We were saying it all summer. Jackson and Vault were positioned to burn their redshirts this fall, and both did so on Opening Day. Leading rusher Jackson averaged five yards per carry while muscling his way to his first career touchdown, and Vault added 24 yards on six touches. Jackson was slow to find a couple interior holes Saturday, but he still showed off the impressive speed and open field moves that made him a four-star recruit. You have to feel good about these two right now.
Dickerson gave Northwestern its first touchdown of the year on a 54-yard scamper over the middle of the field. With Christian Jones down, Dickerson will finally have to rise to expectations, and his two-catch, 63-yard day is a step in the right direction. The speed he showed on the TD should be exploited in shorter passing situations. The dropped passes were problematic, but not all of them were his fault.
The double pass was Northwestern's most imaginative play call of the afternoon (and the calendar year), and Taylor executed perfectly. We expect him to see an increased role in the passing game, especially given Vitale's quiet start.
Ellis churned out one of his most complete games Saturday, tallying a team-high 12 tackles and the athletic, momentum-swinging interception of Jared Goff in the third quarter. Last year, he was a boom-or-bust stat stuffer. Saturday he excelled in both consistently stopping the run and coming up with the big play.
The team's best player dominated Saturday's game with the sprawling first-half pick and 11 tackles. Northwestern's center field coverage was disorganized and undisciplined all afternoon, but Campbell was the team's one sure thing in the secondary.
Aside from the resurgent third quarter, Siemian was awful. He missed on a handful of easy short targets Saturday, and never seemed to show any confidence in the pocket. Of equal concern was his lack of vertical accuracy. His best play of the afternoon came on a receiving touchdown. Siemian will need to increase his completion percentage for Northwestern's faster paced offense to click. The two interceptions need to be cut down too, of course.
Green dropped an easy screen pass and seemed to duck into a pile of defensive linemen on every carry. He averaged a paltry 2.8 YPC Saturday, and was far from the No. 1 back he is expected to be this season. His pass blocking wasn't much better, either.
The offensive line
Holes for running backs were seldom, and Siemian looked rattled all game. This offensive line was a concern all offseason, and it didn't do much to ameliorate those concerns Saturday. The one sack allowed was a bit misleading.
Northwestern's No. 1 corner was picked on relentlessly, and got beat consistently in the first half. The Wildcats' pass coverage was, at best, inconsistent Saturday.
The touchdown he allowed wasn't entirely his fault, as Henry was put in a tough matchup against the slot. Still, the NU safety took a step back Saturday.