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Football: Lowry making impact on defense as freshman

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern defensive end Dean Lowry got his first career sack when he took down Michigan State’s Andrew Maxwell on Saturday. He has 13 tackles in 11 games this season, including three that have gone for a loss.

Josh Walfish, Gameday Editor

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Dean Lowry is not accustomed to losing football games.

The freshman defensive end hadn’t lost a game since his sophomore year of high school before Northwestern lost 39-28 to Penn State on Oct. 6. The Wildcats have lost three games this year, each frustrating in one way or another. But the support of his teammates has gotten Lowry through the tough losses, he said.

“It’s been surprising how we respond very well to (losing),” Lowry said. “After a loss, we come back hard the next week and just play better.”

That is exactly what NU has done so well this season, responding to each of its three losses with victories the next week. Lowry admitted he felt “weird” after the loss to the Nittany Lions, but he added that losing in college is a lot different than losing in high school.

It is rare for a freshman to gain significant minutes under coach Pat Fitzgerald, but Lowry has excelled in his role this season. He is currently listed as the backup defensive end behind senior Quentin Williams and has been a dependable second-option on the defensive line for the Cats. This season, Lowry already has 13 tackles, including a sack and 3 tackles-for-loss.

“It’s been tough the past few weeks against some physical teams,” Lowry said. “But I’ve learned from that and watched the film, and I’m getting better each week.”

The maturation process has been quick for Lowry, and Fitzgerald said the development of several freshmen speaks to where NU is as a program. He said the fact that Lowry hasn’t been through a full offseason with the team and is still able to make such an impact shows how talented he is.

“His attitude is great, he’s practicing hard and he’s playing hard,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s a great young man, and he has a really bright future.”

Lowry said the college game and high school game differ in many ways and he has needed to adjust to those differences. The most notable change is how he can impact the game when he’s on the field. He has worked hard at improving in different facets of his game, and the results have been born out on the field.

The freshman was able to dominate in high school because of his size advantage. But now that he is a lot smaller when compared to the offensive linemen he faces week in and week out, he has had to rely on technique more than brute strength. Lowry said he thinks his biggest improvements have been in the use of his hands and staying balanced, two key aspects of good technique for a defensive lineman.

“In high school, I got away with just being big out there and just being strong and fast,” Lowry said. “Here you just have to have the right technique, and you just got to play it right.”

Lowry said Fitzgerald gave him an honest assessment before the season about his chances of playing in his freshman year. Fitzgerald told Lowry if he worked hard enough he would be able to play a lot this season and make an impact for the Cats. It was the same for much of Lowry’s recruiting process, and Lowry said he appreciates having a coach that won’t sugarcoat anything.

The honesty was one of the major reasons Lowry decided to come play at NU. Although academics also played a part in the decision, he said the future trajectory of the Cats appealed to him.

“I want to be a part of a program that’s going up,” Lowry said. “The future here is very bright.”