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Coach Fitzgerald takes blame for Northwestern offense’s ineptitude

TreyvGreen

Treyvon Green

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Updated: October 22, 2013 11:47PM



A little more than two weeks ago, Northwestern sat undefeated, leading Ohio State 30-27 in the fourth quarter of a game that had conference-title implications.

Three consecutive losses later, the Wildcats made a solid but losing effort against the Buckeyes seem like an aberration.

Offense

The unit’s erratic play likely has to do with the absence of running back Venric Mark, but Northwestern wasn’t expected to have one of the conference’s best offenses because of one player.

The unit was inconsistent through four nonconference games and has lacked in execution the last two weeks.

Grade: C.

Defense

While still vulnerable to giving up the big plays that have plagued the Wildcats in recent years, the defense has proved to be one of the most adept in the country at forcing turnovers. Northwestern’s 13 interceptions are one shy of the national leader.

The Wildcats also have forced nine fumbles and recovered five.

Grade: B.

Special teams

Senior kicker Jeff Budzein has been among the country’s best, and true freshman Matt Harris has emerged as the Wildcats’ return man of the future, but the coverage teams have lacked consistency.

Grade: B-.

Coaching

After Northwestern saw a punt blocked in the first quarter of its loss to Ohio State, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald took the blame. When Northwestern had one of its worst offensive performances in his tenure and failed to score a touchdown in a 35-6 loss at Wisconsin, Fitzgerald took responsibility.

And in the wake of an upset loss to Minnesota in which Northwestern was again offensively inept, Fitzgerald first looked toward his staff.

So, simply, take his word for it.

Grade: C-.

Offensive MVP

With Mark injured, running back Treyvon Green has proved capable with 463 rushing yards and five touchdowns. In two of the three games he has seen double-digit carries, Green has eclipsed 100 yards rushing.

Defensive MVP

Safety Ibraheim Campbell has four interceptions and has been effective in run support.

Prediction

Preseason: 10-2; updated 7-5.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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