Rapid Reaction: Northwestern 29, Penn State 6

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

What went right:

A lot.

Northwestern got off to a great start in the first half, scoring 14 points in the game’s first 11 minutes.

Senior quarterback Trevor Siemian’s throws were crisp and accurate, and he spread the ball to a variety of targets during a big first quarter. For a few minutes, the offense looked exactly as the Wildcats dreamed it would, with a fast-paced spread attack that punished the Nittany Lions’ secondary.

Junior superback Dan Vitale finished with seven receptions for 113 yards.

From then on, NU’s success came mostly on the defensive end.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Anthony Walker recorded eight tackles and an interception return for a touchdown. The Cats repeatedly burst through the Penn State offensive line, sacking quarterback Christian Hackenberg four times and pressuring him throughout.

It was NU’s best defensive performance in recent memory and encouraging moving forward in Big Ten play.

What went wrong:

Siemian didn’t do much after the first quarter, finishing 21-of-37 for 258 yards and an interception, to go with his three short-yardage touchdown runs.

Special teams, especially the kicking game, was a concern. Sophomore kicker Jack Mitchell missed a field goal in the first quarter and two extra points later in the game.

What it means:

We can’t expect that kind of performance from the Cats every week, but a blowout win on the road over a solid conference opponent certainly bodes well for the rest of the conference schedule.

Entering Saturday, it was hard to figure where NU would find six wins and bowl eligibility. With this surprising victory, the Cats are not only substantially closer to that goal but have shown they’re capable of picking off some middle-class Big Ten teams.

All in all, it was a good day to be wearing purple.

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