Trevor Siemian

Torn ACL to QB Trevor Siemian puts Northwestern bowl hopes in jeopardy

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Northwestern is playing in-state rival Illinois for much more than state pride this week in the regular season finale in Evanston. The Wildcats and Illini are playing for the opportunity to go to a bowl game, with the winning team clinching bowl eligibility this season. The Wildcats will have to go for the win and bowl eligibility without starting quarterback Trevor Siemian. Siemian tore his ACL in a win against Purdue on Saturday, head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced Monday.

Siemian, a senior, completed 58.2 percent of his pass attempts for 2,214 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He was picked off 11 times by opposing defenses and was hardly a mobile threat, but he did add five rushing touchdowns and one touchdown reception this season. In his career, Siemian passed for 5,931 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Northwestern will likely go with junior Zack Oliver at quarterback in the season finale. Oliver filled in for Siemian on Saturday after the injury occurred on a fourth down QB sneak. Oliver has played in three games this season and has completed seven of 19 pass attempts for 146 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Matt Alviti has also appeared in three games this season, completing his only pass attempt of the year for a three-yard gain. He should be expected to be the new backup behind Oliver, used only in an emergency situation.

Week 11, Statistically Speaking

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A statistical snapshot of the week that was in college football…

-9 — Rushing yards for Northwestern in the one-point loss to Michigan.  Quarterback Trevor Siemian totaled minus-37 yards rushing, while the Wildcats’ leading rusher, Justin Jackson, had plus-35.

.844 — Overall career winning percentage (54-10, fifth season) for Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, the best for any ACC head coach with three or more seasons.  His winning percentage of .842 in ACC games is best of all-time, ahead of the legend he replaced at FSU, Bobby Bowden (.814).

1.3 — Interceptions for Louisville’s Gerod Holliman after a three-pick performance against Boston College.  Holliman now has 12 interceptions with two regular season games and a bowl game remaining; the all-time FBS record for interceptions in a season is 14 by Washington’s Al Worley in 1968.  Incidentally, there are only 17 FBS teams with more interceptions this season than Holliman.

2 — FBS players and who have accounted for more than 9,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing in a career, and both played at Nevada: Cody Fajardo (9,084 and 3,025, 2011-present) and Colin Kaepernick (10,098 and 4,112, 2007-10). Kaepernick’s 14,210 yard of total offense is No. 1 in FBS history, while Fajardo’s (12,109) is currently 16th.

2 — Rushing touchdowns allowed by Alabama’s defense this season, the fewest in the FBS.  Next lowest?  Utah’s allowed five.

2-7 — Record of teams the game after playing Navy this season.  That includes Notre Dame’s second loss of the season, a 55-31 decision to Arizona State this weekend.

Tevin Coleman
Tevin Coleman

3 — Weeks in a row a player from Rutgers’ opponent has been named as the Big Ten’s Player of the Week.  That streak temporarily came to an end this week as the Scarlet Knights are on a bye, although Indiana — and the nation’s second-leading rusher Tevin Coleman — await next week and could easily extend the streak to four straight.

4-3 — Touchdowns vs. incompletions for Hutson Mason in Georgia’s blowout win over Kentucky.

5 — FBS players who have ever totaled 200-plus yards rushing and 100-plus yards receiving in a single game: Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. Fresno State, Nov. 1, 2014 (281 rushing, 106 receiving); Donald Buckram, UTEP vs. Tulane, Nov. 7, 2009 (234, 109); Steve Slaton, West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh, Nov. 16, 2006 (215, 130); Emmett White, Utah St. vs. New Mexico St., Nov. 4, 2000 (322, 134); and Thomas Jones, Virginia vs. Buffalo, Nov. 13, 1999 (221, 110).

10.1 — Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett leads the FBS in passing touchdown percentage (26 TDs on 233 attempts; 11.1 percent).

11 — Games in a row Oregon’s Marcus Mariota has thrown two or more touchdown passes, the longest such streak for an FBS quarterback.

13.1Nick Chubb‘s yards per carry average as he ran for 170 yards on just 13 rushes in Georgia’s blowout win over Kentucky.

14 — 300-yard passing games for Baylor’s Bryce Petty, breaking the school record of 13 previously held by Heisman winner Robert Griffin III.

(more…)

Quarterback struggles doom No. 17 Wisconsin despite Gordon’s record day

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The phrase “if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any” has been around awhile, but whomever invented it was definitely speaking about the 2014 Wisconsin team.

The 17th-ranked Badgers found a way to lose at Northwestern, 20-14, on a day when Melvin Gordon set a personal best with 27 rushes for 259 yards and a touchdown because Wisconsin quarterbacks Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave threw three completed passes inside the Northwestern end zone, one to a guy wearing white and two to a guy in purple.

McEvoy started the game and completed 4-of-10 passes for 24 yards with an interception in the Wildcats’ end zone to Godwin Igwebuike. He was replaced late in the second quarter after taking a rough hit from a Northwestern defender.

Joel Stave replaced McEvoy and completed only 8-of-19 passes for 114 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Stave’s first pick came at his own 16, and one play later Miles Shuler raced in to push the Northwestern lead to 17-7. The Badgers were down 20-7 with 5:55 to play when Stave threw without a doubt the worst pick of the four, this time again to Igwebuike inside the Northwestern end zone. How bad was this interception? Igwebuike wasn’t even the only defender between Stave and his intended target. The fourth and final pick, again to Igwebuike, effectively ended any hope for a miracle at the Wisconsin 36-yard line with 18 seconds to play.

In all, Wisconsin quarterbacks completed 12-of-29 passes for 138 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions, while five Badgers rushers combined for 284 yards on 37 carries.

Trevor Siemian was just effective enough to win, hitting 15-of-29 passes for 182 yards with a touchdown, while Justin Jackson carried the water with 33 rushes for 162 yards.

The win by Northwestern completely throws the Big Ten West race into chaos. Northwestern is suddenly 3-2 after its 0-2 start, and in first place in the division at 2-0. Wisconsin drops to 3-2 (and certainly out of the Top 25) with two gut-ripping losses, and 0-1 inside the conference.

Depending on what happens at Spartan Stadium tonight, Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota could be in a tie for first place in the Big Ten West.

Unitas Award whittles watch list from 27 to 15

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With the first five weeks of the 2014 season in the books, one major college football award has downsized its original preseason watch list.

Wednesday, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award announced that it had trimmed its watch list down to 15 quarterbacks from the 27 that appeared on it in the preseason. Among those still included on the in-season list are 2013 semifinalists Sean Mannion of Oregon State and Marcus Mariota of Oregon.

Another semifinalist from last year, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly, was not included in the update. Kelly has been dealing with an injury that’s already knocked him out of one game and will sideline him for at least one more.

It’s at this point in the program where we compelled to remind you that the Unitas is given annually to the nation’s top senior (eligibility-wise or academically) at the quarterback position, so don’t freak out because (Player X) isn’t listed.

The Pac-12 continues to lead all conference with six players. The Big Ten and SEC, with two apiece, are the only other leagues with more than one.

Along with Kelly, here’s the remaining dozen quarterbacks no longer listed by the Unitas: Maryland’s C.J. Brown, Alabama’s Jacob Coker, Florida’s Jeff Driskel, Michigan’s Devin Gardner, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson, Prairie View A&M’s Jerry Lovelocke, Georgia’s Hutson Mason, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh and Kansas State’s Jake Waters.

Below is the 15-player strong Unitas Award watch list:

Anthony Boone, Duke
Shane Carden, East Carolina
Rakeem Cato, Marshall
Connor Cook, Michigan State
Cody Fajardo, Nevada
Connor Halliday, Washington State
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Brett Hundley, UCLA
Cody Kessler, USC
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Jake Rudock, Iowa
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

Penn State’s o-line woes finally crack in loss to Northwestern

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For four games Penn State (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) was able to get by with a shaky offensive line and a slow starting offense. That was not the case Saturday afternoon in front of a homecoming crowd over 100,000 strong. Northwestern (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) put together a defensive game plan that took advantage of Penn State’s offensive line concerns and held the Nittany Lions out of the end zone from start to finish. Northwestern evened its record with a 29-6 victory that was every bit as dominating as the score might indicate. And it could have been worse.

Penn State had just three third-down conversions out of 17 and the Nittany Lions were held to just one fourth-down conversion out of four. That lone fourth down conversion came in the first half from Penn State’s own 30-yard line, a true gamble. With quarterback Christian Hackenberg having another rough performance, Penn State’s offense was held to just 276 yards, including just 60 yards on the ground on 25 rushing attempts. Northwestern frustrated Hackenberg and held him to just 22 of 45 passing and returned his one interception for a touchdown. On Hackenberg’s next play from scrimmage after the pick-six, he was hit and lost a fumble.

Northwestern’s quarterback, Trevor Siemian, had a much more enjoyable afternoon with 258 yards accumulated with much better protection in front of him. Dan Vitale caused problems in Penn State’s secondary for much of the game, hauling in seven passes for 113 yards. The Wildcats even managed to play some inspired football after Matt Harris had to be taken off the field on a stretcher following a collision with Hackenberg. Harris was treated on the field for a good five minutes before being carted off the field. He was taken to a nearby hospital, but early reports seem to be as positive as can be given the extend of head and neck injuries. Here’s hoping the positive reports continue.

Penn State head coach James Franklin will have plenty to work on in the bye week with his staff and players. This particular game showcased a number of concerns about this Penn State team, but it seems many of the concerns can be addressed by getting something reliable out of the offensive line. Hackenberg has been off-balanced for much of the season and has rarely had good protection in front of him. Rutgers and Northwestern excelled in bringing a pass rush, and the running game has never been effective this season outside of last weekend’s game against UMass. The impact sanctions have had on recruiting the past couple of years is showing most at offensive line. How much can be corrected or fixed in a short period of time may not be enough for Penn State the rest of the way.

Penn State will play a night game at Michigan in two weeks after a bye to prepare. Northwestern will return home for their second Big Ten game next weekend against Wisconsin. The Wildcats will be facing a much more potent running attack when the Badgers come to town.