Despite the crushing loss, Northwestern’s attack was prolific again on Saturday. The Wildcats had a total of 511 yards, marking the second week in a row to break the 500-yard mark, due in large part to the 278 yards collected by back-to-back superstar Evan Hall.
The anchor of NU’s offense is, after all, quarterback Ryan Helinsky. Hilinski posted another notable stat streak: 36 for 60, 435 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, 7.3 yards per attempt. 60 attempts established a new career for the junior, while his yardage ranked eighth in the program’s history for a single game and was a personal best.
Ostensibly, Hilinski has maintained his good form from Week Zero in Dublin. While Helinsky did some aspects very well, the tape left some elements to be desired. Hilinsky’s PFF score came in at 52.3; The company planned him two big throws but also five plays worth a spin.
Hilinski’s average goal depth (aDOT) of 8.6 yards reflects the quarterback trying to push the ball down, yet a number of his attempts were on screens or Hull checks. Along the same lines of reasoning, a good portion of the yardage came after the hunt. Below is a scroll chart from PFF.
Some of the throws were just a throwback to show off, but others were more accurate.
Let’s start with Heilinski’s first touch pass: the quick hitter to Hal in the flat on 4The tenth 3. While Hull appears to be Hilinski’s basic reading from the shot, QB does a great job of waiting for the right-back RB to clear the outside full-back, at which point Hilinski hits Hull with a big stride.
Likewise, Hilinsky was quick to note a mismatch with Hull who lined up as receiver. Take this third point down at which Hilinsky recognizes a late approach to the center back, providing an opportunity for the California player to throw a touchdown pass between two Blue Devils.
Sometimes it’s as simple as realizing that no one is covering your talented weapon in the field and giving it a chance to hit a good yardage.
However, not all of Helinsky’s throws were easy. The midfielder had some great kicks in the touchline, particularly for Thomas Gordon’s court finish.
Gordon put the world aware of this hurdle with one hand in the first quarter. After a fake delivery to Andrew Claire, Hilinsky squares his shoulders just enough to hit Gordon on his back shoulder. This play alone illustrates the harmony between the two: until Hilinsky tries to throw the ball in the only spot where his security blanket can get, and Gordon trusts Hilinski to guide it in the designated area.
This strike may have been the best thing Hilinsky did in the afternoon. After correcting the passing players’ positioning, Helinsky leads Gordon perfectly against linebacker Mike at Cover 3 Buzz. This position is ideal from Hilinski, as it allows Gordon to make a fierce hunt.
Hilinski has also shown his ability to thread the needle when it matters most, including a third pass down within six minutes on the left. Hilinsky advances from Malik Washington to Donny Navarro III and rips a right arrow between two Duke’s defenders to land.
On top of that, the theatrical movement appears to be addressing any offensive ailments that Northwestern showcased on Saturday. According to the PFF chart, Helinski’s score of 69.4 offensive score and 15.5 offensive score on 15 playing fouls, stark numbers compared to his 46.6 offensive score and 6.4 offensive play score.
Hilinski posted a number of impressive throws during play, including this deep pass to Bryce Kirtz, crossover to Genson Hooper Price and complete boot to Kirtz.
Why was Hilinsky rated so poorly in the eyes of the PFF? The main reason behind this was the lack of anticipation, and in conjunction with the reading lag.
In the second quarter, Navarro runs a superhero route aimed at Hilinsky. The problem is that QB throws past Navarro’s break, enabling Duke DB to hit the ball far.
Now in the final stages of Phase Three, Hilinsky is trying to contact Navarro again, this time on a digging road. However, by the time Hilinski opens this throw, the full-back has already rolled to come close to intercepting the pass.
The little one can only get away with a late throw for a long time before he bites him, which is what happened in this third stage in time of crisis. Hilinsky retreats and throws his back foot, intending to strike Washington outside, but Duke’s Brandon Johnson weakens her in choice. This ball should come out at the Washington break for a perfect throwing window.
Hilinsky also had a number of incorrect balls. One such occasion involved a whip road to Washington that was thrown behind where the recipient would expect it.
Perhaps this goal-line fading into Navarro should have been called pass interference. However, Hilinsky caught his receiver, preventing him from shooting the ball high.
After the late readings, Helinsky simply did not see some open receivers. Some cases of not dissecting the entire field have occurred in key situations, like this third, where Washington has a space after way back at the bottom of the screen.
Similarly, Hilinsky chose to throw hard at Hull in this third rather than hit Navarro behind the sticks.
Finally, having Helinsky in the pocket did little to avoid stresses or bags. The quarterback hit his arm with a bag in the third quarter, which led to the Blue Devil takeaway. While left goalkeeper Josh Pribe gets hit, Hilinsky needs to climb into the pocket to block the chance of hitting the ball.
On top of that, Helinsky isn’t actually lowered into this sudden red zone, but he doesn’t feel rushed to his right at all – allowing disablement and throwing those sails at Hal.
Statistically, Helensky had a massive start to the 2022 campaign, becoming First Quarterback Northwest For collecting more than 300 yards in each of his first two games of the season. Altogether, the gunslinger did a good job of avoiding tipping the ball, distributing the boulder to talented space players and maintaining offensive momentum.
At the same time, the quarterback must improve his anticipation of defenders’ breaks, pitch reading and inside pocket awareness if he really wants to get to the next level. Against a Southern Illinois team that surrendered 783 passing yards and 10 air touchdowns over two games, Hilinsky should have plenty of opportunity to correct the ship on Saturday.