Full disclosure, your lovely Co-Editors exchanged messages mid-first quarter contemplating a piece composed solely of stock downs. That seems harsh, but given *gestures in the direction of everything*, it would have been understandable.
Fortunately, Andrew Marty got things rolling late in the first half, the defense woke up and went on a brief takeaway spree and the ‘Cats ultimately gave us a watchable game on the whole. Here’s our weekly stock report for your now 1-2 Northwestern Wildcats.
After Hunter Johnson turned the ball over for a fourth time before the game had even reached the halfway point, Andrew Marty came into the game at quarterback. He immediately led the Wildcats on a six-play, 75-yard drive to paydirt, connecting with Jacob Gill on a 31-yard touchdown pass for Northwestern’s first touchdown of the day. The drive took just 51 seconds.
That drive alone probably would have good enough for a stock up. Marty wasn’t done, however. On the ‘Cats’ next drive, Marty would march the offense 71 yards down the field in just one minute and 27 seconds of game time, capping it off with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marshall Lang. The drive after, he would sneak it in on third and goal to make it a 10-point game.
While the end result wasn’t what many were hoping for in terms of a comeback, Marty’s play was extremely impressive today. He finished with 11 completions for 161 yards and two touchdowns, as well as six carries for 19 yards and that aforementioned score. While he was injured early in the fourth quarter on a hit from behind (that also resulted in a costly fumble), it’s likely he’ll be Northwestern’s starting quarterback going forward so long as he’s healthy.
Second half play
Once again, while the end result wasn’t a comeback victory for the ‘Cats, there are a ton of positive things to take away from their play in the second half, both offensively and defensively.
For one, Northwestern’s defense gameplanned extremely well throughout the second half. While they did give up 420 yards of offense to the Blue Devils in the first half, they allowed just 138 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes. Additionally, they held Mataeo Durant to negative yardage in the second half and forced three turnovers out of Duke.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was a Marty Party throughout the third quarter before he was taken out of the game due to an injury. Ryan Hilinski then stepped in, struggling a bit before leading the Wildcats to a late field goal in the fourth (with the help of a generous pass interference call). The offense wasn’t able to complete the comeback, but their second half performance was a bright spot.
Outside of Marty, it’s safe to say that the senior punter was one of Northwestern’s most impressive players today.
Special teams isn’t the most common position groups to have a huge impact on the game, but Adams made sure that was an exception today. The punter used his leg quite often, showing off some impressive power. He finished the game with four punts for 177 yards, and an average NET of 44.2 yards per punt. While that may not seem extremely impressive, one of his punts pinned Duke inside their own one-yard line. The Wildcats were ultimately unable to take advantage, but a great showing from Adams nonetheless.
Honorable mentions: Chris Bergin, Adetomiwa Adebawore, Mike Hankwitz (always), Northwestern’s future opponents, Charlotte football
Was today the end of the Hunter Johnson era for Northwestern football?
Johnson entered today’s game having played a solid game against Michigan State and a less-than-impressive one against Indiana State, though few could have predicted how poorly he performed against Duke. He ended up completing just six of his 16 pass attempts for 75 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. On top of that, he was hit hard on a third and goal try and fumbled early on Northwestern’s third drive of the game.
In total, Johnson turned the ball over four times in less than a quarter and a half of play. The other three drives that he was at the helm of all ended in a punt. He was benched in the second quarter for Marty and did not see the field for the rest of the game.
At what point do you blame the players and not the playcalling? Or not blame the playcalling and blame the players? Regardless of what you believe, Jim O’Neil is absolutely to blame for at least some of the defense’s poor play, and it would be very difficult to convince me otherwise.
By the end of the first half, the Wildcats’ defense had given up 30 points and 420 total yards of offense. By the end of the game, Duke’s total yardage jumped to XX yards. Both Northwestern’s secondary and front seven were eaten up defensively, especially in the first half. If the Wildcats are going to compete in the Big Ten, they have a lot they’ll need to shore up defensively, and as Fitz says, that begins and ends with the coaching staff.
Northwestern’s Class of 2025 Fandom
If you were unaware, Northwestern’s Class of 2025 officially moved into their dorms this past Monday. To help welcome them to campus, the university hosted a watch party for today’s game at Ryan Fieldhouse. According to our InsideNU freshmen, there were about 1,000 students at the watch party come kickoff.
They did not last long...
How it started How it’s going pic.twitter.com/m3HMzJqEr8— John Olsen (@jcolsen44) September 18, 2021
And can you blame them? The second photo was taken at halftime when the ‘Cats trailed 30-7. Congratulations, Class of 2025, you’ve officially experienced football pain. Welcome to the club.
Honorable mentions: The linebackers, the offensive line, defending Jake Bobo, slow substitutions, Duke’s attendance, Northwestern’s future attendance