Football: What to watch for: NU vs. Vanderbilt

John Paschall, Reporter

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You look familiar…

A quarterback named Rodgers will face the Wildcats on Saturday night. Luckily for Northwestern, his first name isn’t Aaron. Senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers, brother of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, will march his squad onto Ryan Field looking to overcome a tough loss to South Carolina in Vanderbilt’s season opener. The Commodores signal caller isn’t quite the caliber of his Super-Bowl-winning brother, but he still enters a favorable match-up against a Cats secondary that gave up 470 passing yards to Syracuse last week. Look for Rodgers to go early and often to his favorite target, junior wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who has the potential to be a tremendous threat to NU. Coach Pat Fitzgerald can only hope the Cats’ secondary doesn’t make Jordan look like his older brother.

You’re up, rook

So how do you contain a passing attack? You need a pass rush. With redshirt freshman Deonte Gibson out for the game this weekend, true freshman Ifeadi Odenigbo gets the call to start. It’ll be a tough task to start off his collegiate career. Odenigbo put a lot of pressure on himself when he committed to Northwestern and spoke of future championships for NU. He’s got the tools to be disruptive, but can he put them to work this soon?

Dyna-mark

When he has some space and the ball in his hands, junior running back Venric Mark is downright lethal. He tore it up on the ground for NU against Syracuse and had tons of room to run on punt returns. The Cats need to continue to figure out ways to get Mark the ball in space and let him go. One potential way is through the zone-read run plays. Last week, South Carolina averaged 5.8 yards per play on zone-reads and totaled 122 yards on the ground through that play call. NU could see even more success because the Cats have the always-dangerous junior quarterback Kain Colter to join Mark on those zone reads.

Halftime hoax

NU tends to look like a completely different team once halftime ends, starting off strong but struggling to finish games. This has been a recurring theme dating back to last year and beyond. If the Cats ever want to make noise in the Big Ten or even the national scene, they need to play the entire 60 minutes. If they had played the same game last week against a better opponent, the Cats would probably not have pulled out the victory.

Player to watch

Senior cornerback Demetrius Dugar has to step up if the Cats have any chance of winning this game. He struggled mightily last game against Syracuse on the deep ball, suffering multiple penalties. Expect Rodgers to go after Dugar early and often to see if he can make any plays.

Stat you should now

Of Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib’s 470 passing yards last week, 323 came in the second half. The Cats racked up 332 total yards in the entire game.

Prediction

Two teams are heading onto Ryan Field coming off two completely different games. NU lost a lead, then came back and won in the final seconds on the road while Vanderbilt had a late lead and lost to a ranked team at home. Jordan Rodgers looked pretty sharp against a stingy South Carolina defense, which indicates he could do well against a NU defense that gave up 596 total yards last game. I can’t see the Cats pulling this one out at home.

Vanderbilt 41

Northwestern 28

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