Northwestern's offense is finally starting to show its talent
Take off your glasses, exhale on the lenses and wipe them off with your shirt.
Nope, it wasn’t just a pair of dirty specs, this really is the same Northwestern offense that couldn’t move the football early in the season. There’s been no change at quarterback, no massive offensive overall, and still, a team that scored just seven (SEVEN!) points against FCS foe Illinois State, just dropped half-a-hundred on Michigan State on the road.
Clayton Thorson threw for 281 yards and three TDs while completing 27-of-35 passes. Justin Jackson rushed for a career-high 188 yards and reached the end zone twice. Austin Carr hauled in 11 receptions for 130 yards and a pair of TDs, too.
What happened to that team that fumbled away opportunities and struggled to get first downs in the first month of the season?
In the past two outings, the Wildcats have scored 92 points and have racked up 852 total yards of offense. Thorson has thrown six TD strikes and Jackson has rushed for 359 yards with a 5.98 yards per carry average.
This hasn’t been what Northwestern offenses do. No, this was better. A lot better.
Northwestern improved to 3-3 (2-1 B1G) after the 54-40 win over Michigan State. It was the largest point total for the Wildcats since putting 59 on Indiana on Oct. 29, 2011. With the exception of Thorson’s pick-six early in the game, this was a flawless performance from a group that finished as the conference’s least productive team a year ago.
It looks like the cobwebs have been wiped away and the engine is running at a high pace. The Wildcats aren’t just a functional offense. The past two weeks they have been explosive.
Better late than never.
Northwestern proved it has some big-time threats on its roster. Carr – the conference’s receiving leader – was reliable on third-down plays today. Jackson demonstrated the ability to shimmy past defenders and make plays in the open field. Thorson proved he’s developed into a quality B1G quarterback and is living up to the hype of being a former four-star recruit.
Saturday wasn’t an abnormality for Pat Fitzgerald’s group. At least it shouldn’t be. Not with this roster.
So many times with Northwestern, it’s what you see is what you get. The same team you see in the season-opener is the same team that takes the field in November. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year. Not after the last two wins.
This is a team that’s improved dramatically over the past three weeks of the season. Sitting 2-1 in conference play, Northwestern is still a team that can still cause plenty of damage in the West.
Only now, Northwestern is developing into a team that can hurt teams on both sides of the ball, not just defensively.
Michigan State and Iowa have discovered that the hard way.