What happened and what mattered in the Northwestern 18-15 win over Rutgers?
Northwestern 18, Rutgers 15
To quote every parent to every kid after serving something that’s not fried, “not every dinner has to be your favorite.” Northwestern won a football game. It’s 4-1 in the Big Ten, it controls its own destiny in the Big Ten race, and it has a shot against Wisconsin next week to make this interesting. Sometimes, you can’t worry about the details. Survive and advance.
The one massive positive for the Wildcats was the running game – there was one. Isaiah Bowser ran 24 times for 108 yards and two scores to overcome a shaky day from Clayton Thorson. After coming through big against Nebraska, Thorson hit just 17-of-34 passes for 150 yards. However …
The Northwestern offensive front had a rough game. It struggled in pass protection, and even though Bowser was strong, the Cats averaged under three yards per carry. The D did its part, holding on after the O scored 11 unanswered points.
After the disaster against Maryland, Rutgers at least had a little bit of a passing game. It’s all relative. Artur Sitkowski completed 15-of-31 passes for 81 yards. The running game isn’t good enough to help out. All Rutgers needed was a good, long touchdown drive in the second half to put the pressure on, and it couldn’t do it.
The Scarlet Knight defense did enough to win this. Freshman S Avery Young had a fantastic game, and there was a decent enough pass rush to bother Thorson. The O just didn’t help.
Rutgers gets two weeks off now to try to do something to find a positive on offense, and then … at Wisconsin. Michigan, Penn State, at Michigan State. This was its shot at getting another win this season.
Northwestern now has three massive games in a row. Wisconsin, Notre Dame, at Iowa. Win the two Big Ten dates out of that, and the West will be the Cats’ for the taking. However, it’s still going to be a fight for a bowl game if they get swept over the next three weeks, needing then to close out with wins over Minnesota and Illinois.