Grading The 'Cats

PurpleWildcats.com hands out the grades after Northwestern's gut-wrenching loss at the hands of Michigan.

Quarterbacks: B

Except for the fact that he didn't throw a touchdown pass, Dan Persa's numbers were solid— 32-for-44 for 331 yards and an interception that wasn't really his fault.

Kain Colter did a solid job when called upon as well, rushing for 28 yards and a touchdown.

The most amazing stat is that Persa rarely ran the ball. While he may be back physically, he seems much more reluctant to run, and there were a number of plays when he had open space but chose to throw the ball away or throw into a bad situation.

Would 2010 Persa have run? It's impossible to know, but he certainly seems more reluctant to make plays with his feet.

Running Backs: B

For a unit that only rushed for 107 yards, the running backs did surprisingly well in their first game without top rusher Mike Trumpy.

The Wildcats only ran the ball 25 times—their confidence in the run game seems very minimal—but each back had a solid average.

Jacob Schmidt led the team with 31 yards, and Adonis Smith added a few nice runs, including a touchdown.

However, it's tough to give the unit a good grade if it doesn't play a major role in the offense.

Receivers: C

For a group with so much talent and experience, tonight's game was a letdown.

Star senior Jeremy Ebert led the team with 86 yards, but gave up a crucial fumble with Northwestern driving to try to get back into the game.

Superback Drake Dunsmore had 73 yards receiving, but had a pass deflected off of him that turned into a Michigan interception.

In tough games like this—especially against No. 12 Michigan—senior leaders need to step up. Tonight, the seniors were an Achilles heel.

Offensive Line: B-

There were times when the line stepped up, but it was extremely inconsistent and still hasn't stepped up to be the unit everyone expected.

Persa was hit a number of times—he took four sacks overall—and the line didn't do a good job opening up holes in the running game, as many of the runs were on options to the outside.

This is a very experienced group that was supposed to be the best of the Pat Fitzgerald era. However, it has yet to live up to that potential this season.

Defensive Line: B-

The key to beating Michigan is containing Denard Robinson, and at times the Northwestern defensive line was able to do just that.

Robinson was limited throughout much of the first half, but had his way for the most part in the second half.

This has been the most inconsistent unit on the team this season and that has to change if the Wildcats want to finish games.

Linebackers: B

For the second straight week there wasn't anything very special about the linebackers.

They did their job well for the most part, but blew some coverage in the middle of the field.

The most obvious flaw was the lack of speed in the unit, as Robinson outran linebackers numerous times for big gains.

Secondary: D

The one thing saving the secondary from an "F" for the second straight week is that it came up with three interceptions, but those were all gifts from Robinson.

The secondary was burned by receivers a number of times and gave up big pass plays of 57 and 48 yards.

In all, Michigan had 362 pass yards, with 290 of them coming from Robinson.

The most troubling aspect of that stat is that Robinson is not a very good passer. This should have been the week for the secondary to bounce back and gain some confidence, but it still looked lost for most of the game.

The Big Ten is filled with good passers—most are better than Robinson—and if this unit doesn't improve will end up being a very long season for the defense and the team as a whole.

Special Teams: B

There were a few bright spots on special teams, namely Jeff Budzien making his first field goal since the season opener and Jack DiNardo blocking a kick.

However, there were other breakdowns that were crucial to the field position battle.

Venric Mark and Jacob Schmidt both decided to return kickoffs that looked like they were going out of bounds, and in Schmidt's case, a penalty brought the starting field position back to the 18-yard line. That's a 22-yard swing.

With such a spotty defense field condition needs to be a top priority for the Wildcats and they need to play better on special teams to win that battle.


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