Statistical Highlights: Northwestern vs. Penn State

John Paschall, Reporter

Here’s a look into some of the stats that might have been telling in Northwestern’s first loss of the season at Penn State.

King McGloin

Might as well crown him now after another solid performance against the Wildcats. The senior quarterback, who has never thrown an INT against NU, methodically took apart the secondary filling up the stat line going 35-of-51 (68.6 percent) for 282 yards and two touchdowns. But this isn’t anything new for Matt McGloin. In his other two starts against the ‘Cats, he’s posted these stat lines:

2011: 17-26 (65.3 percent) for 192 yards and 2 TDs

2010: 18-29 (62.1 percent) for 225 yards and 4 TDs

And here are McGloin’s game averages against NU compared to everyone else:

Vs. Not NU: 14-25 (55.1 percent) for 178 yards and 1 TD

Vs. NU: 23-35 (66 percent) for 233 yards and 2 TDs (technically 2.67 TDs)

Truth about our schedule

There seems to be this thought going around that NU has played a tough schedule so far. Let’s put that idea to bed. The best team the Cats have played, strictly by winning percentage is Penn St. (4-2 .667), who just beat NU. After that, it’s a drop off. No other team NU has played has a winning record. The Cats’ opponents have a weak combined .387 winning percentage. To make matters worse, when I subtracted wins against FCS teams, the number dropped to a woeful .24 winning percentage. For those who aren’t following South Dakota football, they’re 1-4. So was the 5-0 start impressive? Not as much as people think.

Second-half surprise

For those, like myself, who thought the Cats were a much different team in the second half, that’s not quite true. NU has scored just as many points as its opponents in the second half so far this year (99-99).  And before the second-half offensive outburst by PSU, the Wildcats outscored their opponents 85-70.

Playful Penn State

The Nittany Lions dominated the number of plays (99-61) and time of possession (39 minutes and 17 seconds to 20 minutes and 43 seconds). But here’s a closer look at what that really meant. PSU averaged 8.25 plays per drive with an average time of around 3 minutes and 15 seconds. NU’s numbers are much less impressive, averaging 5.1 plays per drive with an average time of around 1 minute and 45 seconds.

Third and long

The Cats found themselves in difficult spots early and often on offense, and it had to do with first and second down. Because of its struggles getting yards on the first two downs, NU’s offense was put in a difficult position on third down. Of the 13 third downs NU faced, they faced an average distance of 5.7 yards to gain. That’s a lot of yardage to pick up for any team no matter how explosive the offense is.

Other notes

  • The Cats have not won a game as a ranked team since 2001. There’s something about NU and long streaks…
  • The Cats’ offense went three-and-out seven times on Saturday. In its previous five games, NU had gone three-and out only 10 times combined.
  • The defense gave up a total of 443 yards but the biggest offensive play PSU registered was only 19 yards.