Rapid Reaction: Northwestern's defense shows promise, offense looks sluggish in loss to Stanford
Final Score: #25 Stanford 17 Northwestern 7
Brief Recap: Northwestern’s defense kept the Wildcats in the game the entire 60 minutes. However, the offense rarely got going. At one point, the Wildcats got into a second-and-goal situation, but senior quarterback T.J. Green — who came in to replace the Northwestern’s opening starter in sophomore Hunter Johnson — got hurt on the play and fumbled the ball away. The Johnson era at Northwestern didn’t start well, hence him being replaced in the second quarter. When he did come back in — due to injury — he didn’t fare well. The game tested Northwestern’s depth altogether as starting RB Isaiah Bowser left the contest in the third quarter with a knee injury.
Key Moment: When Green got hurt and fumbled. The play occurred in the first possession of the third quarter and Green had led the Wildcats down to Stanford’s five-yard-line. It was the best the team’s offense looked all afternoon. Unfortunately, due to the injury, Northwestern’s offense never looked the same.
Key Stat: As a team, Northwestern suffered four turnovers. Whenever a team turns the ball over four times, it’s difficult to win. There is credit to be given to the Wildcats’ defense, though. Northwestern forced two turnovers, but again, the offense couldn’t score enough points to win the game. Seven points will almost never be enough.
Key Player: There wasn’t one single player from either team that made an enormous impact, but Johnson — due to his struggles — gets the nod here. He finished his first start at Northwestern by completing 6-of-17 passes for 55 yards and 2 INT. Johnson may be the future in Evanston, but Week 1 at Stanford showed that he wasn’t ready to take down a team on the road that has a legitimate defense.
What it Means: Northwestern is 0-1. The Wildcats didn’t have national title aspirations in this game, so a tight loss to a good Stanford team on the road in Week 1 isn’t a reason to panic. Injuries to Green and Bowser won’t help and the real concern may be what is around the corner. After a game against UNLV in Week 3 — following a BYE in Week 2 — the Wildcats will face Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State and Iowa in five straight games. All of those could be against ranked opponents and if Johnson struggles like he did against Stanford, an ugly record may be on its way through the first half of the season.