Football: Northwestern collapses against Wisconsin 35-6


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior quarterback Trevor Siemian attempts a pass during Northwestern’s 35-6 defeat against Wisconsin on Saturday. NU quarterbacks were sacked seven times in the loss, while Siemian struggled with accuracy, completing only 13 of his 34 passes.

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

MADISON, Wis. — It could hardly have been worse.

No. 19 Northwestern (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) failed in almost every facet Saturday, falling to Wisconsin (4-2, 2-1) 35-6 at Camp Randall Stadium, an embarrassing display for a second consecutive loss.

“You kind of feel like you’re putting your fingers in different holes in the dam,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said afterward. “I hope it gives our guys a punch right in the face.”

The Wildcats’ offense was stunted all day. After a field goal on their second drive, the Cats launched an extended stretch of superlative ineffectiveness. Over the next seven drives, NU gained only 52 total yards and two first downs, punting at the end of each sequence.

“It just looked like we didn’t execute very well,” Fitzgerald said of the team’s offensive performance. “It looked like a bunch of one-man breakdowns. It looked like we missed some shots. It looked like we had some protection (problems), one guy breaking down. We dropped some balls. It looked like kind of a comedy of errors there.”

Meanwhile, the Badgers’ offense flattened the Cats before halftime.

NU held Wisconsin in check for much of the first quarter, but the Badgers scored three touchdowns in 16 minutes of gametime, accruing points through characteristic plays from big names.

Jared Abbrederis grabbed a 63-yard touchdown catch, James White busted through the middle for a 1-yard score, and Melvin Gordon dashed 71 yards to the end zone on an end-around.

By the end of the game, the Badgers had amassed 527 total yards, 286 on the ground.

“Wisconsin is a powerhouse run team,” senior linebacker Damien Proby said. “They had a very well-coached and executed plan for our defense. … We know we can play better across the board. On defense we know we can play a lot better than we showed today.”

The Cats ended the half on a 43-yard field goal but entered the break down 21-6.

Wisconsin scored another touchdown on its first possession of the second half, and NU punted three more times after gaining just 17 yards. The Badgers tacked on another touchdown and NU another punt, and Wisconsin finished with a resounding 35-6 victory.

Adding injury to insult, Cats senior running back Venric Mark hurt his ankle and didn’t return, and senior quarterback Kain Colter appeared sparingly after leaving with an ankle injury of his own in the first half. Fitzgerald said Colter’s health is not a long-term concern and that the team will wait and see how Mark heals.

Positive takeaways were scarce in the game’s aftermath.

Special teams produced short punts and ceded long kick returns. Offensive linemen watched defenders run through them for sacks and hurries. Backs were stuffed at the line, and receivers dropped balls right at their hands. Defensive linemen couldn’t catch ball handlers, and linebackers couldn’t tackle them.

Junior Trevor Siemian, who played quarterback throughout the second half, completed 13 of 34 passes, as many incompletions attributable to errant throws as to dropped passes.

The loss leaves NU at 0-2 in conference play entering its home game with Minnesota (4-2, 0-2) next weekend, making a 6-0 finish almost necessary if the team hopes to win the Legends division.

“We’ve had the mindset from the get-go it’s one game at a time,’” Siemian said. “Yeah, we’ve dug ourselves a nice little hole here, but we’ve got to get ready for Minnesota.”

There’s much progress to be made. From seven sacks to 11 punts to 44 rushing yards, Saturday was a disaster.

Silver linings?

“Today?” Fitzgerald said. “As long as we get home safe, that’ll be a silver lining.”

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Twitter: @AlexPutt02