Northwestern forced three turnovers — the third turnover came on the second-to-last play of the game — against Minnesota on Saturday and took little time to capitalize. It took NU only three plays combined to score touchdowns following the first two turnovers. Throughout this season, the Wildcats have done a tremendous job of converting turnovers into points. The Cats have caused about 1.5 turnovers per game. The offense has scored points on the following drive 72.7 percent of the time, with touchdowns on 54.5 percent of these occasions. Not only are the Cats scoring off turnovers, but they are doing so quickly, averaging only 6.4 plays until they score points. Exactly 22 percent of the points the offense has scored this season directly followed turnovers.
Possession not a factor
Coming into the game, Minnesota had won every time-of-possession battle so far this year by an average of six minutes and 17 seconds. Nothing changed after this weekend’s game, as the Golden Gophers topped that average by winning the battle by seven minutes and 54 seconds. NU proved for the second time this year that it doesn’t need to win that time of possession battle in order to win the game.
Third and struggle
Third down hasn’t exactly been the Cats’ best friend over the past few weeks. Since the Indiana game, the Cats are converting 27 percent of third downs as opposed to a strong 53 percent in their first four games. With big games coming up against Nebraska and Iowa, third-down success will be critical.
This is the fastest NU has been bowl eligible since 2008. It’s the first time since last year’s Penn State game that NU has been shut out in the second half. It’s also the first time since 2008 that NU has been shut out in the second half and won (when the Cats defeated Ohio).
— John Paschall