Another week, another team kept out of the end zone by the Northwestern defense.
Two games into the 2015 season, the Cats have yet to allow a touchdown, following up their big season-opening win over Stanford with a 41-0 throttling of FCS opponent Eastern Illinois on Saturday in Evanston.
Few were expecting the upset victory in Week 1, but this one could have been predicted, as Eastern — coming off a 33-5 loss to Western Illinois in its first game — doesn’t provide quite the test Stanford does.
But Northwestern was still impressive despite the big step down in competition. The Cats out-gained the Panthers, 496-138, rushing for a whopping 344 yards. The Cats scored at will, reaching the end zone four times and getting a fifth touchdown on an interception return.
Northwestern got back on track offensively after scoring just one touchdown itself last week. The Cats’ huge day on the ground helped offset another light passing day in Clayton Thorson’s second career game. Justin Jackson led the way with 78 yards and a touchdown, and Warren Long had a big day as the No. 2 back, rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown. Two other ball carriers went over 50 yards, and three more went over 20. Thorson added his own rushing score.
Through the air, Thorson completed 11 of his 16 passing attempts for 152 yards and a touchdown.
But the defense was again the story. Anthony Walker led the team in tackles for the second straight week with seven, two of which were tackles for loss. The Cats got three sacks as a team. And Matt Harris had two interceptions, including the one returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Northwestern is rolling at 2-0, a pleasant turnaround from last season’s 0-2 start. Another tough challenge awaits next weekend, when the Cats visit the Duke Blue Devils in North Carolina.