This time, Northwestern held onto a halftime lead. The Wildcats simply couldn't be stopped on offense.
Northwestern didn't exactly slow down Indiana, but it didn't need its defense today in a 59-38 victory, its first in Big Ten play and its first since Sept. 10 against Eastern Illinois. The Wildcats piled up 616 yards (317 rush, 299 pass) and reached the end zone on eight of their first 10 possessions (they scored a field goal on another drive). A veteran offensive line imposed its will on a young Hoosiers defense and gave QB Dan Persa and his playmakers plenty of time to work their magic.
Persa had a terrific performance (16-for-20 passing, 261 yards, 3 TDs), but he was overshadowed by teammates Kain Colter and Drake Dunsmore. Colter continued to show why he's one of the Big Ten's top all-purpose players, recording 38 rush yards, 115 receiving yards and two touchdown passes on three attempts. Dunsmore, a tight end, recorded a career-high four touchdown catches and finished with 112 receiving yards on seven receptions.
Northwestern didn't punt the ball until 11:35 remained in the game.
The Wildcats needed all the offense as their defense continued to struggle mightily, missing tackles and playing out of position. Coach Pat Fitzgerald is trying everything personnel-wise, but Northwestern can't prevent big plays or get off of the field. There's a lot to work on before next week's game at Nebraska. Northwestern allowed 488 yards.
Indiana can't expect to win games if its defense plays so poorly, although the Hoosiers had some chances in the second half. Penalties continued to plague Kevin Wilson's squad, which was flagged nine times for 148 yards and helped one Northwestern touchdown drive stay alive with a pass interference penalty on third down. Indiana is playing a ton of freshmen, but it must start displaying better discipline.
At least the Hoosiers have found their offensive backfield in QB Tre Roberson and RB Stephen Houston. The two combined for 272 rush yards and three touchdowns, and Roberson hit on several nice pass plays. But they got absolutely no help from the defense.