mitchell feature
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

YO, HOW ARE YOU GUYS FEELING? BECAUSE IT’S KINDA HARD TO CALM DOWN UP HERE.  Northwestern was up by a lot, then they were down, then they somehow found a way to win.  What on earth just happened?

  • That was some of the weirdest late game coaching decisions ever.  First of all, Fitzgerald was willing to settle for a 40-yard game winner from a kicker who missed two field goals and an extra point.  Then, James Franklin decided to call timeouts so Northwestern could inch its way closer to the end zone.  Absolutely mind boggling on both accounts.
  • Zack Oliver did fine in relief. Sure he made some bad throws and took some bad sacks, but in the end he did just enough to get the W.  When you’re starter goes down, all you can ask from your back up is to do OK. Oliver did just that.
  • Northwestern played through a TON of injuries today. Obviously, the big one is the Clayton Thorson, who went down with a lower body injury.  But every bit as important were all the injuries on the offensive front. Geoff Mogus went down, and so did Ian Park. Playing with such a makeshift offensive line against one of the best pass rushes in the country was very difficult, and plenty of white shirts made their way into the NU backfield.  Still, they opened up pretty big holes in the running game and allowed Justin Jackson to be Justin Jackson again.
  • It was good to see Warren Long back. He’s had 2 carries the 3 games before this one.  He hadn’t been listed in the injury report, but whatever the reason, Northwestern went back to him today and he made some decent plays running the ball.  Of course, that roughing the kicker penalty wasn’t great.
  • Jack Mitchell struggled today, but boy did he make his one made field goal count. A 37-yarder in a stiff crosswind to win the game. Ice water.  Of course, the PAT would’ve been a nice one to have, but the dude can kick in the clutch. Another game winner for Mitchell.
  • I was impressed with the way Northwestern bottled up Saquan Barkley.  Well for most of the day. He’s a shifty back in the Akrum Wadley mold, but NU didn’t let him get the edge.  Credit to the ends and linebackers for staying in their lanes.  Of course as the game went on, it became harder and harder for the Wildcats to keep Penn State’s star freshman in check. The juke he made to score his touchdown out of the wildcat was a thing of beauty. How Northwestern was so unprepared for a wildcat look is another story.
  • I still don’t know what to make of Christian Hackenberg.  Dude has all kinds of tools, but I don’t envy pro scouts. I don’t know how you separate his performances from his offensive line.
  • A win is a win is a win, right?  Penn State is a pretty solid 7-8 win team.  To beat them is nothing to sneeze at. Northwestern, in peak Northwestern fashion, made it close, but they inched out a victory.  They’re at 7 wins with Illinois and Purdue still on the schedule.  This is shaping up to be an awfully good year for a team that many predicted would finish with only 5 wins.
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