Rapid Reaction: Northwestern destroys EIU
Final: Northwestern 41, Eastern Illinois 0
Telling stat: Northwestern wins first-half yards battle 265-43
It’s clear what Northwestern wants to do. Pat Fitzgerald is content letting his freshman quarterback manage the game and letting the backs do the heavy lifting. Warren Long and Justin Jackson combined for 137 first-half yards and two scores. Clayton Thorson also showed off his mobility again with the second rushing touchdown of his young career. Northwestern’s defense also contained Jalen
Key play: Justin Jackson rushes for 10-yard score in first quarter
It was tough sledding for the Northwestern tailback to that point. Credit the Eastern Illinois defense for containing one of the Big Ten’s most talented backs in the first quarter. Still, he managed to bust loose for the first touchdown of the game, which gave Northwestern all the breathing room it would need against the Panthers.
-Northwestern defense still impressing
The Wildcats probably could’ve held Eastern Illinois to negative total yardage and it wouldn’t have been quite as impressive as what they did to No. 21 Stanford last week. Still, how could you not be impressed with what Fitzgerald is building on defense? Whether it was Anthony Walker, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Matthew Harris, or Deonte Gibson, everyone seemed to make a big play at some point for the Cats. This is a team without a household name on the defensive side that might have a few really soon if this keeps up.
-Austin Carr has quite the week
Who doesn’t love a nice feel-good story? The junior wide receiver earned a scholarship on Wednesday. Three days later, he caught his first career touchdown pass. His 44-yard score was also the first career touchdown throw for Thorson, who made more impressive plays with his arm than he did last week. For a kid who only had seven career catches coming into 2015, that moment had to feel good for Carr.
What it means: Cats still stout
This defense now has two quality performances to build on heading into a tricky showdown at Duke. The Wildcats have looked better defensively than any Big Ten team. That’s saying something. Eastern Illinois is the weakest opponent on the Wildcats’ schedule, but they did everything Fitzgerald could’ve wanted. It’s early, but the Wildcats have the look of last year’s Minnesota team. That’s not a bad thing at all.
What’s next: at Duke
Let me go on record and predict that points will be few and far between in this one. Does this defense look the same outside of Evanston? How does Thorson handle his first road test? Will Fitzgerald avoid Duke’s loaded secondary? Either way, this one is looking like one of the conference’s top Week 3 matchups.