By Henry DaMour
-Special teams were up-and-down. The punt and kick returns were mediocre as usual, but Hunter Niswander kept the game exciting, to put it lightly. Coming into the game with an average of 38.1 yards per punt after an ugly showing at Michigan, his punts were on par with that number, with five of his nine going over 40 yards.
-It was a weird game for a usually shutdown Wildcats defense. Usually holding opposing passers to 138 yards per game, and offenses as a whole to 270, the Hawkeyes were able to pass for 198 yards and gain 492 yards of total offense. Northwestern has been outscored 78-10 in their last two games after allowing only 35 total over their first five contests. The only bright spot was a seemingly momentum-shifting pick from Traveon Henry, which was returned 20 yards and set up the offense for a field goal. The defense at one point was on the field three times as long as the offense, and it showed. They were tired, and with the offense going 8 for 19 on third down conversions, they didn’t have a ton of breathing room. Two sacks on the game matched their season average.
-The offensive performance started off ugly, with Thorson’s QB rating dropping to 18 at its lowest. Seemingly hitting their stride at the end of the second quarter, the ‘Cats almost pushed the possession time for each team back to even (15:38 to 14:22). They scored 10 quick points in four minutes thanks to safety Traveon Henry’s first interception of the year and a Jack Mitchell field goal. The second half, however, was more of the same as Northwestern failed to score the rest of the game. Zack Oliver came in for Clayton Thorson, who lasted until halfway through the fourth quarter, as it became clear that Coach Fitz was looking for something, anything to get the offense going at a respectable level. Thorson was sacked three times, up from their average of 1.33 coming into the game. Still, Thorson looked like he was back to his old self, and not in a good way. Something needs to change with the offense, and fast.