Halftime Reaction: Northwestern 0, NIU 0

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

The bad news

The score tells you everything you need to know about this game: it’s been ugly.

Northwestern’s passing game has been especially hard to watch, marred by the same inaccurate throws and dropped balls that doomed the offense against Cal. Early in the second quarter, senior quarterback Trevor Siemian threw a perfect pass to a wide open Miles Shuler in the end zone, and the junior receiver simply dropped it.

Except that one throw, Siemian has been nothing to write home about. Many of his throws have been off the mark, including a severely underthrown streak to junior wideout Cameron Dickerson that resulted in an interception.

The running game, despite some flashes of success, has been of little assistance with the trio of senior Treyvon Green and freshmen Justin Jackson and Solomon Vault combining for just 80 yards on 21 carries.

The good news

The defense is finally playing well.

A stout run-stopping effort stymied the Northern Illinois offense, forcing three three-and-outs in the first half. On the one drive the Huskies did sustain, the Wildcats made a strong red zone stand and forced Northern Illinois to kick a field goal, which they missed.

The pass defense has mostly been NU’s vanilla four-man rush, but the Cats did dial up blitzes on a few key third downs.

Punting and punt returns, key weaknesses last week, also look much improved. Junior punter Chris Gradone had a booming 53-yard boot, and the coverage team almost downed two punts inside the 5-yard line.

More importantly, senior safety Ibraheim Campbell finally fielded a punt. It’s still curious that coach Pat Fitzgerald has one of his best players in such a risky role, but at least we now know that he’s qualified for it.

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