Northwestern’s 22-13 victory Saturday over Boston College makes the Wildcats 3-0 for the third time in the last five years.
This year’s 3-0 start is even more important due to the fact that the three victories all came against schools from BCS conferences (Big East, SEC, and ACC), and each school (Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Boston College), are frequent foes of Northwestern in annual recruiting battles.
While the game did not feature flashy performances in the passing game by either team as many predicted, it did showcase a disciplined Northwestern team that once again found a way to close out a close game in the fourth quarter.
Northwestern’s defense followed up last week’s gritty performance against Vanderbilt with an equally impressive encore this week against BC. Tyler Scott turned in another solid performance (three tackles including a seven-yard sack), as did Brian Arnfelt, who dominated the line of scrimmage all game while also turning in four tackles and a huge second-quarter forced fumble.
Chi Chi Ariguzo, who flashed signs of greatness last year before breaking his collarbone against Nebraska, has once again emerged as a linebacker to watch in the Big Ten as he contributed 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.
One player who stood out -- not necessarily in the stat column, but to anyone familiar with the importance of good safety play in the NU system -- was Ibraheim Campbell, who contributed two tackles and a pass break-up. Campbell struggled at times early last season in the pass game has put those days far in the rearview mirror. He has become a dominant player for Northwestern in the secondary and without question their leader in the defense's back half.
Since Campbell set foot on campus in Evanston three years ago, he has been praised for his exceptional athletic ability as well as his incredible work ethic, and it is great to see him capitalizing on these attributes with his play on the field.
This NU defense certainly still has work to do in order to prove they can consistently stop potent offenses, but back to back solid performances puts them on pace for good things to come as big ten season inches closer.
The Wildcats’ offense on the other hand, does not appear to have found its personality yet.
Once again NU turned in impressive performances in the ground game with Venric Mark’s 18 carries for 77 yards, and Mike Trumpy’s 16 carries for 107 yards and a TD, but is this the kind of offense that the Wildcats should expect once Big Ten play begins?
Northwestern’s weapons going into the season were thought to be at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. Although the running game has been a pleasant surprise the past two weeks, for Northwestern to have consistent success on offense, the passing game must find its rhythm.
With Kain Colter or Trevor Siemian at quarterback, and with the deepest and possibly most talented receiver group NU has ever had, it is reasonable to expect 28 points or more per game, and although these two groups have done enough to win so far, they will need to step up in the coming weeks as teams adjust to stop the running game.
This week’s FCS opponent, South Dakota, may be just what the doctor ordered to get a once confident passing game, back in the mind set that they can blow teams out with their big play ability, and finish drives with touchdowns, rather than field goals.
Jack DiNardo was a standout defensive tackle with Northwestern's winningest-ever senior class. He graduated with a degree in political science and is now pursuing a master's degree in liberal arts. Each Sunday following a Northwestern game, DiNardo will offer a column sharing his perspective.