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Stock up, stock down from Northwestern’s home loss against Iowa

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Feels like they should have lost by way more, right?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Another day, another slow and boring Northwestern defeat. Here are some stock ups (yes, we thought of some) and some stock downs from the ‘Cats’ 17-12 loss under the “lights” of Ryan Field.

Stock Up

Adetomiwa Adebawore, always

Everyone who has read this site or follows my incoherent tweets knows that I have long believed that No. 99 on Northwestern is supremely underrated, and even during this objectively bad season for the ‘Cats, his greatness has shown through. Adebawore racked up another sack during tonight’s action and created constant discomfort for Iowa’s quarterbacks with his pressures.

Northwestern could be getting waxed 59-0 by Southwestern East Missouri State Tech, and ‘Tomi would still have three plays during the contest that would make everyone perk up and admire the athletic pass rusher. Just another great game from one of, if not the best player on NU’s roster (depending on how you feel about Peter Skoronski and Brandon Joseph).

The defense, maybe?

It’s all a matter of perspective. Yes, Northwestern held a Big Ten West opponent to a mere 17 points, the fewest they’ve allowed since playing Rutgers. But the ‘Cats were also facing Iowa, scorers of seven points in each of their previous two games.

However, you have to take into account that Kirk Ferentz finally pulled the trigger to bench Spencer Petras for Alex Padilla, who is apparently much, much better at football. Of course, getting sliced and diced for two touchdown drives by Iowa’s backup isn’t anything to write home about, and said drives included frustrating missed tackles and run fits to be sure.

Still, the first half of the season had many worrying that this defense could not even be described as competent, and that’s been proven wrong. Flaws are still plenty evident, but that unit has put together a decent second half to its 2021 campaign.

Evan Hull

If we actually tallied the number of times a player appeared in these sections, Hull would definitely be the leader on this Wildcats team. His typical yardage acquired on the ground was removed due to both Iowa’s stout defense and an unfavorable game script , but he made up for it with a monster game as a receiving threat. The sophomore back finished with six catches for 89 yards, 72 of which were racked up after the catch. He capped it all off with a 41-yard touchdown near the game’s end to give NU a fighting chance.

Even in a night almost entirely devoid of any and all offensive goodness, Hull proved yet again that he is a quality Big Ten running back, capable of using both power and/or lateral shifts to break free and threaten defenses. A great season from him, all-around.

Honorable Mention: Retroactive Peyton Ramsey appreciation, The purple and black uniform combo

Stock Down

First quarter offense

October 16, 2021. That is the date of the last time Northwestern scored points in the first quarter of a game. Not at all coincidentally, its also the last game the ‘Cats won before dropping three straight to Michigan, Minnesota and, now, Iowa.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it one thousand times — Northwestern cannot afford to trail early in games. Quite honestly, the ‘Cats can’t afford to be trailing at any point in any game, as they’ve led for the entirety of all three of their wins this season. To come out this sloppy and unprepared once again is just embarrassing. Some may blame the coaches for uninspiring play-calling, others will slight the players for horrible miscues, such as J.J. Jefferson’s drop of a wide open pass on the game’s first play that was Marty’s best spiral of the night.

Regardless, the horrible starts have been a plague on the team this season, and even as mid-November approaches, there seems to be no solution in sight.

Andrew Marty

All of the “Marty Party” tweets probably should have come with a “relative to the rest of Northwestern’s quarterback room” asterisk. Sure, the senior signal caller was put in a tough position, with the talented Iowa secondary blanketing his best receivers, and his own offensive line getting worked so badly that he couldn’t even fire off screen passes in time. Additionally, his running ability is still a boon to the otherwise dormant offense, offering the ‘Cats a release valve for stagnant plays.

But alas, tonight was only Marty’s second career start for a reason. He’s still a limited passer, tossing inaccurate balls far too often, and getting punished for his lacking arm strength via several interceptions when attempting to go deep. He capped off his less-than-stellar performance by hammering the nail into NU’s coffin with two head scratching interceptions that looked like turnovers the moment they left his hand. Marty should still start the rest of the season, but that more speaks to the sad state of this team than it does his own capability.

Don’t worry though, he’s still running for 200+ yards against Illinois in three weeks.

Situational fourth down decisions

Ray Niro III had what was the best and what should have been the most impactful play of the night for Northwestern, as he both blocked and recovered a punt to set the ‘Cats up just nine yards away from paydirt late in the second half. Due to the deal they made with the devil in 2020, Northwestern’s 2021 offense naturally failed to reach the end zone, and for a brief time the ‘Cats considered going for it, before sending out Charlie Kuhbander for the field goal attempt (which he made, to his credit).

Hindsight is always 20-20, but it’s hard not to think what might have been had NU trotted the offense back out there, needing four yards for the touchdown. The game obviously changes in that new timeline, but maybe it plays out similarly, and Hull’s late score is to tie the game rather than to bring the ‘Cats within a possession. Fitz said postgame that it was right on the edge of his comfort zone, and that he thought, “his team psychologically needed the points,” but it’s impossible to not think of it as an opportunity missed.

Honorable Mention: Spencer Petras, officials, chances that someone not named Wisconsin wins the Big Ten West