Halftime Reaction: Northwestern 14, Penn State 3

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

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This is the Northwestern team we all expected to see.

The offense has looked better than ever, letting senior quarterback Trevor Siemian air it out and reaping the rewards. Clever route combinations have taken advantage of soft Penn State zone coverage, allowing the Wildcats to finally rip off some big plays.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the Western Illinois game that the wide receiver unit hadn’t yet gelled, but that certainly hasn’t been the case today. The return from injury of senior Tony Jones, who had three catches for 31 yards in the first half, has been a big help.

NU’s short-yardage sets are finally having some success, too: Both touchdowns were scored by Siemian on quarterback sneaks.

Meanwhile, the defense has done an incredible job shutting down an offense led by a quarterback who is supposed to be one of the best in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg has been pedestrian at best, completing just 12 of 21 passes for 131 yards.

More importantly, the Cats have shown a willingness to blitz and managed to sack the normally elusive Hackenberg twice in the first half while only giving up one big play.

That play, a 51-yard pass, set up the Nittany Lions’ best scoring chance so far, but the game remained scoreless when the special teams unit came up with a field goal block.

Penn State would finally get on the board when Hackenberg showed signs of life and marched the offense down the field at the end of the first half.

So far, this has not been the same NU team that we saw in the first three games. We’ll see if they can keep it up for more than one half of football.

Email: robertpillote2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BobbyPillote
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