Game Analysis


Post Game Analysis: Northwestern vs. Northeastern
by Jonathan Hodges

It was a beautiful day at Ryan Field for the start of the 2007 college football season - and a great day to watch a Northwestern victory (Northwestern 27 - Northeastern 0)!  I will now take credit for my accurate prediction of the final score and a SHUTOUT - which the Wildcats did achieve (it's first since 1997 against Oklahoma), although things tight at times (Northeastern did miss 2 FGs - badly- and were within FG range another couple times), but the 'Cats managed to finish it off.  Also, the offense looked great as the spread attack clicked all day led by CJ Bacher's 23-29 243 yd 1 TD, 0 INT performance and Sutton's 108 yds, 1 TD rushing yards.  An yet another great performance was given by the special teams as Demos and Villareal teamed up for a near perfect game in the kicking department.

There were a few shortcomings for NU shown up during the game, including the performance of both the offensive and defensive lines.  The offensive line allowed 3 sacks, didn't give the running backs much room to run (Sutton's 108 yards can mostly be attributed to his excellent performance), and finally got called on more than a couple holding penalties.  The defensive line never got a ton of pressure on Northeastern's quarterback and failed to record a sack - also the defense as a whole failed to generate any turnovers.  Finally, Northeastern managed to move the ball well at times and picked at NU's defense with short passes, although the Huskies managed to shoot themselves in the foot on more than one occasion with a penalty or mistake to kill a drive.  All of these can be corrected, though, with Rees returning on the OL next week and (hopefully) a more creative defensive gameplan in future games (as the coaches admitted the defense did not show much in today's game).

Overall, a solid start to the season for Northwestern with a lot of promise on both sides of the ball (and special teams as well), and although there are areas for improvement I couldn't ask for a much better start to the year.

Player of the Game: CJ Bacher (23-29, 243 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 rushing TD): he ran the spread offense to a T, spreading the ball around to 7 different receivers and keeping the NU offense humming all day.

Honorable Mention: Sherrick McManis (10 tackles, 2 TFL): he was all over the field on both defense and special teams and helped lock down the shutout.  My favorite play was a screen pass when "Batman" shook off a block to take down the ball carrier near the line of scrimmage.

Other Solid Performances:
Amado Villareal: 2/2 FGs (25 yds, 35 yds), 3/3 XPs: can't ask for much more as he nailed all of his kicks today, sending my special teams comfort level way up.
Stefan Demos: 2 touchbacks on kickoffs, 2 punts inside the 20: he looks like the real deal as he booted every kickoff and punt keeping Northeastern's starting position close or inside of its own 20.
Tyrell Sutton: 108 yds, 1 TD rushing, 24 yds receiving: he created many of those yards himself, and if given some more running room should be even better this year.
Receivers: few, if any, dropped passes and these guys were in sync with Bacher: Yarbrough, Thompson, Peterman, and Lane all looked good, although 7 different receivers caught passes.
OC McGee: really had the spread running well today.
HC Fitz: for getting the entire team ready to go out there and win to start the 2007 campaign.

What to Work on:
Offensive Line: their performance left some to be desired although Rees' return should solidify things.  The NU RBs need more room to run, and Bacher needs slightly better protection (3 sacks plus 2 throw away balls to avoid sacks won't cut it).
Defensive Line: they never really got a lot of pressure on the QB (no sacks) and didn't shut down the run like I thought they could.  Against more talented offensive competition they will really have to step it up.
Linebackers: most of Northeastern's yardage came on passes to the area typically covered by LBs and although NU managed the shutout it looked like NU's LB squad could have gotten to the ball carrier a little quicker.  Again, against faster and better offenses this unit will really have to improve to keep the 'Cats' opponents out of the end zone.

Random Observations:
- Fitz used quite a few players and it was good to see the youngsters hit the field (including Jeske, Rooks, Rucks, Grant, and more) - plus the entire team avoided new injuries (always a good thing).  Hopefully the playing time will help their development.
- The defense had multiple looks throughout the day (4-3 was the base, but I saw 3-4, 5-2 (mostly on 3rd downs), and some nickel with Oredugba coming in as CB and Battle moving to nickelback (blitzing on occasion)), but there wasn't a lot of blitzing.  Hopefully moving forward NU can solidify a strategy on defense and have the ability to stop more potent offenses.

Next up, Nevada.  Go 'Cats!!!

e-mail: j-hodges@alumni.northwestern.edu

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