Rapid Reaction: Michigan 10, Northwestern 9

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

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What went right

Ibraheim Campbell returned to the lineup and had a big interception return.

The senior safety highlighted a defense that actually had a good game, holding Michigan to 10 points, only giving up 251 yards of offense and forcing two turnovers. But the stop unit once again had little help from the offense and was forced to defend short fields all game.

What went wrong

This game was somehow worse than last week’s blowout loss to Iowa.

Highlights included a botched punt, a muffed punt return, a Northwestern drive that started at the Wolverine 15-yard line and resulted in the Wildcats punting to the Michigan 20-yard line, and a baffling decision to kick a field goal from the four-yard line after a 95-yard drive in the fourth quarter, the offense’s best of the day.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Alviti debuted in an option package in the first half but completely disappeared in the second half, ending the day with three carries for minus-two yards. He was meant to be NU’s secret weapon, but fans have to wonder why he was even prepared for this game at all.

Alviti did not replace Trevor Siemian, who continued his reign of mediocrity with an unimpressive 31-48, 268 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions performance. The senior quarterback once again struggled with his pocket presence and was sacked five times.

The running game also completely collapsed, with star freshman back Justin Jackson managing just 35 yards on 17 carries. Neither Alviti nor a couple of new formation wrinkles was able to spark anything on the ground.

What it means

Mick McCall may have lost his job.

The offensive coordinator did make adjustments and finally orchestrated some sustained production in the fourth quarter, but his reluctance to make significant and lasting changes in scheme and at quarterback have been fatal for the offense.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald also once again displayed a lack of even basic game management ability. After its longest drive of the day NU had a chance to tie the game on a third and goal play, but Fitz (and McCall) elected to throw well short of the end zone and then kick a field goal on the next play, defying all football logic.

He redeemed himself at the end of the game after the Cats drove for an improbable touchdown, but in typical NU fashion Siemian took the snap and promptly fell down in the backfield to lose the game.

The Cats are now a long shot to make a bowl game. Barring extreme scenarios, the team will need to win each of its final three games, a dubious proposition given the performances NU has turned in the past two weeks.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated a word due to an editing error. It was updated 6:30 p.m. Saturday

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

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