NUmbers Guy: Northwestern at Iowa
.WNUR’s Ari Ross takes a look at the stats from Northwestern’s trip to Iowa
Just awful. There’s no other way to describe it. Northwestern’s performance was just awful, pathetic. There are so many adjectives that come to mind, but I’ll be kind and just share a few. Northwestern didn’t even show up to play at Kinnick Stadium. By the end of the first quarter, Northwestern was down 24-0 and all hope was lost. And it wasn’t like they were very unlucky. Offensively, defensively and on special teams they played horrible. There was no offense to speak of, the defense was consistently getting beat with big plays and Northwestern’s special teams had its usual bad performance we’ve come to expect. This is one of those games that cause fans to yell at the TV screen. It was bad. So let’s take a look at the numbers behind Northwestern’s terrible performance.
Total QBR is ESPN’s metric for measuring quarterback performance. The basics of it are that it measures quarterback performance on a 0 to 100 scale, with higher numbers being better. Trevor Siemian put up a 3.3 QBR on Saturday. That’s really bad. Siemian’s performance was terrible. Siemian was 8 for 16 for 68 yards and took five sacks. He wasn’t the sole reason behind the offense’ pathetic performance, but he sure didn’t help.
To put Siemian’s QBR in prospective, his 3.3 rating would be the third worst of all time among NFL quarterbacks since ESPN started using the measure. His performance ranks up there with those of Jacksonville Jaguar quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Chad Henne.
While Siemian didn’t turn the ball over, his performance as a whole was terrible. His longest pass was 24 yards and without factoring that pass in, he averaged just 6.29 yards per pass. That’s awful. Siemian hasn’t been great recently, but this was his worst performance of the season. Beforehand, he never had a QBR below 26.
Iowa averaged 15.4 yards per completion as starting quarterback Jake Rudock threw 12 of 19 for 239 yards and a touchdown. Northwestern’s defense is designed to stop the big play, but it sure didn’t in Iowa City. Hawkeye receivers were consistently getting open over the middle and down the sideline. Northwestern cornerbacks Nick Van Hoose and Matthew Harris did not cover well, leaving Hawkeye wideouts free to find space across the middle and down the sideline.
Averaging 15.4 yards per catch for a defense that tries to prevent big plays is unacceptable. Iowa completed passes for 43, 42 and 31 yard to three different receivers. Northwestern’s defense was unable to stop big plays against a pass offense that ranked in the middle of the Big Ten before Saturday. The defense really dropped the ball against Rudock and company.
Trevor Siemian was sacked five times for a loss of 47 yards Saturday. He was also consistently getting pressured all day. The offensive line had trouble stopping the Hawkeye pass rush and it gave the offense problems the entire game.
Iowa also had 3.0 tackles for a loss. Not only did the offensive line have trouble stopping the pass rush, it also had trouble opening up holes for Justin Jackson and the rest of the Wildcats’ rushing attack. While Jackson, Warren Long and Treyvon Green did combine to rush for 103 yards, they averaged just 2.4 yards per carry, a very mediocre stat. Jackson was able to find his own lanes, as he’s good enough to do that, but still there were few and far between. The offensive line lost the battle in the trenches to the Hawkeye defensive line, and it hurt any chance of Northwestern having a good offensive performance.
106 yards and 1 TD
After Mark Wiesman, Iowa was down to its third string running back in Akrum Wadley, who hadn’t recorded a statistic before Saturday. But Northwestern’s defense made him look like a star as he rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown. While Northwestern’s defensive line was riddled with injuries – Chance Carter left the game with a lower body injury and Greg Kuhar missed a few plays – that’s no excuse. Wadley hadn’t rushed for a single yard previously and along with Wiesman, who rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns, they tore up the Northwestern defense.
And they weren’t rushing for three or four yards at a time; they were gaining yardage in large chunks. Wadley averaged 7.1 yards per carry on 15 rushes, with a long of 26 yards, while Wiesman averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 20 rushes, with a long of 18 yards. Not only was Northwestern’s defense beaten through the air, they were also gashed on the ground.
Again, Chris Gradone and Northwestern’s punting unit put up a pretty bad performance. Gradone netted 33.6 yards per punt, landing two inside the 20, while having one punt blocked which Iowa returned it for a touchdown. In terms of punting, Northwestern ranks dead last in the Big Ten in net yards per punt. And their special teams unit as a whole also played pretty poor Saturday.
Jonathan Parker returned the opening kickoff to the Northwestern 46 and a 15-yard penalty was added on due to a late hit. Northwestern against averaged 0.0 yards on punt returns, and just 18.6 on kickoff returns. While special teams didn’t lose them the game as it did against Minnesota a few weeks ago, the unit certainly didn’t play well.
This weekend Michigan comes to Ryan Field to take on the ‘Cats. Both teams seem to be stuck in a rut, the Wolverines coming in a 4-5 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten. Michigan’s offense ranks near the bottom of the Big Ten but with a mediocre defense, that on paper is more talented than Northwestern, the Wolverines will put up a fight at Ryan Field. If Northwestern is to win this game, and keep their bowl chances alive, they’ll have to play 110 percent better than they did against Iowa, moving the ball on offense, playing better defense and a better game overall. On paper Michigan may be the more talented team, but both teams will have a chance to pull out a win, with the ‘Cats being hungry to avenge last year’s triple overtime loss.