Rashad Lawrence— After laboring through the first month, Lawrence broke out on Saturday. The senior hauled in eight passes for 149 yards—with several NFL scouts in attendance. He benefited from Mick McCall's receiver-by-committee approach, and worked well with Trevor Siemian. He helped to pull the Wildcats back ahead with his clutch 67-yard grab down the stretch. It might have ranked as the best single game performance from any NU player this season.
Tyler Scott— He played like an All-American on Saturday. The defensive end figured out Braxton Miller's read option early on, stripping the ball and recovering the fumble. It turned momentum immediately, and put one of NU's best players in the well-deserved spotlight. Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson also combined for 12 tackles, with the defensive ends continuing to be excellent.
Damien Proby— There's a theme: The Northwestern seniors led this upset charge. Proby had 12 tackles and a crucial forced fumble in the red zone. At that point, the Wildcats led 23-13 and regained possession. It truly was theirs to lose, and they did. But the linebackers–and defense as a whole–played exceptionally well despite the losing effort.
Kain Colter— We knew that NU needed great play from Colter to beat Ohio State; they certainly had that ingredient. He completed all 12 of his pass attempts for 98 yards and added a touchdown reception. I wanted Mick McCall to use him at wide receiver much more often–as I always do–but that game plan faded late in the game. It's not as though Siemian played poorly. They did, however, miss some opportunities to employ Colter.
Late-game play calling— We've been over this at length. The gimmicky quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one failed miserably, leaving Northwestern fans stunned. Worse, the team burned a challenge in reviewing it—a move that, frankly, only made sense if it worked. The Wildcats eventually got the ball back without the requisite time to stage a comeback drive. It contributed to another difficult loss.
Running game— The Buckeyes, we know, can dominate up front. They're one of the elite run defenses in America. Still, if NU had more success on the ground, we might be looking at an entirely different outcome. Despite his best efforts, Venric Mark failed to break off a run longer than eight yards. The team only averaged 2.2 yards per carry on Saturday, which could have spun the outcome.
The sacks— After the game, Fitzgerald wasn't sure where to place fault. Trevor Siemian was sacked five times, which could have fallen on him or on the offensive line. Fitzgerald will watch film to determine, but the point remains. NU's young O-line needs to be more consistent during Big Ten play, and Siemian needs to more frequently demonstrate his improved elusive ability.