Good Cat, Bad Cat: NIU

Risers and fallers from Northwestern's loss to NIU.

Good Cat

Trevor Siemian

Just forget about criticizing Trevor Siemian tonight. He’s struggling to be something better than an average quarterback, yes, but played one of his gutsiest games ever on Saturday. The O-line struggled and his wide receivers struggled to settle down. Still, he delivered several nice throws without getting significant help. He also developed strong chemistry with Kyle Prater. No one could blame Trevor in specific for the loss; he played through some difficult situations.

Pierre Youngblood-Ary

About time! Pierre played well in practice for the past two years, and despite not having the best hands ever, honed his craft and prepared for a chance. He aced it. His 54-yard touchdown grab was the highlight. We always thought he could be an impact player in the right circumstances. With guys like Cameron Dickerson laboring, he stood out and will likely get increased reps in practice and during game time.

Justin Jackson

He’s great again. He played with confidence as a true freshman and already carried a heavy workload. Jackson keeps passing the tests, and on a team that seldom relies on true freshmen, will be relied upon even more to produce. He’s one of the major positives on a struggling team. Green and Solomon Vault also contributed, but Jackson projects to be one of the best players in recent Wildcats history.

Matthew Harris

Ever since he arrived on the scene as a true freshman last season, teams have stayed away from throwing to Harris on a consistent basis. Teams, including NIU, picked more on Nick VanHoose throughout the game. Harris made one nice deflection, and aside from a bad penalty late in the game, he maintained pretty good coverage. NIU made some plays on everyone, but overall, it was another show of his strength.

Kyle Prater

This was something. Kyle Prater appeared to be the go-to receiver for Trevor Siemian this afternoon. He certainly worked for his chance and made some nice plays. Though he could have been a bit sharper, no one can complain about his impressive touchdown catch. His final stat line: seven catches for 87 yards and a score. We can hope that those numbers will continue to pick up as the season progresses.

Bad Cat

Decisions to punt

It’s still surprising that Fitz has been so conservative in the early season. Granted, his O-line has been iffy and he’s working with some inexperience in his receiving corps. Still, it would help this team to take some risks and gain confidence. Almost ironically, their best play of the season came on the riskiest play of the season: a Jayme Taylor touchdown strike. Time for more of that and less of the 4th-and-short punts in opponents’ territory.

Offensive line

It’s still a sieve. The O-line from last year has seen stunted improvement. Aside from Brandon Vitabile in the middle, everyone appears to have struggled in the early season. Geoff Mogus took some disappointing penalties — despite being strong at times. Their poor play made it difficult for running backs to find space. Siemian might have held the ball a little long at times — making them look bad — but this unit needs improvement heading into next week.

Cameron Dickerson

He’s been awfully shaky. Compared to Youngblood-Ary and guys who have done well with less time, Dickerson might fall in terms of targets. He’s bobbling passes, including one that could have ended in an opponent’s interception. Dan Vitale improved from his tough week 1, but despite his four-catch and 48-yard line, can still work on shoring up his mistakes before next week. He should still play a big role.

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