Rapid Recap: No. 4 Penn State 31, Northwestern 7


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Godwin Igwebuike misses a tackle on Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Igwebuike, a senior safety, was ejected for a targeting penalty in the second half of Northwestern’s loss to No. 4 Penn State.

Cole Paxton, Copy Chief


Northwestern didn’t exactly put on a Homecoming show.

The Wildcats (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) never found their rhythm offensively Saturday, allowing No. 4 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) to roll to a 31-7 win in Evanston. The Nittany Lions methodically built up their advantage, extending a 10-0 halftime lead to a 24-0 margin after three quarters and easing home in the fourth.

A flurry of miscues offensively squandered a strong early showing by NU’s defense, and only a late Matt Alviti touchdown run kept the Cats from their first home shutout since 1999. The loss dropped them down the Big Ten standings with a tricky test at Maryland awaiting next Saturday.


1. NU’s offense was putrid. The Cats had a few early chances to announce their intentions for a stunner — but then they simply couldn’t score. Four times in the first half, NU had first down inside the Nittany Lions’ 45-yard-line, and each time the Cats failed to put points on the board. Particularly tough was a first-and-goal sequence on NU’s first offensive possession in which the Cats put together a holding penalty, sack and Thorson interception. The offense’s struggles in the second half, when NU notched just 99 total yards, made those missed chances even more painful.

2. The Cats had a solid gameplan for Saquon Barkley, but it didn’t matter. Pregame chatter surrounded what NU’s run defense would do against the Heisman frontrunner, who entered the game with a conference-leading 574 rushing yards. The Cats muddled the line of scrimmage, keeping a laser-focus on Barkley. It generally worked: He had minus-1 yard in the first half and broke free just once, for a 53-yard score in the third quarter. But quarterback Trace McSorley kept the ball moving for Penn State with an efficient 245 yards through the air, and NU’s woeful offense made that more than enough.

3. The Cats have work to do, and not much time to do it. A trying third quarter last weekend against Wisconsin left coach Pat Fitzgerald fuming, and Saturday’s languid effort exposed several weak spots for NU. A porous offensive line gave Thorson virtually no protection and led directly to two first-half turnovers. Jackson, healthier than in recent weeks, had just 66 yards on the ground and failed to break the program’s all-time rushing record. And both middle linebacker Paddy Fisher and safety Godwin Igwebuike were ejected for second-half targeting penalties and will miss the first half against the Terrapins as a result. The Cats’ schedule does ease, with no ranked teams left, but at 0-2 in the Big Ten, NU is running out of time to turn its season around.

-Cats offense: 5-of-19 on third down
-NU turnovers: 3
-Total yards: Penn State 381, Northwestern 265

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