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Northwestern Wildcats Struggling To Create Big Plays

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 11:  Vernon Gholston #50 of the Ohio State Buckeyes closes in on a sack against Mike Kafka #13 of the Northwestern Wildcats on November 11, 2006 at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Northwestern 54-10.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Ryan DietzContributor IOctober 22, 2009

The common complaint about the Northwestern offense these days is, "Where are all the big plays?"

Most people believe those big plays have to be 70-yard runs or passes; punt and kick returns for touchdowns; or other long plays that look good on SportsCenter and on highlight reels.

Northwestern has had one, what many would consider, long play from scrimmage this year: a 72-yard bomb from Dan Persa to Andrew Brewer.  Persa got lit up on the play.  Imagine the offensive line blocking long enough for a long pass.

But I'm not here to complain about yardages of plays. 

Football is about explosion plays, plays that change momentum.  Each team needs plays that change the game, and those do not need to be plays that result in quick touchdowns.  Those plays just need to show the other team "we are going to win the game." 

Northwestern has lacked those plays in recent weeks, especially on offense.

In the second half against Michigan State, the Wildcats came out flat and could not make those types of plays.  The offense sputtered, and with each sputter, the Spartans grew more confident.

Big plays are interceptions, timely sacks, a great open field tackle, a receiver bowling over a safety, a running back getting six yards after eluding a six-yard loss.  Those are the types of big plays the Wildcats need. 

Those that argue that Northwestern needs quick plays and should take shots deep are only partly right.  Mick McCall needs to take more deep shots to open up underneath routes.  Unfortunately, the 'Cats don't have burners and Kafka often misses the deep open receivers.

That argument is flawed.  That is not what these Wildcats are.  They are a dink and dunk offense.  They'll take their five yards and like it.  For the most part, it has worked.  There is nothing wrong with taking what the defense gives you. 

Northwestern doesn't need high-yardage plays, it needs high-impact plays.

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