Grading The Wildcats

The streak is over! Northwestern took down the Hoosiers, and earned their first win in Big Ten play. There were plenty of ups and downs for both sides. hands out the grades after the game.

Quarterbacks: A+

Both Dan Persa and Kain Colter were nearly unstoppable today at quarterback. Persa was 16-for-20 for 261 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while Colter completed two of three passes, both for touchdowns.

The NU quarterbacks were a threat to run and pass today, and Persa was more mobile than he has been in awhile.

The biggest plus today was consistency, as Persa and Colter put together a complete four quarters—well, until they were pulled for third-stringer Trevor Siemian—for the first time this season.

That needs to continue, especially next week against Nebraska.

Running Backs: A

This was the best showing by the running backs this year, as Jacob Schmidt, Venric Mark and Treyvon Green all rushed for more yards than either quarterback.

Schmidt rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns for the first 100-yard game of his career and Mark was explosive, gaining 47 yards on only four carries.

If the running backs can continue their success, they'll be able to take pressure off the quarterbacks and open up more big plays in the passing game and when the QBs scramble.

Receivers: A+

Today was the Drake Dunsmore show.

The superback broke the career receiving record for Northwestern tight ends and his four receiving touchdowns were an NU single-game record as well.

Kain Colter was impressive as well, catching six passes for 115 yards.

Miscues in the receiving game have cost the Wildcats in the past few games, but the receivers were nearly perfect today, as they will need to be next week against Nebraska.

Offensive Line: A

Persa and Colter had all the time in the world to throw and there were huge holes opened up in the run game all game, which is a testament to the offensive line finally showing the potential its coaches and the media thought it could show in August.

Yes, it was only Indiana, but the line did a good job of picking up the Hoosiers' bitzes, and it will need to be even better next week against the vaunted Nebraska defensive line.

Defensive Line: C

As good as the offensive line was, the defensive line showed that it still needs a lot of work.

Running back Stephen Houston rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Tre Roberson added another 121 yards and a touchdown.

Keep in mind that this is against an average running back and true freshman quarterback.

NU will face a much better quarterback-running back duo next week in Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead. If the Wildcats want to escape Lincoln with a win, they can't allow a repeat performance.

Linebackers: C

Missed tackles were an issue today, as the Indiana's rushers bounced off would-be tacklers all day.

Northwestern has had problems all year tackling players who get to the second level, and today was no exception.

Again, next week, against a much better running game, NU can't allow that to happen.

Secondary: B

For the first time since the Eastern Illinois game, the Northwestern secondary was adequate.

Roberson threw for only 169 yards and a touchdown and Brian Peters came up with a big interception early in the game.

Aside from a 32-yard pass very early in the first quarter, the Wildcats did a good job of not allowing big plays and there weren't nearly as many coverage breakdowns as there were the past five weeks.

Special Teams: B+

For the first time in awhile, Northwestern's special teams performed well, save for a muffed punt by Venric Mark. Punter Brandon Williams was only used once and Jeff Budzien nailed a 37-yard field goal.

Mark almost broke a kick return for a touchdown as well, but was tripped up at the Indiana 40-yard line.

Overall, it was a much more consistent performance by the NU special teams than we have seen in the past five games.

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