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A deeper dive into the Northwestern's 44-29 win over Indiana

Some more notes, stats and odds and ends from Saturday's game

Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Everything that needs to be said about NU's 44-29 win over the Hoosiers has already been said. So, let me just say a few more things.

  • For the first time this season, NU's offensive line allowed zero sacks on Saturday. Nice improvement on the pass blocking, as Trevor Siemian often had a lot of time to set up in the pocket and target receivers downfield. There were a few close calls, and Siemian got hit a couple of times, but overall a good day for the o-line that hasn't always protected well.
  • On the flip side, I don't recall the defensive line getting much pressure on IU quarterbacks, though I'd have to rewatch the game to be sure. NU did get two sacks on the day, both from linebackers: David Nwabuisi and Colin Ellis.
  • Speaking of linebackers, Damien Proby led the team with a career-best-tying 14 tackles, including 10 solo. He must have a thing for Indiana, as he had the same exact totals last year against the Hoosiers.
  • I say this every week, but I continue to marvel at Jeff Budzien and Brandon Williams. Budzien, of course, was automatic yet again on Saturday, connecting on field goals of 29, 34 and 44 yards. The 44-yarder was the second-longest of his career. For the year, he's 11 for 11. As for Williams, he only had two punts Saturday, but both were solid, averaging 45.5 yards.
  • The participation report lists freshman running back Mike Panico played in the game, which, if true, would make him the fifth true freshman to burn his redshirt this year, joining superback Dan Vitale, defensive end Dean Lowry, defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo and safety Traveon Henry. The participation report isn't always correct, though, so I don't know if Panico actually played.
  • Speaking of true freshmen, Henry got extended playing time after Ibraheim Campbell left the game on a hard hit. Henry did OK statistically, recording five tackles and a pass break-up. As for Odenigbo, another DNP. Hmm.
  • There's been some chatter on Penn State message boards that NU's passing game is suspect. Certainly, if you look at the stats coming into the Indiana game, you wouldn't necessarily be wrong. There's also this interesting statistical nugget: dating to the Vanderbilt game in week two, NU's last 13 touchdowns have all come by running the ball. Siemian and Rashad Lawrence, former high school teammates, almost connected on a TD pass late in the 3rd quarter, though, with Lawrence catching the ball and being tackled at the 1-yard line. Venric Mark would plunge in for the TD a play later.
  • Demetrius Fields came into the game leading the NU receiving corps with 21 catches. He ended the game with still 21 catches, as he had a pretty forgettable day that included a bad drop in the endzone on a ball that hit him right in the hands. A rare off day for the dependable senior.
  • This isn't a stat, but an observation. The two games in which we've had second-half defensive implosions have come against teams running hurry-up no-huddle offenses: Syracuse and Indiana. Against Syracuse, the Wildcats also had to deal with suffocating heat and humidity in the Carrier Dome. In both games, the defense has looked awesome in the first half, and then exhausted in the second half as the no-huddle tempo starts to wear them down. This isn't a huge surprise, as our own offense typically does this to other teams. Anyway, all of this is to say that I'm not as worried about our defense. Against more "normal" paced teams, we'll do fine. And against up-tempo teams, we'll have to trust in Colter, Siemian & Co.'s ability to move the chains and buy our defense time to rest.
  • Another observation: If I'm an Indiana fan, I wouldn't be too disheartened by this loss. Easy for me to say, yeah. But this was a Hoosiers team that had just eight seniors. It's a very young team. And their true freshman quarterback was making some very excellent passes when he came on in relief. If Kevin Wilson, who was very Randy Walker-like on the sideline, applauding and building up his team's morale, can continue recruiting and build depth, the Hoosiers could be a decent to good team in two to three years.
  • Attendance was 33,129, which seems bigger than the crowd I saw on TV. But it's a good sign that we appear to be finished with the days when non-marquee games would draw less than 25K. It appears the low-30Ks are now the baseline.