Don’t Hate the Player: Week 7 at Wisconsin

WNUR Sports Online Content Director Cameron Songer (@CameronSonger) uses NCAA Football 14 to simulate Northwestern’s trip to face Wisconsin on the gridiron.

Northwestern suffered a last-second defeat as Ohio State stayed perfect last week. The Wildcats hit the road this week for the first time in more than a month, heading to hostile Camp Randall Stadium. A win would put Northwestern right back into the discussion for the Legends division race, while a loss would make them join Minnesota at the bottom of the division.

Key Players on Northwestern
SS Ibraheim Campbell (JR): 91 Overall, 88 speed
QB Kain Colter (SR): 91 Overall, 86 agility
HB Venric Mark (SR): 89 Overall, 92 speed

Key players on Wisconsin
WR Jared Abbrederis (SR) 93 Overall, 95 acceleration
MLB Chris Borland (SR) 91 Overall, 95 awareness
HB James White (SR): 89 Overall, 91 speed

Northwestern: Overall: B, Offense: B, Defense: B
Wisconsin: Overall: B+, Offense: B+, Defense: B

Northwestern Game Recap
Northwestern went three-and-out on the game’s first possession. Wisconsin responded by covering 72 yards (thanks largely to the 20 penalty yards against the ‘Cats) and scoring on a 6 yard pass to Jared Abbrederis. Northwestern wasn’t able to get a first down until its third offensive series, but things started clicking after that. That 10-play, 62-yard drive resulted in a Mike Trumpy rushing TD to tie the game at 7.

Northwestern came into the game with a focus on stopping the Badgers' run game.

Northwestern came into the game with a focus on stopping the Badgers’ run game.

Northwestern completed just one pass in the first quarter but still found themselves in the game.

After a quick three-and-out by the Badgers offense, Northwestern was driving again at the start of the second quarter. From this point on, second-stringer Mike Trumpy would take the majority of the carries after Venric Mark left with a calf injury. Mark would miss the remainder of the game. Northwestern drove the ball to the Wisconsin 20, but faced a decision on 4th and 1. Rather than take the (almost certain) 3 points from Jeff Budzien, the ‘Cats ran an option off left tackle that was snuffed out by the Wisconsin defense. Wisconsin didn’t immediately capitalize on the momentum shift, as the teams exchanged punts on their next drives, but Wisconsin scored next, gashing the Northwestern secondary with three pass plays of 15 or more yards. Northwestern got the ball back with a minute left in the first half, trailing by 7. Three incomplete passes later, Wisconsin was right back in the driver’s seat, but was unable to score and headed to halftime leading 14-7.

The first half was a defensive affair, with neither team gaining more than 140 yards of offense. Northwestern’s defense had been particularly stout on third down, allowing just one conversion on 6 attempts.

That stat improved to one of seven on the first series of the third quarter, as a three-and-out forced the Badgers to trot out punter Drew Meyer for his fifth punt of the game. Northwestern’s offense moved in the wrong direction with a pair of negative runs and a holding penalty leading to a Northwestern three-and-out and Brandon Williams’s fifth punt of the game. Wisconsin started in Wildcat territory and needed just five plays to score a touchdown, making it 21-7, Badgers. With pressure mounting, it was time for someone on the Wildcats’ offense to step up. On a run between the tackles, Mike Trumpy did just that, going 74 yards to the house to cut the Wisconsin lead to 21-14. Another Wisconsin three-and-out had Northwestern feeling confident. Perhaps too confident, in fact, as Kain Colter threw a pick at the Badgers’ 18 yard line.

As the fourth quarter got started, Wisconsin had turned the Colter interception into a drive, converting a pair of third-and-longs to get into Northwestern territory. The Badgers ultimately scored on Abbrederis’s second TD catch of the game, and with 4:12 remaining, Wisconsin’s 14-point lead looked safe.

Wisconsin might be known for its running game, but wide receiver Jared Abbrederis had a big game.

Wisconsin might be known for its running game, but wide receiver Jared Abbrederis had a big game.

Well, for about 20 seconds. That’s about how long it took Christian Jones to return the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. 28-21, Wisconsin, and this game appeared to be entering #CardiacCats mode. Wisconsin got the ball back with about three and a half minutes left, trying to hold on to a seven point lead. So, naturally, they would throw three straight incomplete passes and punt, giving NU plenty of time to stage a drive. Duh. With the ‘Cats possession, Northwestern faced a 4th and 9 from its own 34 with 2:30 to go and all three timeouts remaining. With the way its defense had played so far, a Northwestern punt seemed like a good idea. However, even with the defense expecting runs, they couldn’t stop the Badgers from running out the clock. Final score: Wisconsin 28, Northwestern 21.

Final Thoughts
Northwestern was robbed by the game itself this week. In a game where Colter went 8 of 24 on pass attempts (seriously?), the simulation never brought in Trevor Siemeian because Siemien is the “backup.” On the other end of the “backup spectrum,” the game’s second string running back is Mike Trumpy, and dude went off in this game. He had 16 carries for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns. Northwestern actually gained more total yards than Wisconsin, but that’s including the 97-yard kickoff return TD by Christian Jones. The only glaring statistical difference between the two teams is Northwestern’s penalties: 9 for 79 yards. That, and the fact that the Badgers ran 10 more plays, was enough to decide a close game.

Big Games This Week
Oklahoma 42, Texas 21
Boston College 41, Clemson 14
Florida 24, LSU 21
Texas A&M 40, Ole Miss 20
Utah 41, Stanford 24
Kansas State 28, Baylor 21

Around the Big Ten
Michigan State 28, Indiana 20
Purdue 34, Nebraska 26
Michigan 20, Penn State 17

Heisman Top 5
Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Daniel Sams, QB, Kansas State

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