Good Cat, Bad Cat: Week One

Listing some Good Cats and Bad Cats from Northwestern's Week One game against Cal.

Good Cats

Trevor Siemian

Say all you want about Trevor Siemian: Overall, he played very well. In the first half, he delivered an impressive touchdown strike to Tony Jones and looked comfortable taking the reins alone. The Siemian offense was obviously much different than any Colter-led attack. There are some advantages and disadvantages to this (more on that this week), but overall, the passing game worked well against a depleted secondary. With some more consistent play calling and much better field position, `Siemian is capable of leading this team. It was, without question, a step in the right direction for quarterback 1-b.

Dan Vitale

He's so quietly good. Vitale reshaped this offense once again with his five-catch, 101-yard outing in Berkeley. At times, he'd drag defenders along with him. One year after making significant progression during his rookie campaign, Vitale looks the part of "breakout star" for Northwestern. He and Siemian demonstrated great rapport throughout the night, with the superback earning increased attention. Finally, the receivers–led by Vitale, Jones and Jones–lived up to the hype. There were so many steps forward.

Ibraheim Campbell

With the secondary reeling, Ibraheim Campbell needed to make his play. The redshirt junior safety picked up his team with a perfectly timed late-game interception of Jared Goff. It was an ugly night for the pass defense–which gave up 445 yards through the air–but Campbell helped the team hang on for the win. Without Daniel Jones, the Wildcats should look to Campbell for veteran leadership to ease the transition. It's a big moment for his career.

Offensive line

Hey, saw this one coming. My predictions weren't god-awful in week one, though anyone with eyes could have guessed that this O-line would not miss a beat. They opened up holes for Treyvon Green in his 129-yard effort. They gave Siemian ample time to throw, and this improved protection is an essential weapon for NU's pocket passer. Paul Jorgensen, Geoff Mogus and Ian Park weren't topics during the postgame press conference. But they went to work as first-time starters and absolutely excelled. Cal does have some talent in its front seven, so this was an especially promising development.

Randy Bates

Bates assembled another strong group of linebackers this offseason, making the right call to start Collin Ellis. This week, it was Ellis who starred with his two interceptions returned for touchdowns. Any one in this group, though, can be a dominant defensive force. Just last year, Chi Chi Ariguzo manned the strong side and stood out as one of the team's strongest players against Syracuse. It's an excellent coaching job for Bates, whose backup unit could even strike fear in opponents. Love the coaching job.

Bad Cats

Run-run-run-punt

I'm fed up with these drives. Midway through the second half, NU ran the ball three straight times before punting on fourth-and-one. It appeared to disrupt Siemian's rhythm and showed little confidence in the effective mid-range passing attack. There were some aggressive play calls–especially in the closing minutes–but Siemian can make enough plays through the air. It's not as if he was overly mistake prone. On several occasions, he consciously overthrew receivers–leaving the ball where only his guy could make the play. The Cal secondary struggled, especially when Avery Sebastian went down, and NU should have taken advantage of that weakness more often.

Nick VanHoose

I'm sorry for this one. VanHoose held the team together last season. He'll need to be even better this year, especially with Jones sidelined–probably for the entire season. On Saturday, the Cal receiving corps overwhelmed him. That led to VanHoose expressing frustration; nothing worked yesterday. I'm extremely worried about the secondary moving forward. Even with VanHoose playing to his potential, there's minimal depth at corner. The rebuild starts against Syracuse; expect much better from VanHoose and the secondary.

Matt Harris's Luck

Seriously, the worst. After an outstanding training camp, I guessed that Matt Harris stood a chance to play. Fitzgerald believed the same thing, placing Harris on the field for yesterday's opening kickoff. The Lyons Township (Ill.) will almost undoubtedly serve as starting cornerback for this team in the future season. He's college ready and fundamentally advanced. Really, with Jones out, they could use him to step in at corner. Instead, Harris left the game with an injury and never returned—a victim of his first tackle on the first play of his season. Brutal. (Note: He should return this week.)

Defensive tackles

It was everything we expected. The bookends dominated, with Tyler Scott and Ifeadi Odenigbo each picking up sacks on Saturday. After having very little overall effect on the game, the defensive tackles have work ahead of them. I'm not blown away by any of the options. Before the Cal O-line virtually quit in the waning moments, they provided space for running back Brendan Bigelow and some others on the inside. The Wildcats need much more from Sean McEvilly, Chance Carter and Will Hampton. Coach Marty Long might make some personnel adjustments, or even let Max Chapman fight for an expanded role.


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