Reaction: Northwestern football vs. Michigan State

WNUR’s Alex Lederman explains how the Wildcats lost 30-6 to Michigan State on Saturday.

Northwestern once dreamed of setting foot on the turf of sunny Pasadena, gazing at the thousands of fans who packed the stadium on this New Year’s Day to cheer on their beloved Wildcats in the Rose Bowl; those dreams are long gone. NU was officially eliminated from bowl eligibility with a 30-6 loss to Michigan State in its final home game of the season Saturday at Ryan Field.

The Cats lost the game in familiar fashion: a close first half, a disastrous second half and a game full of missed opportunities.

But first, the good. Senior kicker Jeff Budzien made his senior day a special one by becoming NU’s all-time leading scorer. His 267 points now surpass former kicker Brian Gowins’ 262.

As for the bad: well, just about everything else. The Cats marched along to their seventh straight loss and remain winless in conference play. And what made this game so disastrous? Just about the same things that have plagued this team all season.

NU made it to the red zone two times Saturday, and like usual, walked away without a touchdown. Both trips were in the first half; the team was too busy turning the ball over in the second to make it down the field.

The offense looked surprisingly strong in the first half, putting up 224 yards against the nation’s strongest defense. Particularly notable was the play of junior quarterback Trevor Siemian, who was 11 for 18 with 150 yards. There was, however, one glaring absence from his stat line – a touchdown pass. Siemian led the Cats to the red zone beautifully on two separate occasions but seemed to lose all ability to throw a completion once there, forcing the Cats to settle for two field goals. This has been an issue for NU all season, as they have only scored 10 touchdowns in 22 red zone appearances this season in Big Ten play.

And what about the performance of Siemian’s fellow quarterback Kain Colter? He left the game while receiving in the first quarter after a hard hit by MSU safety Isaiah Lewis and never returned. Lewis was ejected after the play for targeting. NU’s defense actually looked pretty good in the first half, but in typical Northwestern style, gave up a crazy 87-yard juggling/backwards catch to Michigan State receiver Bennie Fowler. Nonetheless, the Cats went into halftime down only 14-6 and seemed to be in the game. Then the second half happened.

I’ll keep it quick so you don’t have to suffer through the details if you missed the game: three interceptions, two turnovers on downs and zero red zone trips for the Cats. This all culminated in a 30-6 victory that clinched the Big Ten Legends division for MSU and eliminated NU from bowl contention. And there you have it. A season once so full of hope has ended as one of the most disappointing seasons in Northwestern history. As for the good news? Northwestern only has one game left. Then the record resets.

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