We offer up the three big takeaways from Saturday’s home opener against the Redbirds.
1. Run-block needs work
After two games, it’s evident the offensive line makeup for Northwestern hangs its hat on pass-blocking. In the past two years, the line has developed a knack for snuffing out blitzes and making proper reads at the snap, but for Coach Fitz’s game plan to function, the line must improve their run-block. Be it zone or man blocking, the offensive line’s inability to open holes in the front seven will continue to be problematic.
For a second game, the opposing team’s line showed how run blocks were done; creating gaps with enough space to give scatbacks free rein to explode through our defense. In contrast, many of NU’s runs, either between the tackles or to the sidelines, do not feature as much as space, and any advancing field position is a consequence of the scrum up front. Wildcat Nation is seeing shades of déjà vu to the offensive tendencies of last year’s campaign, and it appears more and more sensible that another pass-heavy attack will carry the run game for another season.
2. Oh Captains, Our Captains
Captains on both the offense and defense had dominating performances against the Redbirds. Junior quarterback Dan Persa followed up his remarkable debut with a sublime first-half performance, completing 83% of his passes (19-23) for 240 yards, before yielding to backup QB Evan Watkins after halftime. Persa was also credited for three touchdowns, two of which connected with junior superback Drake Dunsmore. Senior linebacker Quentin Davie and senior defensive tackle Corbin Bryant were responsible for the three interceptions recorded against ISU. Davie’s two interceptions in the 2nd quarter marked the first time since 2005 a Wildcat had a multiple-interception game.
3. Let the kids play
The Fitzgerald tradition of redshirting incoming recruits has been broken for the second straight season. Only two games into 2010, defensive tackle Will Hampton and wide receivers Rashad Lawrence and Venric Mark get to enjoy the distinguished label.
All three were effective in their cameos Saturday – Hampton provided depth in the interior defensive line with backup DT Nike Mafuli out for the week; Lawrence’s first career catch was an impressive 50-yard pass from Persa while blanketed in single coverage; Mark dove for a 21-yard pass from backup QB Evan Watkins and saw time as punt returner on special teams.