Northwest ship of rights wins dominant 21-7 victory over Rutgers


Gabe Bider / The North West Daily

Evan Hull evades Rutgers’ defense. Hull and Andrew Clair rushed for 135 rushing yards as Northwestern claimed a 21-7 Homecoming victory over Rutgers.


Against the co-inventors of college football, Northwestern reinvented itself.

Following a 56-7 loss to Nebraska, the Wildcats regrouped in their week off. The result was a Homecoming performance that showcased NU’s offensive and defensive talent and a 21-7 victory over Rutgers – the Cats’ first Big Ten victory since Dec.12, 2020 over Illinois.

NU (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) put down a Scarlet Knights (3-4, 0-4 Big Ten) team that started the season 3-0 and faced Michigan hard in a 20 loss -13 September 25. The Cats forced nine punts from Rutgers, the most for the Scarlet Knights since Dec. 12, 2020 against Maryland.

“We played some really good quarterbacks in some games defensively, but it was probably our best game collectively as a defense,” said coach Pat Fitzgerald. “This group has a ton of pride. We are gaining a little more experience now as the season progresses.

The defense set the tone in the first quarter, as Rutgers’ first four practices gained 11, -1, 20 and 10 yards respectively. The Scarlet Knights’ first practice ended when junior defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore beat quarterback Noah Vedral to a loss of four. Graduate student linebacker Chris Bergin blew up second practice by smashing a pass from Vedral in third and 11.

Adebawore finished with seven tackles, a career-high equaling his combined production against Ohio and the Cornhuskers. Bergin racked up nine tackles, his eighth consecutive game with eight or more dating back to the Big Ten Championship Game 2020.

Rutgers, tracked down by Adebawore and Bergin as well as second-year linebacker Bryce Gallagher, scored his only touchdown on an 18-yard strike from Vedral to wide receiver Bo Melton midway through the second quarter. The Scarlet Knights no longer scored.

“[The most important thing is] physically performing what our coaches instilled in us and put in the game plan, and most importantly having fun, ”said Bergin. “We had a lot of fun today and it shows.

The dynamism of the defense has allowed the offense to open the playbook to an unprecedented degree. Second-year quarterback Ryan Hilinski threw for 267 yards – his record since Nov. 9, 2019 against Appalachian State while in South Carolina – and two touchdowns, registering the fourth multi-touchdown game of his college career .

Junior wide receiver Malik Washington, who passed from Hilinski at home for a 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter, attributed the defense’s success to making it easier on the offense.

“We love these guys,” Washington said. “When they play games, we are able to play games. When they make those saves we know we need to be able to take advantage of them and make a touchdown. “

Graduated running back Andrew Clair and sophomore running back Evan Hull both contributed to a solid running game, despite NU only running 135 yards. A 27-yard run from Clair in the second quarter was the longest of the day by either team, and the former Bowling Green Falcon made three straight runs first and scored the Cats’ last touchdown. with 7:33 to play. Hull added 53 yards on 25 carries and a reception of 12 yards.

“The best thing about these two guys is they’re physical,” said Hilinski. “It’s good to have these guys in the backfield because one, they’re great runners, and two, they can finish a game like they did today.”

Despite a healthy afternoon from the unit of defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, Fitzgerald stressed that NU had more work to do, especially with a Michigan top 10 team looming next Saturday.

“We still have to improve with our eyes, and we still have to improve a little bit fundamentally,” said Fitzgerald. “Yet there has been a lot of positive growth today. “

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