The Northwestern Wildcats quite literally ran all over the Indiana State Sycamores in their Week 2 contest, resulting in a 24-6 win. Chicago's Big Ten team controlled the narrative on their home turf, rushing for 209 yards and averaging 4.5 yards per carry, while also tallying up 66 passing yards. Although the Wildcat offense was dominant in the first quarter, they stalled out in the second quarter and half to ultimately score only 10 more points on a touchdown from Hull and one field goal, despite several punt returns into the Sycamores' side of the field.
As head coach Pat Fitzgerald repeatedly stated in a number of press conferences in the past week, this game against Indiana State was all about adjustments. It was clear the Wildcats defense and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil did just that, as Northwestern made a statement by holding the Sycamores scoreless in the first half. Graduate student kicker Charlie Kuhbander also showed improvement, connecting on a field goal early in the second half to recover from his two missed attempts last week against the Spartans.
The Wildcats kept the Sycamores quiet throughout the entire game, holding Indiana State to just 169 total yards on the day and just one touchdown in the fourth quarter, thanks to solid performances by junior defensive backs AJ Hampton Jr. and Cam Mitchell as well as sophomore safety Brandon Joseph.
Northwestern, in an almost immediate response from last week's loss against Michigan State, established their run game early as they rushed for 79 yards in 10 of the 11 plays on the opening drive to take an early lead; during that drive, junior running back Evan Hull contributed 51 of those yards and scored his first touchdown of the season, picking up where he left off in the second half of last week's contest. Hull ultimately ended up tallying up 119 yards on the day.
At first, the Wildcats defense seemed to get off to somewhat of a slow start yet again, allowing the Sycamores to convert a fourth-and-one attempt by leaving lanes wide open for junior Matt Sora and senior tight end Zach Larkin. Yet, Northwestern quickly started to regain their well-known defensive prowess, as pressure by Joseph and junior defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore forced Indiana State to punt it away on their respective opening drive.
For Indiana State, senior quarterback and Chicago native Anthony Thompson, despite a few blunders (such as a recovered fumble), kept the Northwestern secondary on their toes. He completed a handful of quick outs and slant passes to tally up 132 passing yards, completing 21 of 34 on the day, focusing on his main targets of seniors Rontrez Morgan and Michael Haupert. Thompson also connected with Larkin in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard pass for the Sycamores' only touchdown of the day.
While the run game was the clear star of the day for the Wildcats–led by Hull's sheer physicality and quality protection by sophomore lineman Peter Skoronski–work from the special teams units did not go unnoticed, as sophomore linebacker Xander Mueller forced a Indiana State fumble on a punt return in the first half, and Joseph showed his versatility with two 40-plus yard punt returns in the second half.
Yet, the passing offense still noticeably left something to be desired. In the first half, Hunter Johnson completed 5 of 8 attempts for just 49 yards; one bright spot, however, was the 25-yard touchdown connection from Johnson to junior Malik Washington to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. In the second half, the pass game continued to lack execution, as Johnson was sacked twice and intercepted once, in addition to several miscues and incomplete passes led to only 17 more passing yards for the day.
Purdue spoils Senior Day, takes series against Northwestern Baseball, 7-2.
Purdue starting pitcher Troy Wansing mixed his pitches well all afternoon as the Boilermakers capitalized on a quality 5.2 innings from their Sunday starter to pull out a series victory against Northwestern, 7-2.
Northwestern Baseball uses fast start at the plate, dominant outing from Farinelli to beat Purdue, 11-1.
Ethan O'Donnell broke Northwestern's single-season doubles record, the 'Cats mashed 4 opposite field home runs, and Farinelli pitched a one-run complete game to earn the Wildcats a much needed Big Ten win.
Series Preview: Purdue visits Miller Park for pivotal series against Northwestern
The Wildcats have lost six of their last seven conference games, tumbling to ninth in the standings and trailing Purdue by one game for the final Big Ten Tournament berth.
Ultimately, although there are still aspects requiring adjustment for the Wildcats–namely, their "streaky" play on either side of the ball–they look to build momentum on today's victory in next week's contest at Duke on September 18 at 3 pm.
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