Navada Post-Game Analysis
by Jonathan Hodges
Another sunny day at Ryan Field and another Cardiac 'Cats win (Northwestern 36 - Nevada 31)
propelled Northwestern to a 2-0 record as the Wildcat fans endured yet
another nailbiter. While virtually all aspects of the game put NU
in a 24-10 hole at halftime and a 31-27 hole with only 2 minutes
remaining in the game - all of those units had a hand in the comeback
victory in the final minutes of the game.
We saw the defense look inept and feeble at times particularly in the
first half, but then finish off the game by stopping Nevada to get the
ball back with less than 2 minutes left in the game (also thanks for
the "play of the game" - the personal foul that put Nevada way behind
the chains) and then finish off the game with 2 sacks (one for a
safety). The offense clicked right away by scoring a TD on the
opening drive of the game but then went into a shell until later in the
game - including the amazing 80 yard drive to cap it all off with CJ
Bacher's 3rd TD pass of the day to Ross Lane. The one unit that
was "on" for most of the day was special teams - Villareal went a
perfect 2/2 on FGs (including a 46 yarder) and 4/4 on XPs, Demos hit
3/7 punts inside the 20 plus had some more solid kickoffs, and finally
McManis had a 43 yard kickoff return.
While there were glaring deficiencies in Northwestern's performance
today, the one thing that showed especially in that final 2 minutes of
the game was the resolve of this team and the ability to pull out a
close victory. I believe that this "Cardiac 'Cat" attitude is
something much more valuable than comfortably beating a team (although
not good for 'Cats fans' hearts). Also, there are still a number
of things to be worked on, but a lot of things during the game actually
Overall, it was a heart-pumping victory and it was great to see another
'Cats victory - which will hopefully be a springboard for the next few
weeks of the season.
Player of the Game: CJ Bacher
(20-45, 227 yds, 3 TD, 0 INT, 60 rushing yards): while he threw 25
incomplete passes, including 3-4 overthrown passes to an open Lane, he
showed great leadership abilities by leading the NU offense 80 yards in
less than a minute (including 2 QB scrambles - both for first downs)
and was a key factor in the 'Cats win.
Honorable Mention: Amado Villareal
(2/2 FGs (incl. 46 yd), 4/4 XPs): the 2 FGs he hit during the middle of
the game ended up being a key to NU's win, and he remains perfect on
the season (4/4 FGs, 7/7 XPs) - providing a consistent kicking force
for Northwestern moving forward.
Other Solid Performances:
Stefan Demos (3
punts inside the 20, 1 kickoff touchback, 63 yd kickoff average): once
again punted and kicked flawlessly and provided NU an advantage in the
"hidden yardage" forcing Nevada to move the ball even further to get
within striking distance.
(1 INT, 38 yd return, 10 tackles): grabbed NU's first takeaway of the
season and had a significant return (setting up a FG) and was in on a
number of tackles - showing his experienced leadership.
(128 yds, 1 TD): the stats were a bit deceiving as 76 of those yards
came one one option play (which was quite a run), but he provided a
rushing threat (albeit rarely used) as he filled in for Sutton who was
injured early in the game.
What Needs Work:
Offensive Line (right side):
Still allowed 2 sacks, had a holding call, (and the rushing game was
rarely called upon, so it makes that tough to evaluate). They
should have performed better at keeping the defenders out of the
backfield - and this level of play will not hold up for the rest of the
season, especially going into Big Ten play.
Defensive Line: An
absolutely poor performance in the first half and much of the second
half - netting only 3 sacks (2 of which were on the final 2 plays of
the game) and allowing Nevada's RBs and QB to get into the secondary
untouched almost every time they touched the ball. For much of
the first half, Nevada's relatively inexperienced QB looked like a
Heisman contender as he had all day to find the open receiver.
QB/WR sync: CJ
overthrew an open Lane multiple times, he threw too short or too long
along the sidelines to Thompson a couple of times, and the gaffes
continued. If NU is to rely on the pass as much as it did against
Nevada, the QB and receivers must be in sync to net better than a 44%
the lack of a pass rush is to blame for some of the passing gains for
Nevada, the DBs left some to be desired as they left plenty of room for
the Nevada receivers to catch the ball - oh and there was that
almost-back-breaking TD as time expired in the first half with a Nevada
receiver sneaking past the coverage as 2 DBs stood by and watched.
- The offense looks as though it has virtually abandoned the run, even
with Sutton in the game. It appears as though they'll give Tyrell
enough carries to get to 100 yds (maybe) but otherwise it's all about
the pass - see the first drive again today (and CJ's 45 passing
attempts). It is to be seen if this will be effective against
tougher competition - we saw what happened against Nevada with NU
unable to control the ball without a significant rushing game.
- Penalties: once again NU looked good in terms of penalties (3 for 35
yards - the worst of which was Wootton's personal foul that kept one of
Nevada's drives going) especially since Nevada ended up picking up 7 of
them including the "play of the game" that killed their chance to run
out the clock.
- Turnovers: NU won the turnover battle (and still has not coughed up
the ball this year) which definitely played a large part in NU's
victory. This was definitely a significant improvement over last
season when NU had 3 5-turnover games and couldn't buy a takeaway -
especially early last year.
- Sutton's injury: Tyrell came back in the game on one play (a 32 yard
reception) although he came out after that as he should have been able
to break out for even more yards if he was at full speed. He was
running and on his feet on the sideline for the remainder of the game
so it seems like a precautionary measure and hopefully he will return
when called upon next at full speed (especially since NU didn't exactly
rely on the running game for the rest of the game).
- Simpson's injury: Eddie went out relatively early in the game with
what appeared to be an ankle injury and did not return. The other
LBs (Kwateng, Dinard, Williams, Davie) got significant playing time -
we'll have to wait and see how this affects NU's defense for the rest
of the season.
Another heart-stopping NU win, Go 'Cats!!!
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