The NUmbers Guy: Minnesota Analysis

WNUR Sports Director Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) takes a look at Northwestern’s 21-13 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers by pointing out the six statistics that defined the Wildcats’ track to a 6-1 start.

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

You betcha, dose dere Nordwestern Wildcats are bowl-eligible, eh?? Sorry, I’m still trying to oppress my inner-Minnesotan after this weekend. Any trip back to the Motherland makes me slip back into “Uff da’s” and “doncha know’s” like my life has turned into Fargo, minus the wood chipper… and all other non-accent things in that movie. While it may not have been pretty (as if I can say anything about pretty… #RadioForAReason), it was a win for the Wildcats, and they were the first Big Ten team to be bowl eligible. You won’t hear me complaining about that.


9.1: Yards per carry by Venric Mark on Saturday.

Let me first say that Patrick Ward, Brian Mulroe, Brandon Vitabile, Neal Deiters and Jack Konopka had a great game all around. On both of Mark’s touchdowns, he was untouched and ran through a Paul Bunyan-size hole opened by the big cats up front. That being said, Venric was a freaking beast. He racked up a modest 182 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. His previous career high in rushing yards was 139 against Indiana two weeks ago. He has single-handedly changed the Northwestern offense from being pass-first last year with Dan Persa and Jeremy Ebert to run-first with himself and Kain Colter. This should, theoretically, allow the ‘Cats to better hold onto leads, but they gave me the big old “LOL, look at this idiot,” with that theory last week. My only question is why doesn’t Venric have a hash-tag yet (a la #PersaStrong, #ColterQuick, #WatkinsTall)?? Send all suggestions to @WNURSports… lets’ make this happen.

4: Number of times this season Northwestern has allowed 13 or less points.

This is the first time the ‘Cats have done this four times in one year since 2008, and they still have at least five games left to play this year. In the previous two years combined, they had done this four times. This is largely due to the defense’s “bend, but don’t break” approach, but even more because of the play of the defensive line. While the line struggled at times early in the game defending MarQueis Gray and the option, they more than redeemed themselves in the fourth quarter. Sean McEvilly had his best game of the season, and Tyler Scott’s two sacks gave him the most in the Big Ten this season. Quentin Williams and Brian Arnfelt have both played well this season, and the Dean Lowry/Deonte Gibson combo at defensive end makes the future pretty exciting for the defense.

3: Pass break-ups by Nick VanHoose Saturday.

YO, MAX SHORTELL, VANHOOSE-YOUR DADDY????? All three of VanHoose’s passes broken up prevented touchdowns as he again showed that he is the best cornerback on this roster. While the ‘Cats are still second to last in the Big Ten in passing defense, VanHoose and Ibraheim Campbell have been bright spots with their coverage ability. The only possible criticism is that VanHoose has the only interception by the secondary this season – the other two have been by Chi Chi Ariguzo and David Nwabuisi. Outside of that, VanHoose has been as golden as the unwashed bottom of a baby lion.


93: All-purpose yards NOT gained by Mark.

As much as I love Venric Mark, this is a scary stat. With the number of touches Mark has gotten this year (168 total/24 per game), it’s only natural that he would begin to wear down as the season goes on. The ‘Cats will need to find a second option in case Mark has an off game. Whether that’s Mike Trumpy, more Kain Colter or anybody else, the ‘Cats need more consistency so the pressure doesn’t all rest on Venric. OR, Pat Fitzgerald could find some random engineering student on campus to clone Venric. I would feed one of the Venrics grapes and rub his feet while the other ran buckshot all over the Big Ten. This plan can’t go wrong.

2: Number of passing first downs gained by Northwestern.

Last week, Colter didn’t attempt a single pass. This week, Colter completed all ten passes he attempted. Most of these passes were swing passes or bubble screens, but Colter did an excellent job of keeping the defense honest while he was in the game. However, for the second consecutive week, Trevor Siemian struggled through the air. Siemian completed only one of seven passes, making his completion percentage in the last two weeks just over 51 percent. After Siemian’s 308-yard performance against Indiana, it looked like Northwestern would be dominant through the air again. Minnesota has an outstanding pass defense, but so does Nebraska, so look for Colter to get a majority of the snaps again this week.

158: Rushing yards gained by Minnesota.

As much as I have gushed about the rush defense in the beginning of the year, they have been a bit of a disappointment in Big Ten play. They are still statistically the second best rush defense in the Big Ten, but the ‘Cats have allowed 159, 161 and 158 yards respectively the last three weeks. Players not named Max Shortell averaged 5.79 yards per carry, led by Gray. Gray’s 86 rushing yards and 9.6 yard per carry average should concern a team that will see Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson within the next three games. But, hey, who cares? Northwestern has already won as many games as I predicted they would this season, proving just how dumb I really am. Seriously, I have no idea why you read these columns. Your IQ falls faster than that guy who decided to free fall from space to Earth. It’s time to evaluate your life choices.

Random fact: Jeff Budzien hasn’t missed a kick since November 5th, 2011. “We Found Love” by Rihanna was the top song, and Puss in Boots was number one in the box office. Why do I mention this? Because, despite the rare imperfection from Budzien, the ‘Cats stuck it to the Cornhuskers and beat them, setting the tone for the rest of the year. One win from volleyball, two from men’s basketball, one from women’s basketball, and one series win from baseball later, the hash-tag #SucksToShuck is back. Tune in Saturday at 2:30 to see if the real NU can knock off the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (how they get NU from that, I will never know) yet again right here on WNUR Sports! Until then… there’s this. It’s a great way to start the week.

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