Football: For fourth straight game, Northwestern’s offense falters in the second half

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Football: For fourth straight game, Northwestern’s offense falters in the second half

Clayton Thorson attempts to throw a pass over Michigan's defensive line. Thorson and the Wildcats' offense produced another fruitless second half Saturday.

Clayton Thorson attempts to throw a pass over Michigan's defensive line. Thorson and the Wildcats' offense produced another fruitless second half Saturday.

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Clayton Thorson attempts to throw a pass over Michigan's defensive line. Thorson and the Wildcats' offense produced another fruitless second half Saturday.

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Clayton Thorson attempts to throw a pass over Michigan's defensive line. Thorson and the Wildcats' offense produced another fruitless second half Saturday.

Jonah Dylan, Managing Editor

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In two of Northwestern’s first three games, the Wildcats were shut out in the second half.

Then on Saturday, it happened again. The Cats (1-3, 1-1 Big Ten) jumped out to a 17-0 first half lead behind 105 yards of offense in the first quarter, then faltered once again after the break and fell 20-17 to No. 14 Michigan (4-1, 2-0).

“We had slant throws that were there (in the second half), that were on the spot and we get it and we drop it,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I really liked our plan, but I will give credit where credit’s due.”

NU once again put pressure on its defense with its lack of offense, and though the Cats responded relatively well, they couldn’t hold off Michigan’s offensive attack. NU was largely able to contain star Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, who finished with 196 yards and no touchdowns, but the Wolverines scored 20 unanswered points to escape Evanston with a win.

The trio of NU second-half failures early this season haven’t been for the same reason. Against Akron, turnovers plagued the Cats’ second half offense, which allowed the Zips to score two defensive touchdowns after the break.

Against Duke, NU actually moved the ball better in the second half than the first, but had three different second half drives end with a turnover on downs, including one that started at the 50-yard line.

Against Purdue and Michigan, the story was largely the same. NU gained 285 first-half yards to just 141 in the second half against the Boilermakers, a poor number that looks respectable to the 46 yards the Cats gained in the second half against the Wolverines.

NU has not trailed in the first quarter all season and on Saturday, NU couldn’t sustain any consistent drives after the opening period.

“When you’re in the middle of a football game, one big thing that you need to do is capture momentum, and obviously we’ve had a hard time doing that,” junior running back John Moten said. “I think that if we continue to stay together as a team, and keep drives going, whether that be in the run game or the passing game and protecting (senior quarterback) Clayton (Thorson), we will have more success.”

All told, NU has now scored 76 points in the first half this season, compared with just 13 in the second.

Thorson threw for 94 yards in the first quarter, including an electric 36 yard completion to freshman receiver J.J. Jefferson that was NU’s best offensive play of the game. But he finished with just 174 yards as protection broke down and the offense struggled in the second half for the fourth straight game.

“I’d like to have a few of those plays back and make some of those throws,” Thorson said. “But we gotta fight. We’re up 17-0 and gotta finish the job. And the past few weeks, that’s been the story. We’re up, and then second half, we don’t finish.”

Email: jonahdylan2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @thejonahdylan

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