Five games into his college career, Justin Jackson already looks like a viable superstar for the Wildcats. Jackson again took a bulk of the team’s carries Saturday, pacing the NU offense with 162 yards on 33 touches. His open-field speed looked good as ever, and the freshman’s footwork kept Badgers missing all day. Jackson may be the offense’s most reliable contributor right now. More on him later.
The obvious knock on Prater is that he’s inconsistent, but Saturday was one of his good days. The senior hauled in a team-high five catches for 55 yards, and was great between the seams. That fourth-quarter, third-down juke on what looked to be a doomed screen pass swung momentum for the Wildcats.
Looks like McCall and Co. got the message. For the second straight week, Northwestern’s offensive game plan was fresh and unpredictable. Justin Jackson got the carries he deserved. A Miles Shuler trick play was called immediately after the defense forced a pick. The team went for it on fourth-and-four and was rewarded with a Dan Vitale touchdown. Northwestern continues to ditch the power run formations it relied on earlier this season. And facing a third-and-three with three minutes to play and the game on the line, NU dialed up a perfect play action pass to Dan Vitale.
Odenigbo continues to validate the hype. Northwestern’s best pass rusher was at it again Saturday, hitting Joel Stave’s hand on his first interception of the afternoon. Throughout the game, Odenigbo would push linemen into the pocket, and had both Stave and Tanner McEvoy looking uncomfortable. His recent stretch of dominance has been fun to watch.
Godwin Igwebuike intercepted two passes in the endzone and picked off a third to seal the game. Matthew Harris, Jimmy Hall and Nick VanHoose held each Wisconsin receiver to under 50 total yards. All four combined for 30 tackles, and the Northwestern secondary was fantastic yet again. The Badgers put up just 138 passing yards between two quarterbacks.
There really isn’t much to criticize. Northwestern went from an 0-2 start to beating Penn State and No. 17 Wisconsin, and it’s still hard to process. But if we had to pick a few disappointments, Tony Jones is one that comes to mind. NU’s top target is still coming back from injury, but just one catch on the day isn’t going to cut it going forward.
This tends to happen when going against Melvin Gordon. NU’s normally-stout run defense was gassed and trampled by Gordon for 284 yards and a touchdown. Gordon’s yardage was gained primarily by big plays, and in fairness, Northwestern did shut down Wisconsin’s other rusher, Corey Clement.
We’ve discussed this in previous GCBCs, but Henry’s regression this year is really disheartening. The safety was completely lost on Kenzel Doe’s touchdown reception. After Godwin Igwebuike’s career day, why not make a change?