Northwestern suffers tough road loss to Army 21-14

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After starting the season 2-0, Northwestern faced a tough test in the triple option offense of Army. Unfortunately for ‘Cats fans, Northwestern wasn’t as prepared for it’s second road game of the season, and NU fell 21-14.

The most telling stat for the Wildcats was time of possession. To say Army dominated the time is an understatement. The Black Knights had the ball for 40 minutes and 19 seconds, leaving the ‘Cats with just 19 minutes and 41 seconds. NU had opportunities, but with Dan Persa absent for the third time this season, the Northwestern offense stalled again and again, giving the ball back to Army.

The defense put up a fight, holding Army to just 14 points until the final three minutes. But Army wore down the ‘Cats, eventually running for 381 yards. The Knights were led by quarterback Trent Steelman, who ran the ball 28 times for 108 yards and all three touchdowns.

Despite playing strong for most of the game, there were signs of rough things to come. NU struggled with tackles, and Army averaged 5.1 yards per carry. More unacceptable, the Black Knights were 7-16 on third down but 3-3 on fourth down plays. If Northwestern can’t stop teams on third and fourth down consistently, the defense will stay on the field too long, and has shown a tendency towards getting tired.

NU did see some extreme positives in the game, however. Jeremy Ebert, the ‘Cats best downfield threat from last season, was stat-less in the team’s previous game against Eastern Illinois. Ebert returned in a big way with 6 receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Ebert’s first touchdown was on an overthrown ball in the back of the end zone that Ebert had to leap to catch, barely dragging his back foot in. His second, was a short route that Ebert turned into a 62-yard touchdown after a few moves and a display of speed.

The downside? Ebert’s second touchdown came from freshman backup Trevor Siemian. Siemian threw well, going 5-7 for 108 yards. However, it is disappointing to see Colter struggle, especially after his brilliant play the past two weeks. Colter is the heir apparent to the Wildcat’s offense and the starter de facto while Persa remains injured. He showed flashes of brilliance the last two games, but struggled mightily in this game, particularly through the air. NU needs an air attack to complement the running game in order to be successful.

So what does this loss mean to the ‘Cats for the season?

With perspective, this loss does not mean the end of the ‘Cats season. It is a definite bump in the road, but the ‘Cats can recover. NU lost last season against Purdue before the team’s bye week, and the ‘Cats nearly upset undefeated Michigan State following the bye.

If NU can fix the many mistakes (run defense, tackling, and the passing game) with two weeks of practice, the ‘Cats will have a chance to start the Big Ten season on a positive note against Illinois.

-Jamie Arkin

www.twitter.com/jamie_arkin

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