Rapid Reaction: Michigan 27, Northwestern 19 in triple overtime

John Paschall, Assistant Gameday Editor

What went right:

The defenders had another gutsy performance on Saturday against Michigan. They’ve been playing very well as a unit ever since Northwestern’s loss to Wisconsin. The group did an outstanding job of containing dual-threat quarterback Devin Gardner, who was wildly inaccurate throughout the game. The one thing the defense needs to improve is catching, because a handful of players dropped potential pick-sixes.

Junior quarterback Trevor Siemian stepped up and had a solid game for an offense that had no rhythm. After struggling mightily for the past four games, he looked much more composed in the pocket and made some nice throws to his receivers. It should be a big confidence boost for Siemian heading into the final two games of the year.

What went wrong:

Senior Brandon Williams’ eight-yard punt.

It looked like neither offense really wanted to win the game. Both teams were not able to capitalize on any momentum sustained during a drive. There were some very questionable play calls on third downs that stalled drives. Senior quarterback Kain Colter had a few nice runs, but it became fairly obvious he was the Cats’ best and only real playmaker on the day.

For a team that’s trying to scratch and claw its way to a bowl game, the Cats looked more like they were attempting not to lose instead of playing to win. NU found itself in multiple fourth and manageable situations but elected to punt instead of trying to extend drives. It worked out in the end, but NU can’t give good teams that many chances.

What it means:

How many ways can a heart break? NU has had its soul crushed in consecutive weeks by plays that will be on highlight reels for decades. The Cats now are a near lock not to make a bowl game, considering their remaining schedule. The offense still has major problems, and while injuries are partially the reason, the play calling has been suspect over the past month. And it won’t get easier when Michigan State’s lockdown defense comes to Evanston next week.

— John Paschall