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September 14, 2013

Four-down territory: Western Michigan

EVANSTON-WildcatReport takes a look at four things we liked, and four things we didn't, about Northwestern's 38-17 win over Western Michigan on Saturday night at Ryan Field.



Four downs: Positives


Treyvon Green: No Venric Mark? No problem, as Green once again did his best Mark impression by churning out yards in big chunks against the Broncos. Green ran for 158 yards on 20 carries (7.9 ypc) and again showed an extra gear that no one know he had going into the season with a 42-yard TD dash in the fourth quarter.


The running game: On a night when the passing game deserted them (see below), Northwestern's running game saved the night. The Wildcats racked up 332 yards on the ground and produced two 100-yard rushers: Green and Kain Colter (106). They averaged 6.0 yards per carry and in the second quarter, when they grabbed the game by the throat, the Cats ran for 138 yards on 19 carries.


Five consecutive scoring drives: Northwestern's first four possessions went like this: interception, punt, missed field goal, punt. Then, the next five went like this: TD, TD, TD, FG, TD. That was the ball game, as those five consecutive scoring drives tuned a 3-0 deficit into a 31-10 lead. The ability to put that horrific start in their rear-view mirrors will serve the Cats well when they enter the Big Ten portion of the schedule and the level of competition dramatically increases.


Ibraheim Campbell: What was the catalyst to Northwestern's five consecutive scoring drives? Campbell's tip-toeing interception in the second quarter. That pick -- the Wildcats' eighth in three games -- seemed to set a fire under the slumbering offense.



Four downs: Negatives


First quarter: Maybe the 8 p.m. kickoff time threw off Northwestern's now famous napping patterns. Whatever the reason was, the Cats sleepwalked through the first 15 minutes. The Wildcats' nightmare of a first period included just 61 total yards and as many completions as interceptions (one). In their first two drives, the Wildcats had 11 yards of offense and 15 yards in penalties. Even the normally automatic Jeff Budzien missed a 42-yarder in the opening period, his first miss since last year's Nebraska game.


Big plays in the passing game: Even a pop-gun offense like Western Michigan's was able to take advantage of Northwestern's shaky secondary. Tyler Van Tubbergen victimized Dwight White on a frighteningly easy 75-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and he came back in the third to hit Josh Schaffer for a 25-yard scoring strike over Nick VanHoose. The Wildcats have two weeks to figure out their defense of the deep ball before Ohio State comes to town on Oct. 5.


Passing game: Northwestern's normally polished passing game was as dull as a rusty DeSoto on Saturday night. Colter and Trevor Siemian combined to complete 15-of-22 throws, but for only 139 yards, with one interception to boot. That's a far cry from the aerial attack that rang up 375 yards against Syracuse and 460 against Cal.


Flat play: Northwestern usually takes its "one game at a time" philosophy to heart, but on this night, the Wildcats didn't seem very interested. If Western Michigan was a better team, the Wildcats could have found themselves in a dogfight.




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