September 1, 2013

Four-down territory: Cal



Northwestern's 44-30 win over Cal on Saturday night was a wild, up-and-down affair, so there were plenty of positives and negatives from the Wildcats' perspective.

Here, then, are four things we liked and four things we didn't.



Four downs: Positives


1. Collin Ellis: Well, it looks like head coach Pat Fitzgerald picked the right guy in the battle for the starting outside linebacker job. All the redshirt junior did in his first career start was pick up a pair of pick-6s in the second half to rally Northwestern to the win. The first one, a 56-yarder in the third quarter, came after Cal had blitzed the Wildcats for 14 points in less than a minute. It completely changed the complexion of the game and gave the Wildcats a 27-24 lead. They wouldn't trail again. Then, his 40-yarder in the fourth gave NU a critical 10-point, two-score lead with 7:57 left in the game. He also had one TFL among his four tackles, as well as three PBUs.


2. Treyvon Green: Green seemed to be the forgotten man on Northwestern's running back depth chart throughout fall camp, but he announced his presence with authority on Saturday night. With star tailback Venric Mark sidelined for much of the game, Green ran for 129 yards on 16 carries (8.1 ypc) and two touchdowns. While not a burner by any means, Green managed to look like Mark when he burst through the middle and ran 33 yards for the Wildcats' first score of the season. He then exploded through the line and down the sideline for a 55-yard run in the first that set up his six-yard TD run for the last points of the game.


3. The first half: Cal opened the first half with a touchdown and closed it with a field goal, but in between Northwestern pretty much dominated the game. Defensively, the Wildcats forced Cal into five straight punts between those two Bear scoring drives, including three three-and-outs. Meanwhile, Trevor Siemian came off the bench and completed 15 of 20 passes for 199 yards, one interception and a perfect 19-yard touchdown strike to Tony Jones. The Wildcats held just a 17-10 lead at halftime but looked to be in control.


4. Run defense: Cal tailback Brendan Bigelow, who averaged 9.8 ypc last season, ran for 55 yards on his first three carries of the game. After that, however, the Wildcats shut him down, limiting him to 13 carries for 10 yards. As a whole, Cal ran the ball 35 times for just 93 yards, a paltry 2.7 ypc. Northwestern succeeded in its goal of making the Bears one-dimensional.



Four downs: Negatives


1. Pass defense: Cal had a true freshman quarterback playing in his first college game and directing an up-tempo offense new to the entire team. Yet, with virtually no running game to lean on, Jared Goff shredded the Wildcats' pass defense, finishing 38 of 63 for 445 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, he threw three interceptions, but two of them (Ellis') were tipped; only Ibraheim Campbell's in the fourth quarter was really Goff's fault. Northwestern managed four sacks for 24 yards in losses, but too many receivers were running free in the secondary.


2. Injuries: Wildcats were dropping like flies at Memorial Stadium. Kain Colter was lost for the game with an "upper body injury" on just the second play of the game, cornerback Daniel Jones left the game for good with a "lower body injury" near the end of the first half, and Mark was unavailable for long stretches with an apparent malady. Several other players were shaken up and lost for short stretches during the contest, and at one point a different Wildcat defender left the field after three consecutive plays. Damien Proby and Will Hampton left the field two times each, but both returned shortly thereafter. The multiple dings led Cal head coach Sonny Dykes to question after the game whether the Wildcats were deliberately using injuries as a tactic to slow down his high-speed attack.


3. The third quarter: The defense, especially, struggled in the third period, as Goff rang up 206 yards and two touchdowns and connected on 36- and 52-yard strikes. Cal scored 17 points in the quarter, holding the ball for a whopping 9:35 and converting five of six third downs. Offensively, after mounting a field-goal drive to open the half, Northwestern's next two possessions resulted in a fumbled kickoff return and a three-and-out.


4. Freshman mistakes: It's not really fair to blame guys playing in their first college games, but Northwestern paid the price for some rookie mistakes in the second half on Saturday night. Smelling blood in the water, Goff targeted redshirt freshman cornerback Dwight White after he replaced the injured Jones in the second half. He victimized the rookie seven times, including a 52-yard touchdown to Chris Harper -- though it looked like a safety was out of position on the play, too -- and a 36-yard completion to Bryce Treggs. Redshirt freshman Stephen Buckley also fumbled a kick return in the third quarter that set up the Bears at the NU 25-yard line and led to a Cal touchdown five plays later.





 

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