Northwestern Ground Game Is a Concern

Ryan DietzContributor IOctober 4, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 28:  Terell Sutton #19 of the Northwestern Wildcats gets taken down by Alan Branch #80 and David Harris #45 of the Michigan Wolverines on October 28, 2006 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated Northwestern 17-3.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald is one that typically plays it close to the vest, rarely giving away what he plans to do on Saturdays, and never tips his hand to the media. 

He is known for saying that the Wildcats are a running team and that they use the ground game to open up the pass. This could be an example of him not tipping his hand to the media and his opponent.

Through five games, the Northwestern offense has been primarily a passing offense. The 'Cats are second in the Big Ten in pass offense, averaging 286 yards a game. While that is great, the Wildcats need to find a way to establish the ground game to be able to compete with the big dogs in the conference.

Northwestern is dead last in yards per carry in the Big Ten, averaging a measly 3.3 yards per rush. While it could be argued that Mike Kafka is one of the primary running threats and as long he has been completing passes, why do you need to run? The answer is if you look at the top teams in the conference, they are able to run the ball effectively to take even more pressure off the quarterback, as Wisconsin has been able to do with John Clay to put less pressure on Scott Tolzien. 

Purdue has the worst rush defense in the Big Ten and Northwestern still was unable to do anything against their front four. The 'Cats don't have an official featured running back, and that's okay, but when none of them produce, you have a problem.

This coming week against Miami University, Northwestern has the opportunity to really pound out a win by dominating in the trenches and showing the other teams in the Big Ten they can control the line of scrimmage and win on the ground. It would behoove offensive coordinator Mick McCall to show some different looks and give other teams something to think about. 

Don't get me wrong, everyone in Evanston and the purple faithful should be extremely pleased with what Mike Kafka has been able to do. However, in each game this year with the exception of the Eastern Michigan game, the running game has not been what it should be. 3.0 yards a carry is unacceptable in a power conference and a spread offense that supposedly runs to open up the pass. 

Or maybe Pat Fitzgerald still doesn't want to tip his hand.