Wildcats in legitimate nosedive

Northwestern 2013 resembles Iowa 2010, but still time to fix it

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The 2013 Northwestern Wildcats are kind of doing a 2010 Iowa Hawkeyes.

Iowa came off an 11-2 2009 that saw it win the Orange Bowl and finish No. 8 in the country. All of the prime players returned for 2010. The Hawkeyes started the Big Ten season 2-0 and then, ranked No. 12 in the nation, lost a faceoff to then-No. 19 Wisconsin at Kinnick Stadium.

The team seemed to have the air go out of it and finished the season 3-3 and fell out of the rankings the week of Nov. 27 following a stinging 27-24 loss at rudderless (interim coach) Minnesota. (Iowa hasn't been back in the rankings since, by the way.)

Coming off its first bowl victory since 1949 -- a victory over Mississippi State in the Gator -- Northwestern started this season No. 22 in the preseason USA Today coaches poll and went as high as No. 16 after starting the season 4-0, including wins over BCS schools (not "power," but BCS schools) California and Syracuse.

The Wildcats faced a showdown with Ohio State at Ryan Field on Oct. 12 and fell 40-30. Going into their game against the Hawkeyes (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) this weekend at Kinnick Stadium, the Cats (4-3, 0-3) have lost their first three conference games of the season.

Maybe last week's 20-17 loss at Ryan Field to Minnesota was the bottom. Maybe it wasn't.

"Obviously, seven games into the season now, to see the way we're making mistakes, we've got to look first at the scheme and make sure we're asking our guys to do the things they can do so they can go out and execute cleaner and do the things winners do," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said Monday. "That's not what we're doing right now."

The big news for the Cats on Monday and beyond was the status of its two top offensive performers -- quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark.

Mark, who finished fifth in the league in rushing last season with 1,366 yards and 12 TDs, is out this week. He's been dealing with a leg injury, either ankle or another lower leg injury.

Fitzgerald didn't specify on the severity of the injury, but did declare Mark "out" for Saturday.

Colter, who missed Minnesota with a sprained ankle, is in. The senior is listed No. 1 on the depth chart despite Fitzgerald referring to his status as "day-to-day."

Fitzgerald pointed to turnovers against the Gophers. Quarterback Trevor Siemian threw two interceptions and fumbled out of a sack.

Of course, you remember the rushing performance the Wildcats put on Iowa last year at Ryan Field. NU went for 349 yards on 49 attempts, a 7.1-yard-per-carry average. It was the most rushing yards given up by the Hawkeyes since Indiana ran for 433 yards in 2000.

Colter killed Iowa with his feet last season, rushing for a career-high 166 yards and three TDs. Siemian is more of a pro-style quarterback. He rushed once against the Gophers.

Asked after the game if he considered taking Siemian out of the game, Fitzgerald simply said "No."

On the loss of Colter, "He's a dynamic playmaker and not to have that weapon hurts. But you're right. No excuses. Guys have to pick up the flag and make the plays that winners make and we just can't turn the ball over like that and expect to win a lot of football games. The football gods upstairs aren't going to let you do that. It's disappointing."

The 2013 Wildcats aren't the 2010 Hawkeyes. Not yet. Iowa went into the final three weeks with seven wins and went into a nosedive it couldn't pull out of.

Northwestern goes into its final five games with a legit nosedive to pull out of.

"Well I'd say if we were playing great and losing, that'd be tough. It's not like we're playing great," Fitzgerald said. "So, there's a lot of room for improvement and that's what we need to embrace. We need to embrace coming back next week and getting better at the things that winners do, first and foremost, taking care of the football.

"Number two, when you're supposed to be in a gap, be in the gap and do your job. And that's everybody. That's coaches, that's the staff, it's the players, it's everybody and we just need to stick together. And that's what I fully expect these guys to do, they'll stick together, they'll come back next week and have a tough road test.

"These guys are winners. They've won a lot of games. There's no confidence that's down in that room. It's just a lot of disappointment of not doing a good enough job as a program to win. So, what do you do? You get off the mat and you keep swinging. That's what you do."

Schedule 2013
DateOpponentResult / Time
8/31at California44 - 30
9/7vs. Syracuse48 - 27
9/14vs. Western Michigan38 - 17
9/21vs. Maine35 - 21
10/5vs. 4 Ohio State30 - 40
10/12at Wisconsin6 - 35
10/19vs. Minnesota17 - 20
10/26at Iowa12:00 ET
11/2at 25 Nebraska3:30 ET
11/16vs. 24 MichiganTBA
11/23vs. Michigan StateTBA
11/30at IllinoisTBA

Passing Yards:T. Siemian1313
Passing TDs:T. Siemian7
Rushing Yards:T. Green463
Rushing TDs:T. Green5
Receiving Yards:T. Jones488
Receiving TDs:T. Jones4
Interceptions:I. Campbell4

Offense (FBS Rank)
Yards:2939 (46)
Passing Yards:1709 (46)
Rushing Yards:1230 (52)
Points per game:31.1 (49)
Yards per game:419.9 (57)
Touchdowns:22 (60)
Field Goals:12 (8)

Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards:2984 (87)
Passing Yards:1802 (96)
Rushing Yards:1182 (73)
Points per game:27.1 (63)
Yards per game:426.3 (81)
Touchdowns:21 (58)
Field Goals:8 (68)

Schedule 2013
DateOpponentResult / Time
8/31vs. Northern Illinois27 - 30
9/7vs. Missouri State28 - 14
9/14at Iowa State27 - 21
9/21vs. Western Michigan59 - 3
9/28at Minnesota23 - 7
10/5vs. Michigan State14 - 26
10/19at 4 Ohio State24 - 34
10/26vs. Northwestern11:00 CT
11/2vs. 22 Wisconsin11:00 CT
11/9at PurdueTBA
11/23vs. 24 MichiganTBA
11/29at 25 Nebraska11:00 CT

Passing Yards:J. Rudock1447
Passing TDs:J. Rudock11
Rushing Yards:M. Weisman676
Rushing TDs:J. Rudock5
Receiving Yards:D. Powell241
Receiving TDs:C. Fiedorowicz3
Interceptions:B. Lowery3

Offense (FBS Rank)
Yards:2876 (52)
Passing Yards:1501 (69)
Rushing Yards:1375 (34)
Points per game:28.9 (66)
Yards per game:410.9 (64)
Touchdowns:20 (73)
Field Goals:9 (32)

Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards:2235 (17)
Passing Yards:1431 (37)
Rushing Yards:804 (16)
Points per game:19.3 (17)
Yards per game:319.3 (10)
Touchdowns:14 (14)
Field Goals:10 (92)

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