Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. Very, very spread. Northwestern ran exactly two plays from under center—both came when they were backed up on their own goal line after a Penn State punt pinned them deep. Otherwise, Northwestern ran 48 charted snaps out of the shotgun and six out of the pistol (all of the latter with Kain Colter at QB).
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass—the Wildcats, especially with Colter at QB, lean heavily on the zone read. Honestly, they should've leaned on it more heavily, as you'll see when we get to Siemian's HenneChart.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Northwestern rarely huddles and plays at a very fast pace, going so far as to often line up Siemian at wide receiver when Colter takes snaps at quarterback so they can switch betweens QBs without making subsitutions. Pacing the defense is a huge part of their offense's success.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Colter is one of the better-running QBs in the conference, probably behind only Denard and Taylor Martinez, so I'd give him an 8. Siemian, on the other hand, rarely looks to escape the pocket and gets maybe a 4—he did manage to scramble for a 15-yard gain against PSU but it occurred when the proverbial seas parted.
Colter has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and already has 11 rushing touchdowns this season. He's very adept at running the read option—his ability to wait until the last possible nanosecond before pulling earned him a touchdown here as PSU's DE gave up the corner:
Why Northwestern ran Colter five times while allowing Siemien to throw 36 passes in a close contest in entirely beyond my comprehension.
Dangerman: Colter is dangerous, but the Wildcat rusher to fear is running back Venric Mark, who has rushed for 1072 yards and nine touchdowns on just 166 carries (6.5 ypc). He's also extremely dangerous on special teams; while his kickoff return stats are poor (16.4 yards per return), he's averaging 25 yards per punt return with a pair of touchdowns, including this one against Penn State:
Fast, that guy.
Naturally, Northwestern gave him just 13 carries against PSU despite him averaging 5.5 yards. In case you can't tell, I may not have agreed with the Wildcat gameplan.
Zook Factor: No egregious punts or anything, but man, that gameplan. I mean...
HenneChart: Colter did not throw a pass—in fact, Northwestern didn't run a single play-action fake by either quarterback in this game—but why have him at quarterback when stone-footed Trevor Siemian can do this?
I caught a few games up in Evanston (the wife is an alum) this year. Colter has really good speed, but leaves himself open for punishment. He lacks the size (He is listed at 6'0, but doesn't look it) and takes a lot of unnecessary hits at times. They are well coached but lack that Jake Ryan (who doesn't) punch you in the mouth type of defensive animal.
We should be fine if we take care of the football.
“I am going to treat you all the same. Like Dogs.”
"[Mark is] also extremely dangerous on special teams; while his kickoff return stats are poor (16.4 yards per return), he's averaging 25 yards per punt return with a pair of touchdowns, including this one against Penn State"
I dunno; he didn't look inhumanly fast so much as it looked like a lot of PSU guys took some awful angles on that return. Especially the kicker; no one's expecting you to tackle with good form, but it's pretty much a given long returns wind up on the sideline so just sit on the path he's taking. If he goes around you he gets held up and flushed into the coverage. Instead the last several guys take extremely aggressive pursuit angles and are behind Mark by the time they change direction. Granted every punt return TD involves a few busts, but in this case I don't quite get the impression that Mark busted it. I mean, he's fast, but we've faced faster. This defense practices against Denard, yo.
My more immediate concern isn't the raw speed of this team so much as their overall style will be difficult to emulate with the scout team, which could lead to some defensive breakdowns. Basically, same problem as Air Force. It takes serious practice time to get execution up to that high tempo, something the scout team invariably will not be given. Mattison no doubt will prepare the defense as far as assignments, keys, technique, angles and containment. However, he also likes his kids to talk to each other and Northwestern will try to take that away from them.
The thing about Mark is that he is deceptive with his speed. Defenders seem to misjudge his acceleration quite a bit. In a way it's like how Pryor always wreaked havoc with defender angles because he was moving much faster than his stride showed. (Obviously they are very different athletes, I'm just comparing the similarities in the deception.) Mark isn't Demps fast, but he's got enough speed to take it to the house after defenders take a couple bad angles.
just having a home game! What a weird schedule this year with 2 noon starts to close out the home schedule. Game day weather looks very good for November which hopefully will provide the setting where the "better" teams wins.
Thanks Ace ... TREMENDOUS opponent previews, as few of us have the time to research as you do. Love em !
No place on earth I'd rather be on a football Saturday than Michigan Stadium !
I think how we play in this game gives us a great idea on how we will fair in c-bus later this year. NW quaterback may not be braxton, but from what I have see in their offensive cheme, the are a lot of comparisons to the offense the cryer is running. Should be a great game!
It seems like a lot fo the defenses we've faced have been vulnerable to PA. I just can't think of many plays were we take advantage of that. It seems we only use PA rollout, that never seems to work. Maybe it gives the defenders took much time or it is scouted well.
Or maybe I just can't remember many PA passes that have worked well in recent games.