Christian Jones, wide receiver
Jones may have emerged as the best receiver on the team this weekend. With Demetrius Fields cooling off at record pace, Jones hauled in a difficult sideline grab and finished the day with five catches for 61 yards. The sophomore boasts impressive size (6-3, 225) and has avoided dropped passes – more than Tony Jones can say. The run-based offense of recent weeks left out the receiving game, but Jones even said he would be prepared for opportunities when they arrived. On cue, he performed, and Fitzgerald called it perhaps the finest performance of his career.
Trevor Siemian, quarterback
Siemian was outstanding Saturday. The rebound game for the embattled backup quarterback served as a testament to his character. Even after several mediocre outings, or worse, Siemian threw the ball without fear, making some of the best throws this team has witnessed all season. His perfectly executed back-shoulder throw to Cameron Dickerson required a great deal of confidence. Against the best secondary NU has faced this season, he completed six of seven passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. For the beat writers who doubted him (cough, me) he delivered a pretty sharp message. Look for the two-quarterback system to be back in gear at Michigan State. Heck, Siemian earned it.
Jared Carpenter, safety
For a while, it seemed as though Carpenter was just the guy alongside Campbell. He did enough, but failed to impress in several early-season games. Saturday functioned as his breakout. Carpenter saved NU in the first half. After Fitzgerald Toussaint broke free, Carpenter caught up with him and jarred the ball loose. It provided a major momentum swing. Fitzgerald even said Carpenter was 7-for-7 in "point of attack" plays. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds good, and looks accurate.
Demetrius Dugar, cornerback
Dugar was let off the hook after Daniel Jones' misplay that allowed Michigan back into the game. In the end, it was mostly Dugar that Gardner picked on throughout the afternoon. He struggled with confidence, or so it appeared. Despite his hard work, and despite the fact that his teammates supported him, Dugar struggled to keep up with the Wolverines receiving corps and was whistled for a costly pass interference call. This team certainly misses VanHoose, who should return on Saturday.
I've never been a fan of this moniker. A lot of people aren't. Although NU has found success in close games over recent history, blowing Saturday's game was inexcusable. It took poor execution in the final half-minute to let the Wolverines steal a victory. In past games (say, Nebraska) the Cats fell victim to superior talent on the other side of the ball. Nine or ten wins would still be a very impressive season for an NU program clearly on the rise. Still, they might have to rebrand their style of play.
Conservative play calling
Don't get me wrong. McCall coached one of his best games against Michigan. The team benefited from the bye week and devised a game plan to challenge the Michigan secondary. He showed faith in both Colter and Siemian, and this team was better for it. Both quarterbacks moved the ball with relative ease in the first 60 minutes. More impressively, they competed with the best secondary in the nation. But with the game on the line, in overtime, the play calling was a clear contrast. NU tried to run the ball between the tackles, and Michigan appeared ready for it. Sure, running the ball is this team's bread and butter. However, on Saturday, it seemed fitting to throw the ball with either quarterback.
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