Jimmy Hall— There was one sweet and successful piece of the adjusted game plan. The reserve safety tried to inject some passion into the pulseless team. Down 21-3 late in the second quarter, Hall made the play that Northwestern needed. He intercepted Joel Stave–who was generally solid throughout–and gave the Wildcats an opportunity to score six before the half. Then, there were slivers of hope. Hall was later beaten on a play action touchdown pass, but the nickelback flashed his ability.
Ibraheim Campbell— He was imperfect as part of the safety tandem that allowed Wisconsin receiver Jared Abbrederis through for an early touchdown pass. Still, Campbell made some impressive plays, including an acrobatic sideline interception when the game was well within reach. He also broke through for a sack out of cheetah formation, continuing to make the plays that have defined his Northwestern career. He'll be another key to NU righting its recent struggles next weekend.
The 4-end package— I'm going to comment again on Northwestern's inspired four-defensive end "cheetah package," and then use it to elaborate on an overarching point from Saturday. It's very, very difficult to blame the defense for many things that transpired on Saturday. The offense couldn't keep them off the field—an essential component of "staying fresh" against a dominant rushing attack. They were beyond fatigued, and despite some obvious unforced errors, it's difficult to compete at Camp Randall when the offense keels over.
Wide receivers— Generally, horrible. They dropped passes in awful circumstances. They struggled to find space against the surprising Badgers secondary. They failed to help Trevor Siemian during his game-long frustration at finding any semblance of rhythm. (Also, fans must hope they never see superback Dan Vitale play like that again. Hard to pick on one guy, but man…) Rashad Lawrence made some nice grabs, including one 46-yard reception. Christian Jones had four catches for 49 yards but made one egregious drop. Otherwise, it was an overall poor performance that badly hurt the passing game—and contributed to Siemian's 13-of-34 line.
Pat Fitzgerald— Any time you get beaten like that, part of the blame falls on NU's head coach—and he'd probably accept a great deal of it. We respect Fitzgerald for what he's done in Evanston, but sometime this year, NU needs to lock up the elusive major victory. For now, we can't escape application of the "overhyped" label. Fitz always leads mentally tough teams, and with consecutive must-win games against Minnesota and Iowa, expect the Wildcats to start their rally before another pivotal matchup at Nebraska.
Injuries— Here they come: Kain Colter and Venric Mark both left the Wisconsin game with ankle concerns. Though Sean McEvilly should return to action this week, the defensive tackle bunch clearly felt his absence against the dominant Badgers rushing attack. And as Dwight White gave up another long pass, Daniel Jones' season-ending knee injury seemed even fresher. Of course, there are no excuses for days like Saturday, but injuries have damaged the Wildcats' dream season.