The NUmbers Guy: Indiana Analysis
WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) takes a look at Northwestern’s 44-29 victory over the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday by the numbers with his three up and three down of the week.Right when you think you know the 2012 Northwestern Wildcat, they gently remind you that you are still that dumb former statistics major that wore a size 22 purple dress once in high school. After Northwestern’s 44-29 victory over Indiana Saturday, I have decided that I literally know nothing (as you had probably already guessed) and am doomed to be exiled back to Minnesota to be a lumberjack for the rest of my life. After staking out a 27-0 lead early in the third, Northwestern’s defense was the best since 1995. After almost blowing said lead, they were the worst defense in the Big Ten. Over-reactions are my specialty. Now that the joy, anger and some of the confusion have subsided, let’s take a look at the numbers that defined Northwestern’s road to 5-0.
704: Total yards gained by Northwestern against Indiana.
“hi, wut did u do 2day?”
“just broke a school record 4 yards in a game, nbd”
The previous school record was 674 yards gained against the Wisconsin Badgers in 2005. Not only did the ‘Cats break the school record, but they did so with a balanced offensive attack. Their 394 yards on the ground were 101 more yards than their previous high this season, and their 310 passing yards were the most this season by 43 yards. Kain Colter rushed for 161 yards (more on him later), and Venric Mark recorded 139 yards on the ground, making them the first pair of Wildcat runners to rush for more than 100 yards in the same game since 2003. The ‘Cats gained 36 first downs (19 rushing, 16 passing, and 1 via penalty) compared to only 16 for Indiana. Northwestern averaged 6.8 yards per carry and ran for five touchdowns for the second consecutive game. Summary: the offense was Leonardo-DiCaprio-in-The-Departed good.
292: All-purpose yards gained by Colter.
If you had told me before the game that Colter would complete one of three passes for two yards and an interception, I would have made a tasty smoothie out of my retinas. I’m glad I kept them because Colter took out the wooden spoon and made the backsides of the Hoosiers a glorious shade of crimson. Colter set career highs for receptions (9), receiving yards (131) and rushing yards (161). Siemian and Colter seemed to have better chemistry than either quarterback has had with the other receivers this season as they connected to convert on third down several times. While Northwestern probably won’t see a defense as bad as Indiana’s again for a while, Colter’s versatility and big play ability gives Mick McCall a plethora of options offensively.
10/17: Third down conversion ratio for Northwestern.
Nothing is more frustrating for a defense than consistently allowing an opposing offense to convert on third down. Unless the defense is collectively a Desperate Housewives fan and was hoping there would miraculously be a ninth season (didn’t we all?). As WNUR Staffer and Daily Northwestern writer Josh Walfish said at halftime, Colter became Jeremy Ebert Saturday with his ability to consistently come through as a receiver on third down. For the season, Northwestern has converted over 54 percent of their third down attempts, the second highest percentage in the Big Ten. This is a big credit to McCall and Fitzgerald after losing three integral skill position players after last season.
12.1: Yards per completion by Indiana on Saturday.
The Northwestern pass defense couldn’t decide what mood they wanted me to be in. At halftime, I had the kind of smile on my face you generally only see when I’m watching Pulp Fiction for the third night in a row. By the end of the third quarter, I was described as a “pasty gray” by a Home Depot paint representative. Why he was in the press box, the world may never know. The loss of Ibraheim Campbell to an undisclosed injury had an immediate and profound effect on the secondary, and Indiana’s quarterbacks exploited it fully. It’s not as though Northwestern was playing against the duo of Geno Smith and Matt Barkley. Cam Coffman is a junior college transfer, and Nate Sudfeld is a true freshman. If Tre Roberson hadn’t broken his leg in Week 2, the ‘Cats would have been in some serious trouble. They still have a loooooooooong way to go in order to live up to the newfound lofty expectations the fan-base has placed upon them.
167: Rushing yards gained by Indiana.
The ‘Cats entered the ballgame having allowed 114, 101, 25 and 51 yards in their first four games respectively. Stephen Houston had 91 yards on 11 carries by himself, and Indiana’s top four backs (Houston, D’Angelo Roberts, Isaiah Roundtree and Tevin Coleman) averaged 6.88 yards per carry on 24 carries. Dat ain’t right, gurrrrl. With teams like Nebraska (305.8 rushing yards per game) and Michigan (184.5 rushing yards per game) still left on the schedule, the ‘Cats will need to get back to the rush defense of the first four games or Fitz may go all Francisco de Goya on his line-backing core. Hopefully you don’t click that link while eating lunch.
3: Turnovers committed by Northwestern Saturday.
“Good morning, class, and welcome to Introduction to Keeping an Inferior Team in a Game 101. Today, we learn step one: turnovers!”
BALL SECURITY AHHHH!!! Northwestern was +4 in the takeaway/giveaway category in non-conference play, but was -2 against Indiana. Colter and Siemian both threw their first interceptions of the season (Colter’s on a bad decision and Siemian’s on an inaccurate pass off of Colter’s fingertips), and Mark lost his second fumble in the last three games. While the ‘Cats did a good job of recovering from the three turnovers (allowed only a touchdown after the Mark fumble), this is a trend that needs to stop now. If the defense can’t keep the opposition out of the end zone, the offense can’t give the other team additional possessions. Real talk. (Is that the proper use of that phrase? Is there a proper use of that phrase?)
Northwestern hasn’t been 6-0 since 1962, when 98% of the people reading this weren’t even born. Coach Fitz has never won in Happy Valley, and he has never won a game while ranked in either the AP or Coaches Poll. People in Evanston aren’t letting that stop them, though, with predictions of 7-0 starts or better flying around like obscenities at a Tech N9ne concert. Saturday will be a great test of just how good the 2012 Wildcats are, and it should tell us if the ‘Cats are built for the long haul or are merely taking the scenic route back to the middle of the Big Ten.