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September 21, 2013

Four-down territory: Maine



EVANSTON-WildcatReport takes a look at four things we liked, and four things we didn't, about Northwestern's 35-21 win over Maine on Saturday at Ryan Field.



Four downs: Positives


Pick-6's: Northwestern's offense was largely unable to put points on the board, but the defense picked up the slack. Damien Proby's 49-yard interception return for a touchdown off a tipped gave Northwestern a 14-0 lead which 42 seconds remaining in the first half, and it gave the Cats some breathing room. Dean Lowry joined in on the fun in the third quarter when Maine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski let go of an ill-advised pass while being dragged down by a blitzing Wildcat.


Tony Jones: He was recently named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list and once again proved why on Saturday. Jones had six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. The score, a 27-yard catch, came after he made a nifty move to avoid a tackle and squirt out of traffic. He is quickly becoming the No. 1 receiver on the Wildcats' offense. No other player had more than two receptions for the game.

The first drive: If you only watched Northwestern's first drive on offense, you might have expected a score similar to the 76-0 beat-down Ohio State put on Florida A&M. The Wildcats marched right down the field, converted both third downs and capped the drive with the big TD reception from Tony Jones. At that moment, it looked like the Cats would cruise in this one. That, however, would not ultimately be the case. Later in the game, the Cats had a few other complete drives, but none were quite as dominant as the initial one of the game.


Defensive line pressure: After they didn't record a sack against Western Michigan, the Wildcats got back to business against Maine. Tyler Scott had a sack in the third quarter and Dean Lowry tacked on another and forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. Maine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski had himself a good day, but the D-line made sure he never got comfortable and forced him into some bad throws.



Four downs: Negatives


Slow start: For those who thought that last week was simply an aberration, Northwestern proved otherwise against Maine. The Cats led just 14-0 at halftime against an FCS opponent and were thoroughly outplayed for the most part. At the break, Northwestern had fewer passing yards and had a lower third-down conversion rate. That's not going to work against Ohio State.


Giving up big passes: Redshirt freshman Dwight White is still getting burned. Against Cal, there was the "baptism by fire." Three games later, there didn't seem to be much notable improvement as Maine receiver Derric Johnson got by White for a 59-yard reception that led directly to a Maine touchdown. True freshman Matthew Harris replaced White on the next drive with the Cats up by three scores.


Kain Colter: The starting Wildcat quarterback scored two touchdowns -- one through the air, one on the ground -- but he didn't ever look completely comfortable. The option game wasn't particularly effective and he seemed to have fewer big plays than usual. Through the air, Colter went just 5-of-9 for 85 yards and also threw a pick. Even worse, he took a couple big sacks that lost potential scoring opportunities for the Cats. He needs to play much better in two weeks if the Cats want to have a chance against the Buckeyes.


Time of possession: Northwestern evened things out after the intermission, but the halftime breakdown in time of possession was heavily slanted toward Maine. The Black Bears held the ball for 18:54, while the Cats had the ball for just 11:06. Aside from the first drive of the game, Northwestern was unable to sustain drives, which allowed Maine to hang around for longer than necessary.




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