|Northwestern topples Redbirds in first road game|
|Written by Ashley Schrader, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Sunday, 12 September 2010 20:05|
The fast, aggressive reputation that belongs to teams of the Big Ten Conference are characteristics that Northwestern easily pushed upon Illinois State football in the Redbirds’ first road game Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats’ quick, no-huddle offense and accumulation of defensive giants proved to be too much for the ‘Birds, as ISU lost 37-3 at Evanston, Ill., on a damp Ryan Field.
“We were real careless with the football,” head coach Brock Spack said on WJBC after the game.
“That was probably the difference in the game. But there are a lot of positives and things we can work on. This was a great trial for us to prepare on the road. You have to win on the road to be a championship team.”
The first ever game between the two teams started with a bang with a majority of the action occurring in the first half.
Northwestern (2-0) kicked off the game with a crushing 15-play, 89 yard opening drive touchdown. The Wildcats proceeded to score 17 points off its first three possessions.
Among NU’s action, ISU (1-1) completed its lone field goal kicked by senior Steven Fetzer in the Redbirds’ second possession thanks to a 33-yard drive by junior running back Ashton Leggett.
However, Northwestern quickly responded as quarterback Dan Persa connected with Rashad Lawrence for a 50-yard bomb.
Hovering on the two-yard line, Persa scored on a quarterback keeper to complete his first career-rushing touchdown. After the extra point, the Wildcats sat at an 11-point lead, 14-3.
Northwestern nearly acquired another touchdown on their next possession, but NU dropped the pass due to ISU pressure in the end zone.
Not to let the drive go scoreless, the Wildcats kicked a 39-yard field goal within the first four minutes of the second quarter to take their lead to 17-3.
The next Redbird possession, starting ISU quarterback Matt Brown tossed an interception to NU’s Quentin Davie at the 4:24 marker. Davie returned the ball to the ISU 40-yard line where Persa connected to Jeremy Ebert in the next play to notch 45-yards. The Wildcats rushed for another touchdown followed by an extra point to take the score to 24-3.
Moments later, a case of déjà vu occurred when Brown intended a pass for Tyrone Walker, but NU’s Davie once again intercepted the football and returned it 46 yards to reach ISU territory.
Persa completed a five-yard touchdown pass two plays later to bring the score to 30-3 seconds before halftime.
“[Brown] was forcing the ball. This is a defense that is not going to give you a lot...Matt got a little greedy and tried to make too many big plays by forcing the ball somewhere it shouldn’t have gone,” Spack said. “He has to make better decisions.”
The Redbirds began the third quarter on different note as sophomore Nick Broome forced a Wildcat fumble, which was recovered by linebacker Austin Davis. Davis brought the ball to Northwestern’s 17-yard line, but the home team quickly ended the ‘Birds’ momentum.
“I think from a defensive front we did alright,” junior Josh Howe said. “Our goal was to contain the run and their quarterback, and we did that.”
Junior Drew Kiel, who relieved Brown after the first drive of the third quarter due to a presumed concussion, was intercepted by NU’s Corbin Bryant, who took the ball to his team’s 46-yard line. The play did not result in any points for Northwestern.
“I think [Brown] will be fine,” Spack said. “We wanted to protect him a little bit and see if we could get a fire started with the other two quarterbacks.”
Preliminary testing, however, did not show evidence that Brown suffered a concussion.
After Kiel’s 2-for-4 passing stint, sophomore Matt Lancaster took over. Shortly after entering as quarterback, ISU fumbled the ball with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously, this game came down to controlling the football and turnovers. We had a few turnovers that really swung the game in their favor,” Spack said.
Still in the fourth, with 4:31 remaining, Northwestern scored on a three-yard rush. With the extra point good, the Wildcats increased their lead 37-3, where the score sat to the last seconds of the game.
Despite only playing half of the game, Brown’s 138 passing yards put him into sole possession of 10th-place on the Redbirds’ career passing yards list.
ISU defense shined in the stat book, Josh Howe leading the team with 14 tackles. Howe’s performance set a new career-high. Austin Davis and Mike Zimmer followed with 11 tackles each to tie their own career highs. Davis also tallied two tackles-for-loss, which was also a career high.
“We played better defensively in the game,” Spack said. “We defended the run pretty good and we had pretty good pressure on the quarterback. Our kids hung in there and got better defensively as the game went on.”
ISU will travel to Brookings, S.D., next Saturday to play in its first Missouri Valley Conference game of the season against South Dakota State. Kickoff at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m.