Football: What to Watch For: Wildcats will need vigilance on both ends of the field ahead of Maryland matchup


Seeger Gray/Photo Editor

A Northwestern offensive lineman takes a knee with the ball against Wisconsin. The Wildcats will need to execute on the rush game against Maryland Saturday.

Skye Swann, Assistant Gameday Editor

After a blowout 42-7 loss to Wisconsin at the Homecoming game, Northwestern’s bye week was an opportunity for a lot of reflection in the locker room and on the field in preparation for the team’s battle against Maryland. 

The Wildcats looked out of character throughout the entire regulation against the Badgers, dropping three touchdowns in the first half uncontested. NU experienced issues on both sides of the field, getting stopped at its rush game and getting beat with the quick passes by Wisconsin’s offense. Starting quarterback Ryan Hilinski went to the bench after the first quarter, replaced by sophomore quarterback Brendan Sullivan after throwing a clear interception to a Badger defender. At the end of game, the Cats were only able to grab one touchdown, barely softening the blow.

Following the game, NU moved into a much-needed bye week. With the time off, the team replayed the film to see what went wrong against Wisconsin. As the Cats head into a tough faceoff in College Park, there will be minimal room for error on the field.

Back on the road after a low-scoring matchup versus Penn State, NU will look to end their losing streak and get a second win of the season Saturday. If the Cats can execute offensively and hold strong on the defensive line, there could be a potential upset in the making. 

  1. Maryland’s starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa might be out of commission Saturday

The Terrapins’ starting quarterback reaggravated his MCL injury against Indiana last weekend. With the junior on a gameday decision basis, this could potentially assist the Cats in getting a win over Maryland. The Terrapins are coming into the game fired up after a 38-33 win against the Hoosiers on the road. 

Tagovailoa has made his case as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, recording over 2,000 passing yards and 13 touchdowns during their breakout 2022 season. One of the Terrapins’ most lethal weapons, Tagovailoa will make life difficult for NU as the Cats try to slow him down. With most attention focused on his status, NU must remain vigilant on the rest of Maryland’s offensive attack. 

The Cats will have to keep Tagovailoa quiet if he does get time on the field Saturday. If NU’s matchup against Wisconsin says anything, it’s that the team must be proactive on the defensive end and push through their opponent’s barrier to halt their passing game.

Will this weekend be a battle of whether the Cats can keep Maryland stagnant offensively? Saturday will determine the answer.

  1. The Wildcats’ defensive miscues can’t be a factor in the Maryland game 

NU’s defensive unit struggled the entire game against Wisconsin, with miscues in the secondary and major gains on the ground. These mishaps can not happen on Saturday if the squad wants any chance of returning to Ryan Field with a win. 

Junior defensive back Garnett Hollis Jr. said the Cats are a young team, but they have to connect what they are putting on the practice field into gametime play. As Hollis Jr. is one of the fixtures of the NU secondary, he will play an essential role in keeping the Cats in the game and forcing Terrapin turnovers. 

The Cats must also do a better job of their third-down conversion game to stop their opponents from getting second chance opportunities. Wisconsin’s offense received too much time with the ball leading to the defense being tired and worn out. If NU wants to avoid this from happening Saturday, they must shut down any Maryland play that will give them another first and ten.

With the rest from the bye week, the Cats could have a promising performance Saturday, but it all depends on which team shows up on the field.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @sswann301