Northwestern No.8 Football Aiming For MIAA Top In Home Return Game Against No.17 Nebraska-Kearney | Sports


In the days leading up to Northwestern football’s 2019 meeting with Nebraska-Kearney, then third-year coach Rich Wright was bracing for an options-based offense for the second. times in as many weeks.

The Bearcats were on the heels of a 38-17 win over Pitt State at Arrowhead Stadium, but Wright knew he was going to face a different challenge when plotting for the Lopers.

“They have two shifts that they use,” Wright said on Oct. 15, 2019. “The rookie redshirt is very talented.”

That red-shirted freshman was TJ Davis, a then-freshman making his debut in the MIAA glove.

Davis, who was the replacement behind senior Alex McGinnis, threw 125 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 115 yards and another score en route to the Lopers, handing the Bearcats their first loss of the season with a 24- loss. 17.

After a two week road trip – involving a 17-16 week 6 loss to Washburn October 16 and a 59-7 win over Northeastern State in response Oct 23 – Wright is preparing again for Davis, now a sophomore who is perhaps the most explosive player in the MIAA this season.

It will be a revenge game in the making for two years when the No.8 Bearcats (6-1) host No.17 Kearney (7-1) for a return game on October 30 at Bearcat Stadium with first place in the league. hanging of the MIAA in the scales.

“We’re just excited to come home and play against a great MIAA opponent,” Wright said Tuesday afternoon. “One of the things we talk about in the process is trying to get you in position at the end of the season to play for big things, and we have that opportunity again.”

Davis, Wright said on Oct. 26, had his “night out” against the Bearcats two years ago, a performance that foreshadowed the havoc he was set to wreak across the league.

He developed the things that made him so dynamic back then, and they led to him being one of the most effective quarterbacks in Division II.

The sophomore will enter the game with the country’s highest passer efficiency rating (201.4), the second-most rushing yards in the MIAA (830) and 28 total touchdowns. It’s a sophomore campaign that’s been pretty good averaging 196.6 passing yards and 103 rushing yards per game.

“The X factor is the quarterback. He is an exceptional football player, ”said Wright. “He’s doing a lot to get (Kearney) out.”

The Bearcats know what’s in store for them when they take the field this weekend, but that’s none of their business, Wright said.

It doesn’t matter if they have a shot at winning the program’s 31st MIAA title, including the seventh in the past eight seasons. It doesn’t matter if they have the option of adding a win in the region to their playoff hopeful resume. And it doesn’t matter if they have a chance to grab first place in the conference on their own with just two weeks left in the regular season.

They prepared for an opponent seven times before Kearney, successfully executing plan six in those weeks. Preparing for the biggest game of the season will be no different.

“It’s a big game. I mean, I never try to shy away from it, but, again, we had to win a lot of big games to get to this big game, “said Wright. “I think the thing we’re trying to do is build on our experience in these situations. We have a lot of guys running around the complex who have played in those situations. It really doesn’t change your approach, it’s still the same.

One of those seasoned players is junior linebacker Sam Phillips.

Phillips played against the Lopers in 2019, recording seven tackles in total and one tackle for a loss. He also played the previous year, helping Northwest in a 27-13 win over Kearney.

Northwest hasn’t earned more than 14 points in the last three between-programs, and although they are currently lagging behind the Lopers in the conference standings, Phillips said the Bearcats still expect to be. those with the target on their backs.

“They always played us well, you know?” said Phillips. “They’re always going to give us their best shot. And again this year they’ve got the guns they do, so again we’ll just have to focus in practice this week and hopefully give them the best of ourselves.

The ‘Cats know it’s reunion week on campus, but it’s not something they’ll let them distract from preparing to slow down an attack that averages a record 483.5 yards per game.

They will enter the contest with the fourth best defense in the country, allowing a meager 9.1 points per game. Northwest will also bring the nation’s second-best running defense, limiting opposing infractions to an average of 42.1 yards per game.

They are ready to do what they have hoped to do for the entire season up to this point, and that is to take the next step up the proverbial staircase on their way to the top of Division II.

A win over the Lopers would be their biggest win yet.

“It’s just one of those weeks where – is there a lot of extra fuss with coming home and Kearney and all that?” Yes, ”said Wright. “At the same time, we’re good enough at filtering out noise. When you’ve had as much playoff experience as our junior and senior class, and you’ve been in conference championship-type games, you just have to see it as part of the status quo at Northwest.

“You come to Northwest to play these types of games,” Phillips said. “You come here too to win these types of games, so hopefully we can do that.”


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