We talked in our Season Preview about how our edge rushers more than likely were the strength of our defense and going to be needed to help us in Ireland.
At minimum they were second best on our defense as a unit behind ILB. For us to have a good game, those guys were going to have to have a good game getting to the Northwestern starting QB (turned out to be Hilinski), but more than that they were going to have to help stop the run.
Frost and Chinander had Garrett Nelson and Caleb Tannor coming back, but they also brought in Ochaun Mathis from TCU to help bolster our pass rush which was desperately needed. I was told by some Mathis was a sure-fire NFL prospect and when I met that with some resistance, it didn’t go well. But the bottom line is that none of our 3 top guys showed out Saturday vs Northwestern. However, it wasn’t all their fault. Let’s go into it.
Let’s talk about some of the things that we spoke about in the preview above. Northwestern knew that our interior DL was weak, so all they needed to do was neutralize our edge and things were fine. When it came to passing downs, Northwestern did something early that made a ton of sense. They used their RBs to chip on our edge guys. Take a look:
Even though Northwestern had an All-American tackle, they figured out in the first quarter that if the RBs helped chip on those edge rushers and made it 4 on 2 in favor of the Wildcats, it meant that our interior guys like Robinson and Feist would have to be who won battles to get pressure. As you can see from that video and the stats, it rarely happened. Our interior DL had no luck getting anywhere all game, many times being pushed back. Go deeper into that video than the RB chips, but Northwestern initially only sent 3 players into routes while Nebraska dropped 7 and still completed the pass. If we couldn’t get pressure with our interior, and they could complete passes with only 3 guys out, it was going to be a long day. That neutralized us in a hurry.
After getting the best of us that way, Fitzgerald and his OC found ways to get their experienced TEs we referenced in the preview into the mix. While putting 2 TEs in the game, it made it so our Edge players were wider, and at minimum couldn’t instantly rush against a tackle. In this next play, you see 2 TEs. One makes our bottom Edge widen out creating more time for the QB and have no shot against the tackle coming his way and the rollout going opposite, and the second comes across the LOS making our top Edge think he may need to help in run support.
Watch Nelson up top on this play, the TE coming at him stopped him in his tracks rushing the QB and gave Hilinski plenty of time to find that open TE down the sideline.
While we absolutely need more pressure and the Edge guys aren’t without blame, it was a pretty good gameplan to stop what our stregnth was. But Northwestern and Fitzgerald did a great job neutralizing the position group that could change the course of the game for us and create momentum. Northwesterns tackles and TEs were better than anything our defense saw all spring and fall camp, and it was illustrated by things like these videos.
Tune in tomorrow to go over the Northwestern recap.
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7 thoughts on “Northwestern Recap 2022: Edge Play”
that pretty much sums it up. Like you said in the preview, there was a reason Northwestern had won the West a few times recently under Fitzgerald..the man can coach..they executed a great gameplan and in short order wore us down…
Have plenty of thoughts/questions regarding this game, will wait until your full write-up to see if they are mentioned there first.
One line here stuck out to me: “Fitzgerald and his OC found ways to….”. I feel like other coaches and programs have always ‘found ways to’ over the last 5 years against us, especially to beat us in games that we shouldn’t have lost based on talent alone; we rarely if ever do the same. ‘Finding ways to’ basically equates to making adjustments in my book, which is a coach’s job, one that I feel like we have been awful at since Pelini’s days (not trying to start a new thread discussing Pelini, just feel like both he, Riley, and Frost have been awful at adjustments).
I hope we hit reset after the Indiana game so he doesn’t have time to go on a streak against weak Big10 teams to give a reason to keep him around another year.
I honestly didn’t really fathom us losing this game this year, should’ve known better.
I’m with you. My Iowa buddy texted “did you guys make a single adjustment at halftime?” which seems to be a recurring theme. Fitzgerald and his staff seemed to do that. And i’m not sure they changed much up, they just leaned on what was working and where we were starting to show some weakness.
If you have time when you’re doing your full review, whether then or here or whenever, I’m curious to know what you think about the play with 11:50 left to go in the 4th quarter. I remember that play specifically, noticeably seeing our DLine getting pushed back and thinking WTH? Specifically Ty Robinson, looked like he was just gassed or had given up.
I’ve heard a bunch of things about our line play that game, from talent/ we didn’t substitute/ technique, pad level/ strength & conditioning/ fatigue, etc. Probably a mix of those are true.
I know we have had conversations here about our thoughts on strength & conditioning and I was thinking how our lines our big/bulky, but they’re probably not equipped to go 4 quarters.
Was interested in another breakdown of how we looked that awful on that play.
Bro… that one is in my write-up! Already have the cut up for it.
Did Chin’s make any adjustments to what NW was doing? To my untrained eye, it did not look like they changed many things.
I saw us start doing some “replace” twists/stunts with our ILBs but for the most part no. And even the replace stuff we were doing doesn’t matter if our front DL is getting blown to shreds.