Rapid Recap: Miami (Ohio) 17, Northwestern 14


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski sets up for a play. Hilinski finished with 242 yards, but did not pass for a touchdown in NU’s third straight loss.

Northwestern continues to fail to bring the Ireland magic back to the mainland. 

Not even a lively, full student section nor the excitement of a prime time matchup could recreate the luck of the Irish. The Wildcats (1-3, 1-0 Big Ten) are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak – all in games they were significantly favored in. 

Entering as a one-score favorite against Miami (Ohio), NU, yet again, couldn’t make it happen in a 17-14 loss. The Redhawks (2-2, 0-0 MAC) scored the final 10 points, including the go-ahead 36-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.

Here are five takeaways from a matchup featuring its fair share of miscues, penalties, incomplete passes and more. 


1. Cam Mitchell & Coco Azema return on defense

Defensive injuries headlined NU’s matchups against Duke and Southern Illinois. When junior safety Coco Azema and junior defensive back Cam Mitchell returned to the field on Saturday, they weren’t quiet about it.

Azema made an instant impact, recording a tackle on the second drive of the game. By the end of the first half, he racked up three total tackles – good for second on the team. Mitchell stood out as well, recording three tackles and one sack during the contest. 

Senior defensive back A.J. Hampton Jr. remains the missing piece on the secondary, having yet to return from an injury sustained in the season opener against Nebraska. But Azema and Mitchell’s return was enough to ease some of the Cats’ defensive woes after two weeks of struggles. The RedHawks, starting backup quarterback Aveon Smith, managed just 57 passing yards and completed seven passes.

2. The offense looks to Hilinski and the passing game, and they don’t deliver

It was a slow start for NU on the ground. In the first half, junior running back Evan Hull rushed for just 13 yards and junior running back Cam Porter tallied 13 yards. With little happening on the ground, the Cats turned the air.

This is where junior quarterback Ryan Hilinski came in. After tallying 239 passing yards against Southern Illinois, Hilinski recorded 232 passing yards while going 26 for 44. He wasn’t perfect, occasionally throwing into traffic and notching plenty of incomplete passes. But passing errors were more often the receivers’ fault than Hilinski’s, as balls slipped out of their hands. 

3. Special teams stand out 

Love lots of punting? Saturday’s contest was perfect for you. NU and Miami each punted seven times, but one took center stage. The Cats attempted a punt with a minute and a half left in the second quarter, but the RedHawks batted it, then recovered and returned the ball to the Northwestern eight-yard line. Less than a minute later, Miami took advantage and evened the score to 7-7.

The RedHawks’ special teams didn’t seem to have much luck, either. One of their field goal attempts was deflected in the third quarter. Another attempt was blocked by NU defensive lineman Sean McLaughlin toward the end of the third quarter, which defensive back Theran Johnson returned. Not much came out of it, as the Cats had a 3-and-out on the following set of downs. Between the blocked kick and the numerous punts, special teams certainly had their moment Saturday. 

4. Penalties, penalties, penalties

Saturday’s game could be described in plenty of ways. Clean wasn’t one of them. Both programs racked up impactful penalties. At one point in the second quarter, the RedHawks were at 1st-and-29 after racking up 10- and 15-yard penalties back to back. NU wasn’t much better, totaling six penalties and tallying unusual offenses like a horse collar tackle and a chop block.  

Penalties and turnovers have been make or break for the Cats so far this season, especially in upset losses against Duke and Southern Illinois. Saturday was no different. A clean game is going to be necessary if NU has any hope of hanging on against Big Ten foes later in the fall. 

5. The road only gets tougher as Cats prepare for Penn State

The Cats couldn’t even hang on against a backup quarterback out of Miami (OH). Next up is No. 14 Penn State, and after that is Wisconsin. Things will not get easier from here.

Over the past few weeks, the Cats have looked messy and frazzled. Every week after losses, coach Pat Fitzgerald has stepped up to the podium and said there will be change and improvement. Let’s see what happens as NU readies for Penn State next week.

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