Grading The Wildcats

The losing streak pushes on. Northwestern never lost fight, but would go on to lose the game. hands out the grades after another disappointing Wildcat loss.

Quarterbacks: B+

As has been the case in the last three losses, this one wasn't on the quarterbacks. Dan Persa put threw for 246 yards and a touchdown and Kain Colter ran for 82 yards, running the offense extremely effectively when given the chance.

However, there were uncharacteristic mishaps for both players. Persa threw an errant pass right to Iowa safety Tanner Miller for a 98-yard pick six and Colter had a bad pitch out-of-bounds on third down in Iowa territory that led to a missed field goal.

When they click, the quarterbacks are outstanding, but two mishaps were huge today and that can't happen with a defense that allows for so little margin of error.

Running Backs: B-

The running backs weren't featured very much this week, as Colter was the leading rusher with 76 yards.

Adonis Smith added 60 yards on 12 carries and Treyvon Green had 20 more yards on five carries.

Colter will likely continue to be the focus of the Northwestern game that is short Mike Trumpy, but the running backs must provide support.

Receivers: A

Persa did an outstanding job of spreading the ball around to his receivers and finding the open man on third down.

Jeremy Ebert was outstanding once again, racking up 107 yards and a touchdown on 13 catches. However, the breakout star of the day was Colter, who finished with six receptions for 71 yards, including an outstanding catch down the sideline early in the game.

Colter's athleticism has benefited Northwestern all over the field, and if he can become a threat in the passing game, he will be an even bigger asset for the offense.

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line turned in arguably its worst performance of the season on Saturday, which resulted in Iowa's inexperienced defensive line having a breakout game.

Persa was under pressure for much of the game and the Wildcats had a number of plays go for losses, including three sacks.

Iowa's Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels wreaked havoc on Northwestern's backfield and delivered some crushing blows on Persa, including on that resulted in a lost fumble.

With an even better Penn State defensive line looming, the offensive line must improve in order to keep Persa on his feet.

Defensive Line: C+

Iowa's offensive line was blown up by Penn State's defensive line last week, but rebounded by holding the Northwestern defensive line in check.

Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg had all day to throw and wasn't sacked once. Running back Marcus Coker had a big day as well, picking up 127 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

The Penn State offensive line hasn't been outstanding this year, but Northwestern will have to step up next week in order to get to both of the Nittany Lions' young quarterbacks who struggle under pressure.

Secondary: D

The numbers weren't that bad this week for the secondary, but that's because Iowa only ran 22 pass plays.

With the exception of a diving interception by Demetrius Dugar, this unit was a disaster for the third straight week.

There were multiple blown assignments that allowed for big plays, including 47-and-35-yard touchdown catches by Keenan Davis and Marvin McNutt, respectively.

Northwestern mixed it up this week, starting Dugar in place of Jeravin Matthews, but that didn't seem to do much good.

The bottom line is this secondary has to improve if Northwestern wants to make it to 6-6. The talent is there, but mental errors continue to plague the unit.

Special Teams: B-

It was another average-to-below average game for the Northwestern special teams.

Punter Brandon Williams was, again, just average at best. Kicker Jeff Budzien hit a season-long 47-yard field goal, improving to three-for-five on the year, but missed a 47-yarder later in the game.

The Wildcats even started the game with a special teams mishap, as Steve Flaherty kicked the opening kickoff out-of-bounds.

The lone special teams bright spot was Venric Mark, who struggled early on kick returns, but came back to have some nice returns.

As has been the script all year, the Wildcats have to have more consistency on special teams in order to win.

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