The Daily Northwestern

Statistical Highlights: Northwestern vs. Michigan State

John Paschall, Reporter

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Vitale’s historic game

Quick! Two Northwestern players have gone for more than 100 yards receiving this year. Who are they?

If you guessed freshman superback Dan Vitale and junior Kain Colter, pat yourself on the back.

Vitale was clearly sophomore Trevor Siemian’s favorite target Saturday, catching nine balls for 110 yards. He is the first freshman to gain more than 100 yards receiving in his first year on the field since redshirt freshman receiver Ross Lane did it in 2005 in the Sun Bowl, which also happened to be the late Randy Walker’s final game. Lane is also third on NU’s all-time receiving list.

Turnover happy

NU was out-gained in all major offensive categories in the game. So how did they win? Turnovers.

The Wildcats were an outstanding +4 in turnover differential. The last time they were +4 was 2009 against Purdue. The turnovers also came early on in drives as the average drive of those four turnovers lasted three plays.

False fatigue

Some people believe that NU is giving up leads late in the game because the defense is fatigued thanks to the offense stalling. Originally, I was one of those people, too. But after looking at the past two games, that’s not quite the case. In the loss against Michigan, NU actually ran 50 plays in the second half compared to Michigan, which ran 27 plays.

In the win against the Spartans, the Cats’ offense ran 34 plays in the second half versus 45 for Michigan State. The defense was supposed to be more fatigued in the Spartans’ game but that wasn’t the case as they pulled out the victory.

Quick hits:

  • In the Pat Fitzgerald era, NU has faced Illinois three times in the final game of the season and sports a 2-1 record against them.
  • Illinois is 0-7 so far against the Big Ten this year. If the Fighting Illini lose to NU, it will be the first time they’ve gone winless in the conference since 2005.

— John Paschall

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