The NUmbers Guy: Vanderbilt Analysis

WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) breaks down Northwestern’s 23-13 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday by giving the three up/ three down for the ‘Cats.

This is how the second half of my Friday started. With some ding dong know-it-all gloating about how great Vanderbilt is compared to Northwestern. Around 10:15 Saturday night, this wonderful piece of doggy doo was forced to realize that you don’t mess with the Northwestern freaking Wildcats. Vandy would be lucky to grasp the sweaty, victorious jock strap of Willie the Wildcat as he dances over the grave of the Commodore mascot who appears as though he has been beaten in the face with a meat grinder turned on full blast. Now that I got all of that off my chest, let’s get down to the dirty, delightful numbers that catapulted the Wildcats to 2-0 on the season.


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191: Rushing yards gained by Northwestern.

Sweet baby Jesus, hallelujah. Venric Mark followed his off the heeeezy performance in Week 1 with a 123-yard rushing performance in Week 2, including a 7-yard touchdown run that gave Northwestern their first lead of the night in the fourth quarter. Both Mark and quarterback Kain Colter averaged 5.1 yards per carry as Colter finished with 13 carries for 66 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown rush that essentially sealed the victory for the ‘Cats. Having two guys that can literally bust open a huge play any time they touch the ball makes Jim a happy boy. They have showed through the last two weeks the ability to exploit opposing defense’s weakness, whether it be on the ground or through the air, which is a great sign for the offense moving forward.

44: The number of Northwestern redshirt sophomore outside linebacker, Chi Chi Ariguzo.

“Tackle made by Chi Chi Ariguzo.” “Tackled in the backfield by Chi Chi Ariguzo.” “Pass broken up by Chi Chi Ariguzo.” The dude was literally everywhere Saturday night. I’m fully convinced Pat Fitzgerald dressed 11 players in the number 44 just to hear Ariguzo’s name read over the loud-speaker over and over again. Ariguzo ended up recording 10 tackles, three for loss, a sack, and a deflected pass along the sideline in the third quarter. Ariguzo had a great game last week with a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown and an interception, but that was mostly just because he was in the right place at the right time. This week, Ariguzo was dominant from sideline to sideline as he was the standout of a defense that played extremely well, redeeming themselves from the collapse against Syracuse. He’s certainly making a run at being mentioned among the top linebackers in the Big Ten this season.

1: Sacks allowed by the offensive line against Vanderbilt.

This stat is also a bit misleading because the only sack was Colter’s fault for hanging onto the ball too long. Fitzgerald said in our interview with him on Friday that the offensive line could only receive blame for two of the five sacks against Syracuse, meaning the line has only been responsible for two sacks this entire season. Considering Chuck Porcelli and Jack Konopka on the right side of the line had combined for zero career starts before the Syracuse game, that’s pretty darn good. Vandy’s defensive line recorded three sacks against South Carolina in Week 1, so this is hopefully a good confidence booster for a line that will be tested regularly throughout the course of the season. Once Colter and Siemian learn that getting walloped by large, sweaty human beings is a no-no, things could be looking up.


4.3: Yards per attempt by the Northwestern passing game.

In the first half, Colter and Siemian had combined for 10 yards passing. Ten. I had more receiving yards than the third-leading receiver. I don’t care if you’re playing against the Southeastern Conference or the Securities and Exchange Commission Beer League two-hand touch team, that is not good. Once the ‘Cats gave Siemian some snaps in the second half, the air game picked up, but it was never spectacular. Siemian and Colter completed 55 percent of their passes, far below the standard for this dink-and-dunk Northwestern offense. However, not all of the blame can go to the quarterbacks. This talented group of receivers also needs to do a better job of getting open so Colmian (it’s far easier than saying Colter and Siemian every time) doesn’t have to throw into such a tight window.

3: Times Northwestern failed to score a touchdown after reaching the red zone.

One of our “three up” from last week was that Northwestern scored touchdowns all three times they entered the red zone against Syracuse. This week, their execution was not as good. Granted, scoring a touchdown two out of five times and kicking a field goal two other times is by no means bad, those points can be the difference in close ballgames. Translation of that wordy, complex, stupid sentence: score six… OR ELSE BUM BUM BUMMMMMM!!!! Peace out, credibility. Once Kyle Prater is fully assimilated into the offense, that lanky 6’5” frame should improve this number, but this should be an area of concentration moving forward.

2: Number of plays before Nick VanHoose was injured on Saturday.

I admit that I may have over-reacted a wee bit in the stands when I proclaimed that the game was over and I was transferring to Iowa when VanHoose left the field. Northwestern played well after the departure of their number one cornerback with an apparent lower-back injury, but VanHoose and Ibraheim Campbell were the lone bright spots in a secondary that struggled mightily against Syracuse. If this injury prevents VanHoose from suiting up on Saturday against Boston College, the ‘Cats will have to get crafty in pass defense to prevent the Eagles from scoring 97+ points. Okay, so, over-reaction again, but VanHoose, who’s only a redshirt freshman, looks like a majestic unicorn frolicking through a meadow compared to the other corners, so let’s cross our fingers and hope this injury isn’t serious.

This was a very good win for the ‘Cats. Obviously Syracuse and Vanderbilt aren’t USC or Alabama, but they are two teams from BCS conferences, and the ‘Cats have shown they can win in different ways. While this article has done nothing to prove that Northwestern is a better school than Vandy (very much the opposite, yo), it should show Mr. Bayless that it’s going to take a lot more than the brother of a famous quarterback and the ghost of Jay Cutler to take down these Wildcats.

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