The NUmbers Guy: South Dakota Analysis
The NUmbers Guy, Jim Sannes (@JimSannes), takes a look at the statistics that defined Northwestern’s 38-7 victory over the South Dakota Coyotes Saturday with three up and three down.
After three consecutive “OH MY GOODNESS, MY HEART IS FINNA EXPLODE” games for Northwestern, it’s safe to say that playing the powerhouse South Dakota Coyotes made my life a whole heck of a lot easier. What better way to welcome the Class of 2016 to campus than with a good ole behind-the-shed butt-whoopin’ fiasco? The answer is by giving them all a mini-pony, but that just doesn’t seem realistic. Since this fine place of learning has sucked up all of my pony-buying money, I guess y’all are going to have to settle for another column about numbers. Far less exciting.
277: Rushing yards gained by the Wildcats on Saturday.
I don’t want to seem repetitive… but nothing gets me going more than a good running game. I don’t care if it’s an FCS opponent or the Kasson-Mantorville KoMets of the Minnesota High School League, 277 rushing yards is pretty freaking awesome. I’m a huge fan of Venric Mark (who’s not?), but seeing Treyvon Green and Tyris Jones play so well can make even the coldest heart swoon. Mark racked up 117 yards on only 16 carries (7.3 yards per carry) with three touchdowns, but we already knew he was awesome when he announced last year that he loved horses. Green and Jones combined for 87 yards on 16 carries while each recorded a touchdown. After Mike Trumpy’s resurgence last week, the ‘Cats have shown they have almost as much depth at running back as they do at wide receiver.
51: Rushing yards gained by the Coyotes.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald definitely planned to allow exactly 51 yards just for old time’s sake. Yes, these are the exact same first two positive stats as last week, but the formula for victory is pretty simple: run the ball well and don’t let the other team do the same. I’ve got this football thing figured out. Again, I realize the opponent isn’t the greatest, but teams still need to do the fundamentals correctly, and the ‘Cats did that on Saturday.
216: Games played since the last time the Northwestern defense allowed 13 points or less in three consecutive games.
The last time the ‘Cats did this (1995), they went to the Rose Bowl… I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’. While South Dakota may not have been the best test for the Wildcat defenders, Vanderbilt and Boston College are both respectable clubs. With the way the Big Ten has looked this season, there is a legitimate chance the ‘Cats could make a run at a nine- or ten-win season. While that probably won’t be enough to earn a berth in the Big Ten Title game, that would far exceed expectations heading into the season. I have been called a crazy optimist, and I said the ‘Cats would win six or seven games. I was also ridiculed for saying the Minnesota Golden Gophers would win five games, and they are 4-0. Remember how I had this football thing figured out? I was wrong. This stuff makes no sense.
2: Sacks allowed by the Northwestern offensive line.
This number isn’t actually that bad, but Trevor Siemian got JACKED UP a couple of times on Saturday. The problem at the beginning of the year was that Siemian and Colter weren’t protecting themselves by holding the ball too long. That was not the case this week. I’m not going to pretend to know if it was a missed assignment or if South Dakota just brought more heat than the ‘Cats could handle, but I would assume that Siemian and his ringing head and aching body would agree that something went horribly wrong. If that happened against South Dakota, imagine what will happen once Big Ten play begins. No me gusta nada, mis amigos.
4.2: Yards per carry by South Dakota quarterback Josh Vander Maten.
This has been more of a trend building throughout the season that could lead to bigger problems down the road. Ryan Nassib rushed for 30 yards in the Syracuse game and Jordan Rodgers rushed for 51 yards in the Vanderbilt game, and that’s after you subtract the yardage lost on sacks. With the Wildcats sometimes being forced to play a Man Cover 2 defense to prevent the long ball through the air, that leaves open plenty of rushing lanes for the quarterback. No disrespect to Rodgers, Nassib, or Vander Maten, but I’m fairly certain Denard Robinson and Taylor Martinez pose a slightly larger threat as running quarterbacks. And by that I mean that Robinson is a former world class sprinter and Martinez has 191 yards and two touchdowns on the season. RED LIGHT!!! RED LIGHT!!! If the secondary can get their act together, then they can devote a linebacker to the quarterback, but that may never happen.
54: Temperature at game time last Saturday.
I acknowledge that fact that this is a stupid statistic, but hear me out. During 2:30 games, the sun goes behind the press box early. The wind at Ryan Field is whipping. I, the stupid Minnesotan, was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was cold. It was unfathomably hard to express my appreciation for the efforts of Brian Arnfelt when my hands were too busy funneling snot from my nose to my sleeve. You’re welcome. In all honesty, it was impossible to find three bad things about Saturday’s game, which is exactly the way it should be against an FCS opponent. Let me complain a little before my blood thickens for the winter.
Ending the non-conference season 4-0 is always a good thing. When you face three quality opponents and combine a good rushing game with a good rush defense, that’s even better. What is this feeling rushing through Evanston? It just might be optimism because my glass of Wildcat purple drank is more than half full.