees (returning punts), Pat Fitzgerald’s decision to play for overtime, the general concept of offense, ESPN2’s ratings, the game of football