FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS! FIVE STRAIGHT HATS!
(five straight hats)
Andrew Marty (on the ground)
He certainly wasn’t perfect, but Marty put together one of the better performances we’ve seen from an NU quarterback all year. That’s not saying much, but the redshirt sophomore was overall solid under center today, and we haven’t really been able to say that about a Wildcat quarterback all year. He looked confident in read option/motion sets all day as he carried the ball for 111 yards and a touchdown. After today’s performance, you can’t help but think Northwestern could have stolen an extra game or two this season with Marty starting over Smith.
What a day for the true freshman. With multiple running backs hurt and Evan Hull perserving his redshirt, Northwestern called upon its true first-year defensive back for assistance in the backfield, and he delivered. Azema finished with 123 yards on just seven carries, including a 62-yarder on third down that set up Marty’s second rushing score.
The youngster deserves a ton of credit for stepping up when his number was called, and he looked like a natural ballcarrier all afternoon. With his speed and today’s breakout performance, Azema should be an exciting versatile piece to watch in this NU program moving forward.
Pace of Play
Everyone won today with the incredible rate of play and total game time. The game started promptly at 11:03 CST and the first half lasted just over an hour.
The run defense
It’s still really good! Against a rushing offense average 150+ yards per game, the NU front seven was dominant, allowing a mere 14 (!) yards on the ground all day one 26 carries. Marty/Azema may have stole the show individually today, but once again, the ‘Cats were aided and kept alive by strong defensive play in the trenches.
This entire game
For pretty much the first time all season, the football game was fun, and we should all be happy about that.
Outgaining Illinois 378 to 14 on the ground
A very cool thing that happened.
Honorable Mentions: HAT remaining in its rightful place, the pass rush, Mike Hankwitz, offensive line, Riley Lees, James McCourt, the 14 fans that showed up, limiting Illinois to 14 first half plays, time of possession, Ohio State, the seniors
Protecting the precious piece of pigskin
We knew coming into this game that Illinois forced a lot of turnovers, and we also knew that NU hasn’t been so good at protecting the ball this year. All of that showed on Saturday! Drake Anderson nearly cost the Wildcats points in the first half when he coughed it up deep in Illini territory, and Marty’s first half interception gave Illinois its only first half points. He also got bailed out in the fourth quarter as an interception in the endzone was negated by a hands-to-the-face call on Illinois.
Throwing the Football
Marty looked solid on the ground, but his production through the air was a different story. Apart from the strike to third quarter TD strike to Lees, the quarterback’s shaky day throwing the football gave us a glimpse as to why he’s probably been behind Aidan Smith on the depth chart for most of the season. Poor receiving play from every passcatcher not named Riley Lees hurt the Wildcats again, but it’s clear that Marty doesn’t have a great pocket presence. Either way, who gives a shit, ANDREW MARTY JUST WON THE HAT!
Lovie Smith beating Pat Fitzgerald
Honorable Mentions: Illinois winning HATs, Trey Pugh’s drop, Charlie Kuhbander, Matt Robinson, Fighting Illini, racist mascots, Michigan, Memorial Stadium, Urbana, Champaign, The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign