Illinois-Northwestern: 2nd quarter analysis

Evan Watkins seemed to gain his composure in the second quarter. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

If you’d have asked Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald 12 and a half minutes into Saturday’s game if he’d take a tie at 3-point deficit at halftime, he’d probably look at you as if you were crazy.

The way the Wildcats were going, Fitzgerald may have been happy if his first-team defense was still standing.

But Northwestern’s defense stiffened up just long enough and Mikel Leshoure-- on pace for a 600-yard rushing day after the first quarter -- evidently was catching his breath long enough for the Wildcats to make it a game.

Thanks to two touchdowns by Mike Trumpy, an interception return by Eddie McGee and a 31-yard field goal by Stefan Demos, the game was tied with under three minutes to go in the half. Derek Dimke’s 39-yard field as time expired sent the Illini into their dugout with some modicum of momentum. But Northwestern has to feel awfully good at the intermission.

The big question for the Illini? Um, why are you even attempting a passing game? Why attempt anything at all other than handing the ball to that No. 5 fella? Just a thought as Leshoure, though slowed down a bit in the second quarter, has 208 yards on 18 carries for an average of 11.6 yards per carry.