All is not well in Evanston, Illinois. The Northwestern Wildcats entered the 2019 season with plenty of expectations after last year's success. But after a 1-1 start, Northwestern (1-4, 0-3 Big Ten) has since lost three straight to Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska by a combined score of 68-35. The team is dealing with injuries at crucial positions, the offense is struggling to move the ball, which has resulted in the defense becoming worn down from being on the field for too long. The Wildcats were on a bye last week (second of the season), which means they will be playing seven straight weeks from here out.
That means there are still plenty of opportunities to rack up some wins, but this is a team with plenty to correct as well. Northwestern has No. 3 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) and No. 17 Iowa (4-1, 1-1) coming to Ryan Field in back-to-back weeks. If the Wildcats want to replicate their 7-1 finish last season that propelled them to the Big Ten West title, they will have to play much better, starting Friday night against the Buckeyes.
Pat Fitzgerald's team has its work cut out for it as the remaining schedule is tougher than last year and injuries have certainly made their impact. Here are five other areas that must improve if Northwestern wants to turn this season around and at least get to a bowl game.
1. Get healthy
The Wildcats don't have a ton of injuries but the ones they do have leave quite the void on this team. Quarterback TJ Green suffered a season-ending foot injury in the opener against Stanford, which is what thrust Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson into the starter role. Johnson himself has been playing through a knee injury from all of the hits and sacks (7) he's taken this season. Wide receiver Bennett Skowronek is out indefinitely after having surgery to address an unspecified injury, and even though he has missed the past two games, he still leads the team in receiving yards (141). Running back Isaiah Bowser, last year's leading rusher, also has been slowed by a knee injury, as he has just 103 yards on 29 carries (3.6 ypc) thus far.
The hope is that last week's bye gave J