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Three up, three down from Northwestern's loss to Duke

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The bright spots are tough to find.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

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 whose stock went up and three players whose performances were disappointing. Here's the report from Week 2.

Stock up

Tyler Lancaster

Northwestern was straight up beaten in the trenches on both sides of the ball on Saturday. Its offensive line was poor, allowing four sacks and generating no push in the quickly-abandoned running game. On defense, the pass rush was once again almost nonexistent (at least Joe Gaziano got the first sack of the year), but that was not the fault of Lancaster. The senior defensive tackle supplied more pressure from up the middle than any of the DEs did on the outside, and despite facing his fair share of double teams as usual, finished with 5 tackles, a TFL, and a team-leading 2 quarterback hurries.

Paddy Fisher

Fisher has looked impressive at middle linebacker through two starts. On Saturday, he racked up 18 tackles (9 solo) and added a TFL and a fumble recovery. Of course, much of that tackling volume was a result of Duke running a ridiculous number of plays (and a lack of depth at LB), but it was still a strong performance. There is plenty of room for improvement, especially when it comes to tracking mobile quarterbacks in the running game, but Fisher showed off his reliability as a tackler and that’s enough to get him onto this list.

Riley Lees

Yeah...not a lot to work with on offense here. But Lees was the team’s leading receiver, catching an 11-yard pass in the first half and adding his second score in as many career games on a 20-yard TD reception from Matt Alviti in garbage time. Lees is young, but has good hands and speed, and maybe a knack for finding the end zone?

Honorable mention: Jalen Brown, Kyric McGowan, Matt Alviti

Stock down

Clayton Thorson

This part of this article is a lot easier to write. Unfortunately, we have to start with the guy who headlined last week’s “stock up” section. Thorson didn’t get much help from his offensive line, sure, but he also simply failed to execute his throws on numerous occasions in Durham. His final line of 11-for-29, 120 yards, 2 INTs is a pretty good summation of how Thorson’s day went. The two picks were ugly mistakes, and the junior couldn’t get much going through the air anyways. Hopefully this goes down as easily his worst day of the season.

The entire offensive line

For a couple position groups, it’s tough to pick out a single player who underperformed because their unit as a whole didn’t play up to standards. It’s not ENTIRELY on the line, but four sacks and less than three yards per carry on rushes (excluding Thorson’s lost sack yardage) is unacceptable at this point. Pat Fitzgerald has continued to aggressively rotate players across the line, but so far the improvements from last season just haven’t been there.

Defenders not named Tyler, Paddy or Godwin

I’ll give Montre Hartage and Joe Gaziano a little bit of credit here too, but overall, Northwestern’s defense got absolutely outclassed by a Duke offense that is operating at a high level but really isn’t anything special. Daniel Jones looked like Aaron Rodgers against the Wildcats, getting whatever he wanted on the ground and through the air. The Blue Devils piled up well over 200 yards rushing. Northwestern’s secondary is banged up, but the guys who were out there got repeatedly burned by TJ Rahming and other Duke receivers. It was an ugly display, and a lot of work and healing is needed if this team is going to hold Wisconsin and Penn State under 40 points.

Honorable mention: Garrett Dickerson, John Moten IV as a kick returner, Bennett Skowronek