Five Things We Have Learned

PurpleWildcats.com uses the off weekend to reflect on Northwestern's first three games. Here are five things we have learned about the 2011 Wildcats.

1. Nothing about the backup quarterbacks

 After Kain Colter led a successful comeback against Boston College, Northwestern thought it had its quarterback of the future. Colter was impressive on the ground and he ran the offense nearly as well as Dan Persa.

However, his passing abilities were subpar and it showed in the Wildcats' 21-14 loss to Army, as backup Trevor Siemian had to come in to try to save the game.

 With Persa likely starting against Illinois, the reborn quarterback controversy likely won't be settled until next season.

Colter is a better fit for the offense, but if he can't improve in the passing game Siemian may end up starting next season.

2. The secondary will be good

 Although it gave up large chunks of yards against Boston College, the Northwestern secondary has been impressive throughout the season.

Jordan Mabin has all-Big Ten capability at corner and safety Brian Peters has been the force everyone expected him to be at safety. Jeravin Matthews has played well and redshirt freshman Ibraheim Campbell has been a pleasant surprise.

Expect the secondary to hold up well, which will be essential with so many top quarterbacks in the Big Ten.

 3. The defensive front seven needs work

 After putting on an impressive performance against Boston College, Northwestern's defensive front seven was weak against Army.

The Wildcats surrendered 381 rushing yards against the Black Knights, which is particularly unacceptable considering that Army couldn't get anything going in the passing game.

We'll learn more about the front seven this week as it gets set to face running quarterback Nate Scheelhaase of Illinois, but it must improve in order to come out of Champaign with a win.

4. "Emergency Situation" has a loose definition

 Despite being the focus of a Heisman campaign this August and racking up numerous preseason All-Big Ten honors, quarterback Dan Persa has yet to play in a football game this season.

The senior is still recovering from a ruptured Achilles that he suffered against Iowa last season, and after numerous false alarms, it looks like he will finally play against Illinois this Saturday.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald has been quiet, if not deceptive, in keeping the media informed about his star quarterback, who he said would be available in emergency situations against Army.

However, with the Wildcats needing a touchdown to force overtime, Persa sat on the bench. If that isn't an emergency situation, it's tough to imagine what one might look like.

Now that Persa will finally be under center—well, probably—the real question is whether he can pick up where he left off last season. Illinois should be a good test to gauge whether he is fully recovered from his injury, and it could be an indicator of how the entire Northwestern offense will play for the rest of the season. 

5. The running back situation is consistently inconsistent

One of the Wildcats' goals coming into this season was to get the running backs more involved in their gameplan.

 That's worked at times this year, but there have also been times when the ground game wasn't able to get going.

Running back Mike Trumpy was solid against Boston College, but missed the Eastern Illinois game and struggled against Army, which has been bad against the run.

Trumpy hasn't been able to grab hold of the top running back spot, splitting time with Adonis Smith and Jacob Schmidt, and he has shared yardage with Colter as well.

Trumpy and company have to improve heading into the Big Ten season in order to take the pressure off of Persa, as his carries will be limited coming off injury. 


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