Ibraheim Campbell, safety
Campbell continued his midseason ascent Saturday, with 10 tackles. In every way a game-changer, Campbell laid some memorable hits on the Gophers– even knocking the ‘M' off Minnesota a ball carrier's helmet. I didn't know that was even possible. Jared Carpenter has been average as a starter. While he brings leadership and is a better option than Davion Fleming, the secondary needs Campbell as its glue. In the past two games, he has done just that.
David Nwabuisi, linebacker
‘Bus,' a co-captain, grabbed his first interception since Sept. 25, 2010 against Central Michigan. Fellow linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo said the team is especially motivated by its senior. No doubt the physical Nwabuisi is among them. After something of a dud at Penn State, the NU linebackers rebounded and still rank among the top corps in the Big Ten.
Venric Mark, running back
Wait. He just keeps getting better. Mark gained a career-high 182 yards, 160 of which came in the first half. He continues to make big plays while keeping the football secure. Mark did most of his work on the outside in the first two weeks, and improved enough to be a force between the tackles. What a player.
Tyler Scott, defensive end
Scott entered the game having been one of the strongest, most consistent defensive players on the team. He added to that with an excellent eight-tackle performance, which included two sacks and a forced fumble. So far: All-Big Ten. Little question about it.
The forward pass (to the turf)
Northwestern threw for 67 yards. Is that some sort of sick joke? Two of its best receivers never caught a pass. McCall and Fitzgerald continue to step on the team's momentum with a bizarrely conservative game plan. Both quarterbacks have proven they can make throws. And even after a four-yard outing, it's hard to blame Siemian considering he has no opportunity to gain rhythm. After the Penn State game, Fitzgerald said it would be tough to win in the Big Ten throwing for only 135 yards. Today, they threw for less than half of that. No words.
The helmet rule
This is the worst. So if a player's helmet comes off during a play, he has to sit out the next play. I understand the safety concerns in football – as any sane person would – but every time I see the helmet rule in effect, it bugs me tremendously. Today and against Syracuse, Kain Colter's helmet was jarred loose, which forced Trevor Siemian to enter the game. I don't understand its application. It seems stupid and actually has an effect. By the way, equipment was flying everywhere against Minnesota.
Demetrius Fields, wide receiver
Not long ago, Fields seemed poised for a breakout season. He caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian at Syracuse, then put forth a workmanlike nine-catch performance against Boston College two weeks later. Recently, Fields has been quiet. When Colter reemerged as a receiving threat in the Indiana contest, it came at the expense of Fields, who failed to catch a pass for the first time since Oct. 8, 2011 against Michigan. Add the fact that Rashad Lawrence has improved of late, eating up targets in the short passing game. Fields is a talented pass catcher. The consistency has just never been there.