So besides the Play of the Week and Kain Colter post, I had some random observations - you know, the type that generally show up in the recap, but I did the recap immediately after recovering from the trip - I just had some observations on this game that I wanted to get down. (No need to let three hours of watching and half-assed notetaking go to waste.) Considering that last game was hugely important, next week's game is FCS, and this analysis won't be as commonplace once I actually have classes to go to, well, I might as well get the most out of this as I can.
I basically just looked for things I noticed watching the game live to see how important they actually were, and picked up a few other things too. Treat this as an addendum to that recap.
- A lot of talk was made about Jeravin Matthews' play at corner, how he was routinely getting manhandled by the 6-foot-6 Ifeanyi Momah. So I went back and looked to see how often Matthews' man was targeted. It's not exactly like he was getting picked on over and over again: Matthews' man drew 11 targets (out of the 44 passes Chase Rettig threw) resulting in seven completions. Six times, this man was Momah, resulting in three completions, meaning five of Momah's receptions were against Jordan Mabin or another defender. However, the receptions Momah made against Matthews were brutal: on one, Matthews should have had Momah before the first down marker, but Momah put on a spin move making Jeravin miss. On the second, Matthews slipped and fell while the ball was in the air, resulting in an easy first down catch. The third was a 30-plus yard toss where the ball was underthrown, but Matthews was easily boxed out by the larger wide receiver. Which is to say: Matthews isn't the reason NU gave up 375-yards passing to BC. In fact, he made some good plays, his coverage caused several incompletions. But he's still a little bit fresh as a defender and will need work: when he was exposed in man-to-man against a larger defender, he looked hapless.
- On Momah, it's truly painful to rewatch the last few minutes of the game knowing he suffered a season-ending ACL injury. He played a spectacular game but hurt his leg on kick coverage. He kept trying to re-enter the game, but it was clear something was up, and on one route, he just falls down after two or three steps. The guy's a fighter and I hope the NCAA gives him another year of eligibility, even if it means we'll have to deal with him again next year in Evanston.
- I hadn't realized it at the time, but Vince Browne's "sack" on the last play of the game is insanely impressive. NU was only rushing three guys, meaning BC's left tackle and guard were assigned to him. He simply pushed past and ran around them. Unfortunately, Chase Rettig decided to run all the way to the other side of the field, resulting in Browne flat out sprinting for 25-or-so yards towards him before demolishing him. I cannot think of anything scarier than Vince Browne running at me for 25 yards. (It's not a sack because the hit takes Rettig across the line of scrimmage.)
- Northwestern's spread is truly ridiculous to watch: NU has been doing it since it was unique, yet it still murders defenses. On NU's first touchdown drive, the Cats spread the field five wide. To cover everybody, the Eagles use a zone and only rush four, then five, then four guys. These three plays result in three easy completions. NU gives the ball to Adonis Smith. The defense is terrified of the pass and tired after having to run three plays in practically no time. Its a gain of eight. Then, a screen pass. The defense is still gassed and doesn't have a chance in hell of stopping Mike Trumpy or Kain Colter's rushes.
- NU ran the pistol a lot. This set features Colter in the shotgun, a running back - NU used primarily Trumpy and Smith - a few yards behind him, and a blocker - Tyris Jones or Drake Dunsmore - a few yards to the right of Colter. I counted 12 plays out of the set. I think it worked really great - it provides NU's final touchdown, the option to Smith.
- For all the nice things to say about NU's offensive line, Patrick Ward struggled, allowing both of BC's sacks, including one where Max Holloway spun right by him, making him whiff.
- This has been said elsewhere, but the blocking downfield by the wide receivers was unbelievable (except Rashad Lawrence's hold that cost NU a gain that wouldn't have been a touchdown if he hadn't been holding). Demetrius Fields and Jeremy Ebert both had vicious hits, and it was more than passable elsewhere.
- Jordan Mabin made two spectacular defensive plays: the tackle on the 69-yard rush where he came from the other side, and the pick. Off a play-action, he was guarding a deep route but had his eyes on the QB the whole time. As soon as the pass went up, he peeled off his receiver, completely stopped his momentum, and made a play on a pass to the guy coming up on a wheel route. Amazing awareness turning an open man into a pick.
- While we're at it, one of the fun things about having a good run defense is that BC's play action didn't matter at all. Seven times, Northwestern stopped a BC run for a loss. Four of these times were on first down. Northwestern became immediately not scared of the prospect of you running the ball. This became evident after BC's first two play action passes were complete: the next five play action plays resulted in a breakup by Brian Peters at the goal line, Mabin's interception, a sack where Rettig was forced to eat the ball because everybody was covered, a blitz by Bryce McNaul that saw Rettig throw the ball away for what should have been an intentional grounding, and an incompletion on a post route that Mabin broke up. That's 0/4 with a pick and a sack. This is how the football gods tell you your stratagem isn't working.
- Ben Johnson looks better than he ever has. He's still fast, but also hits people now. He even hit one dude hard enough to make him drop a pass! I think his speed makes him a great candidate to be a blitzer in passing situations - he'll get to the QB quicker than McNaul or Nwabuisi.
- Tyler Scott looks the best. The best of what? Just the best in general. Exciting young player.
- Ibraheim Campbell will be good, but he had some inexperienced missed tackles and turned the wrong way on a pass he could've made a play on.