Your Northwestern Wildcats lost 9-7 to Illinois State this past Saturday, a team that plays in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA). In summary, NU lost to a team that's one full level of football below them. Perhaps it's fitting that the loss was to a team from the FCS, since it could also stand for F***ing Can't Score.
The Redbirds, a team that normally faces opponents like Eastern Illinois and Youngstown State, beat NU with a 33 yard field goal as time expired. There isn't much else to say about this game, except, yuck. Each team missed a field goal, and Illinois State missed an extra point. I hope no one spent good money to attend this game.
The loss dropped the Cats to 0-2 on the season, and likely ended any chance at reaching a bowl game. Assuming losses against Michigan State and Ohio State, they would have to win six of the remaining eight games just to be eligible for a bowl appearance.
One bright spot so far this season has been Hunter Niswander, the punter. It's usually not a good sign when a team's punter is the lone standout. Four of his ten punts have been over 50 yards, including a 62 yarder against Illinois State. Half of them have stayed inside the opponent's 20 yard line. He currently ranks second in the Big 10 in punting average, and first in giving me something good to write about.
I feel confident in saying that Clayton Thorson would not be a starting QB for any other Big 10 team. When he has a decent passing day, he loses a fumble that basically ends the game. At other times, his passing is wildly inconsistent. He finished the 9-7 loss with 41 pass attempts, completing only 17. On one second quarter drive, he completed only four of 11, and the drive ended with a missed field goal. His 50.8% completion rate is worst in the conference.
Even though he left with a "lower body" injury in the second half, RB Justin Jackson is expected to play this weekend against Duke. Jackson has 166 rushing yards on 35 carries so far this season. His backup, Warren Long, is expected to miss two more games after suffering a hand injury against Western Michigan.
The defense hasn't been much help either. Although they've allowed only 15.5 points per game, the passing defense has been dreadful. Opponents have passed for over 250 yards per game, and are completing almost 73% of their passes. The rush defense has been a little better, ranking 10th.
The Wildcats badly need a win against Duke, but I'm not sure if it will happen. Especially if the pass defense doesn't step up. Duke QB Daniel Jones is averaging about 260 yards per game, and has completed 65% of his passes.
Game time is 7 p.m.