Special Teams: Northwestern’s special teams had been playing fairly well coming into this game, but in the 4th quarter they cost the Wildcats the game. After tying the game up at 17 with 7:32 left in the 4th, the ensuing kickoff was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Minnesota’s Jalen Myrick. It was the first time Northwestern had allowed a kickoff to be returned for a touchdown since Tevin Coleman of Indiana did it back in 2012.
Penalties:Eric Olson committed 3 penalties at right tackle for Northwestern, and Minnesota on both of their offensive touchdowns had personal foul penalties added on to two 20+ yard plays that gave the Gophers 1st and goal from the 5 both times.
Justin Jackson:The true freshman lead Northwestern in rushing and was 2nd in receiving with 108 yards on the ground and 50 in the air. If not for Jackson, this margin of victory for Minnesota would have been a lot larger.
1. Northwestern is back in the takeaway department. Nick VanHoose early in the 3rd quarter picked off a sideline pattern from Mitch Leidner. 3rd straight game Northwestern has picked off at least 1 pass..
2. Minnesota receivers are getting a lot of cushion on sideline patterns. Twice on 3rd down, Leidner was able to convert on a sideline pattern with seemingly no Northwestern defender within five yards of the receiver.
3. Justin Jackson through 3 quarters has 95 yards on 19 carries. He essentially has been the Northwestern offense.
1. Northwestern gained new life after they looked to have turned the ball over. Trevor Siemian was sacked and fumbled the ball, but Matt Frazier recovered and Siemian proceeded to lead the Wildcats 9 plays down the field for a touchdown. Had Frazier not recovered, the result could have turned out much differently.
2. Minnesota was again the beneficiary of a big play and a penalty added on to the end of the play. After Mitch Leidner found a wide open Maxx Williams for 52 yards Godwin Igwebuike was called for a facemask penalty that set up 1st and goal from the 5 yard line. 2 plays later Leidner snuck the ball in from the 1 for his 2nd rush TD of the game.
3. Justin Jackson fights for hard yardage. He has the type of foot-speed that allows him to break tackles. Jackson has 13 carries for 67 yards to this point in the game.
4. On the final drive of the half Northwestern got the ball to a 1st and goal situation from the 4 yard line. After a rush and a sideline pass, the Wildcats were left with 3rd and goal from the 2. Siemian was flushed from the pocket and forced to throw the ball away. Jack Mitchell converted a 19 yard field goal attempt that made the score 14-10 Minnesota going into halftime.
5. The last Northwestern scoring drive, like the first, was kept alive by a significant ruling. On 3rd and 10 from their own 36, Siemian threw a pass to Kyle Prater that appeared to be incomplete. Yet after further review, Prater clearly had possession of the ball when he hit the ground, giving Northwestern a 1st down and keeping the drive alive.
1. David Cobb is really hard to bring down. Rushed for 38 yards on 9 carries in the 1st quarter. He went over 2,000 yards for his career in the first quarter and became the 14th player in Gopher history with that distinction.
2. Minnesota got benefited from a hands to the face penalty on Dean Lowry on a 22 yard broken play run by Mitch Leidner. Leidner on that drive had 3 carries for 32 yards.
3. Minnesota dominated time of possession, winning that 8:42 to 6:18, although it felt much longer because of Minnesota’s run-heavy offense.
4. Gophers are run-heavy. 15 run plays to 3 pass plays in the 1st quarter.
5. Northwestern had 2 big plays called back for illegal formation penalties on right tackle Eric Olson. The second one was on a deep pass to Miles Shuler that would have gotten Northwestern to the Minnesota 20.
The past two weeks for Wildcat football have included two upsets and two Big Ten recognitions for freshmen. Looking for its fourth consecutive victory, Northwestern will travel to TCF Bank Stadium on Oct. 11 to take on the Minnesota Gophers.
While last weekend’s win over no. 17 Wisconsin improved NU’s record to 3-2, Minnesota has a 4-1 record going into the game on Saturday. Minnesota will be coming off of a bye week with a home field advantage.
“We’re going to play a very good football team, looking ahead,” head coach Pat Fitzgerald said in a press conference on Monday. “They got after us a year ago here, and got seven guys coming back. It’s going to be a great challenge and should be one heck of a football game.”
Last year, NU lost to Minnesota, 20-17 at home.
Fitzgerald showed respect for Minnesota’s head coach, Jerry Kill, and noted the team’s strengths.
“They do things schematically, and it shows up on tape,” Fitzgerald said. “The credit, obviously, starts at the top with his leadership and just who he is. They’re very well coached; they’re fast, they’re physical.”
After Northwestern was able to limit Wisconsin to only 14 points last week, the ‘Cats are looking to have the same defensive success against a similar Minnesota team. Both the Badgers and Gophers have relied heavily on the running game behind large, physical offensive lines in order to make up for weak passing attacks. So far this year, Gophers senior RB David Cobb has 722 rushing yards. Fitzgerald did say, however, that there are difference between the teams. For example, Minnesota’s game plan will include more quarterback options and runs.
Key to the Wildcat’s win over Wisconsin was the play of redshirt freshman Godwin Igwebuike, who had 8 tackles and 3 interceptions in the game. Igwebuike won Big Ten Defensive Player and Freshman of the Week honors for his performance last Saturday — making him the second NU freshman defensive player to win the latter award in the past two weeks, after Anthony Walker received the recognition for his performance against Penn State.
Both Northwestern and Minnesota have a strong defense this year, with NU only allowing a combined 27 points over the last three games, versus Minnesota’s 21 points allowed. Minnesota’s last game was a 30-14 win on the road against Michigan, a team which has looked this season like one of the weakest teams in the conference. The game against Michigan was Minnesota’s fourth win of the season and only Big Ten match up to date. The Gophers other three wins came against San Jose State, Middle Tennessee, and Eastern Illinois.
A win this weekend would give Northwestern its first 3-0 start to a Big ten campaign since 2000, the last year Northwestern won the Big Ten. After a slow start to the season, a win this week would solidify Northwestern’s newfound status as a Big Ten contender. Not only that, it would put next weekend’s Homecoming game against Nebraska into the spotlight as a game for the control of the Big Ten West.
Check out the season’s second episode of SportsNight! Anchors Axel Boada and Jesse Kirsch take you to Ryan Field for a big, Big Ten win and out to Lakeside Field to show you how the men’s soccer team fared against a strong team of Terrapins of Maryland. All that and more, on SportsNight. Right Now.
The NCAA announced Thursday that Northwestern defensive lineman Sean McEvilly would be eligible to return for the 2015 season after he missed all of the 2014 with what multiple sources are calling a foot injury.
After a successful 2012 season in which he started the last 10 games and recorded 20 tackles, McEvilly was expected to be a starter for the Wildcats in 2013. But a foot injury limited him to just five games that season.
Northwestern had hoped McEvilly could provide a boost to a defensive tackle position that was expected to be a weakness of the Wildcat defense in 2014. This announcement means McEvilly will join WR Christian Jones as players who missed 2014 but will return next season.
Watch the entire press conference for more Top Gun jokes and to hear about a very important team meeting.
-RB Justin Jackson was the NU offensive player of the week, Fitz said. Matt Frazier also played well.
-S Godwin Igwebuike was the NU player of the week but there are a lot of areas he needs to improve, like mental issues and communication errors. Igwebuike also won B1G defensive player and freshman of the week.
-Fitz acknowledged CB Nick VanHoose, said he’s playing the best of his career.
-Fitz complemented the the Gophers physical running backs and offensive linemen.
-Both LB Anthony Walker and Igwebuike played well but both “can play better.”
-Older players have done a good job helping freshmen like RB Solomon Vault, Jackson and WR Cameron Dickerson, Fitz said.
-According to Fitz, Jerry Kill is “a war daddy” and the team reflects that.
-Schematically, Fitz said Minnesota is similar to Wisconsin but with more power running and more QB running.
-Because of Minnesota’s bye week, Fitz is expecting the defense to see things they aren’t expecting.
-Walk-ons and younger players have been making plays in special teams, has Fitz “fired up.”
-Last year Igwebuike was “on the flight deck” like Maverick from Top Gun, Fitz said.
-S Ibraheim Campbell won’t play this week, but Fitz said he thought that before he got hurt he was playing like he could play on Sundays.
-Fitz said Minnesota “dominated all three phases” against Michigan.
-A lot of runs on Saturday were the result of wide receivers making blocks, but Fitz said the team has to finish better.
-Melvin Gordon’s long runs were the result of schematic problems and missed tackles, Fitz said.
-Fitz said Passing game had some missed throws, and poor schematics inside the red zone.
-Fitz: “Never going to get upset with our students for partying” but not a big fan of people rushing the field because of safety issues. He did acknowledge, it’s “a good problem.”
-Fitz likes the new uniforms. Says it was one of the first ideas Under Armour came to them with.
-LB Collin Ellis: “probably a little bit of carry over” from Wisconsin, but every week is a different team.
-WR Kyle Prater: we knew after those two games “that’s not who we were.”
-Ellis: team meeting after the 0-2 start was a turning point for the team.
-RB Treyvon Green: similar front seven to Wisconsin.
-Ellis said players had fun in the postgame, but that they were expecting to win the game so it wasn’t as big a deal for them.