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Game Recap: Northwestern Falls in Season Opener Against Michigan State 38-21

The Wildcats defense couldn't contain the Spartan run game.

The Northwestern Wildcats got off to a slow start in the season opener, resulting in a 38-21 loss to Michigan State. The Spartan run game dominated Northwestern's run defense, rushing for 326 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown from Kenneth Walker Jr. on the first play from scrimmage. Walker finished with 264 rushing yards and four, evoking bad memories of Trey Sermon, who ran for 331 yards in last year's Big Ten Championship game. Freshman Payton Thorne got the start for the Spartans at QB, finishing with 185 passing yards and a touchdown.

Northwestern's slow start on defense also trickled to the offensive side of the ball, with the Wildcats never really finding an offensive rhythm. The Wildcats gained only 117 yards on the ground, a measly 3.1 yards per carry. QB Hunter Johnson threw the ball 43 times, resulting in 283 yards and three touchdowns. However, he was also sacked three times. The Wildcat special teams unit also left much to be desired, with kicker Charlie Kuhbander missing two field goals, pulling them both to the left and right.

Michigan State opened up the scoring with a Walker touchdown, then another rushing TD by Walker would give the Spartans a commanding 14-0 lead. Payton Thorne would add a touchdown pass to open up a 21 point lead midway through the second quarter. 

Northwestern would finally get on the board with a Hunter Johnson touchdown pass to Trey Pugh, but Michigan State would put the Wildcats back into a 21-point deficit right after halftime. Johnson would throw another TD to Pugh to make it a 28-14 game, but Sparty would add a field goal to make it 31-14. Johnson would throw his third TD pass of the night to Stephon Robinson to make it 31-21, but Walker would put the icing on his career day with another TD run making it 38-21.

The Wildcats will look to move on from the opening night loss/win next week, as they host Indiana State on Sept. 11.

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