Is it fair to call that a snooze fest? After the ‘Cats went up 14-0 early on, there was limited offensive action throughout their contest against FCS program Indiana State. That was vintage Northwestern football, with defensive dominance galore. The Wildcats looked far from the team that lost to Michigan State last Friday, but also far from the one that won a Citrus Bowl during the 2020 season. Here’s our stock report from Northwestern’s 24-6 victory over Indiana State.
Despite battling an injury against Michigan State, the sophomore still managed to record 87 yards on just nine attempts. As his condition continues to trend upward, his performance today also improved. Hull finished the game with 126 yards and 2 TD’s on 22 carries. With Cam Porter out for the season, Hull is settling in nicely as the offense’s feature back, and his electric speed and movement were on full display today.
While he had a pair of unproductive periods in the middle portion of the game (join the club), Hull’s overall game was stellar, finishing the game with one last bruising touchdown carry. He’ll be an extremely vital part of any success the ‘Cats have this season, and considering he was a depth option two years ago, the upward trajectory his career has taken is remarkable, and it’s exciting to see where it will go next.
Special Teams Play
Every aspect of the special teams unit was practically flawless in today’s game. From the kicking to the punt returns, there was nothing more you could have asked for from this group, so here’s a quick rundown of everything they did.
Punter Derek Adams continued to boot absolute bombs, even leading to a muffed punt in the second quarter from a Sycamore that put the ‘Cats offense in prime position to score (an opportunity they squandered, as you’ll be reminded of down below).
After a brutal performance a week ago, Charlie Kuhbander matched his career long on a field goal, blasting a 47-yard kick through the uprights in the third quarter. He was also a perfect 3-3 on extra points, rounding out a very strong performance for the senior placekicker.
Brandon Joseph had multiple 50-yard punt returns, showcasing his pure talent as not just a safety, but an athlete, and while he couldn’t get into the endzone on either occasion, his efforts set up the offense nicely. Even walk-on running back turned rotation piece wideout Ray Niro III got in on the fun, turning a muffed punt into a return inside the Indiana State 30-yard line.
Yet in spite of all of this, the offense only scored three points on said three opportunities, and in total lost more yards than they gained. Yikes.
Run Blocking (for the first quarter, at least)
A bit of a reach, but this was about as boring and bland as an 18-point win could get. You take positives where you can get them.
The #TrenchCats looked showed their potential in the first quarter, powering NU to 137 rushing yards in the first 15 minutes of play, and while they weren’t statistically dominant in the run department a week ago, they weren’t dominated either. Against most Big Ten opponents, that’s a sign of good things to come.
Today, the NWO turned Ryan Field into an IHOP with the number of pancakes they served up on those first two drives. Running backs Evan Hull and Anthony Tyus III ran wild through the gaping holes opened by the offensive line, and Northwestern’s overall yards per carry almost doubled from the Michigan State game to today, rising all the way from 3.1 to 4.5. If the ‘Cats can continue to run the ball at this level, it will take the pressure off Hunter Johnson and the passing game to produce on later downs and hopefully lead to a more productive and successful offense.
Honorable Mentions: AJ Hampton, Adetomiwa Adebawore, student attendance, NUMB, the entire defense
The ‘Cats got off to a perfect start, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on each of their first two drives, 75 and 92 yards in length respectively, and recorded 172 yards in the first quarter alone. After that, things took a turn for the worse, with the offense only scoring a paltry ten points through the final three quarters, and despite being gifted a lot of great scoring opportunities by the special teams, they continually failed to capitalize and put the game out of reach.
After those initial two drives, the offense only gained a total of 107 yards, and took a number of sacks and TFL’s along with a couple of turnovers. While part of this general inconsistency could be due to Fitz wanting to roll out a vanilla gameplan and avoid mistakes on the path to an easy victory, it is still somewhat worrying that NU only scored three more points against a middling FCS foe than they did against Michigan State.
It almost feels unfair putting him in this section, but after his superb outing against Michigan State, anything but a repeat of that, especially against inferior opposition, could be viewed as a disappointment. He set a high bar for himself and fell well short of it today, finishing with a measly 51 yards on 6-for-12 passing, and a very displeasing interception to boot (though it did appear his shoulder was hit on said pick).
Look, I’d much rather have an easy, controlled ‘Cats win than a highly competitive affair that goes down to the wire, but today’s game was dull and dreary for the final three quarters. Outside of a few punt returns from Brandon Joseph and Raymond Niro III, today’s game lacked any real explosive plays or excitement from either offense that took to the field. Both teams were very methodical and safe with their play-calling, and with not a lot of scoring, the whole affair turned into a punting contest.
Indiana State could never really muster up any sort of comeback, and even when they were down 17 early in the fourth quarter, they decided to punt on 4th and 2 inside Northwestern’s half of the field. Had they taken the risk and gone for it, maybe the game would’ve been slightly more compelling.
Honorable Mentions: Band Day, Endzone seating, Wildcat (the formation), Press box conditions