Football: Despite early adversity, Wildcats rally past Golden Bears
September 1, 2013
BERKELEY, Calif. — Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said his team would face adversity early on this year.
He wasn’t kidding.
NU held on to beat Cal 44-30 in a seesaw affair to open the season.
It was a nightmare start for the Wildcats. Cal marched down the field and scored a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt that saw senior kicker Vincenzo D’Amato throw a pass to senior holder Jackson Bouza for a touchdown.
“It was a great play,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m stealing that thing.”
NU responded with a five-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 33-yard touchdown run from junior running back Treyvon Green, who led the Cats in rushing with 129 yards on 16 carries with two scores. Senior running back Venric Mark had been dealing with nagging injuries leading up to the game, and Green said he was ready to step up.
“It’s all about opportunity,” Green said. “I think I just made the most of my opportunity.”
Junior quarterback Trevor Siemian was thrust into a full-time role when senior quarterback Kain Colter left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. Siemian connected with junior wide receiver Tony Jones for a 19-yard strike that vaulted the Cats to a 14-7 lead.
But the Bears responded in a big way in the third quarter. Within less than a minute, freshman quarterback Jared Goff hit junior wide receiver Chris Harper for two passing touchdowns to give Cal a 24-20 advantage.
Junior linebacker Collin Ellis swung the momentum back in the Cats’ favor when he intercepted two deflected passes from Goff in the third and fourth quarter and returned both for scores.
“Coach is always preaching, 'Tips lead to picks,'” Ellis said. “When they’re there, you got to snag them and take off running.”
A six-play, 91-yard drive, capped off by Green’s second touchdown of the game, put the Cats up by their final 14-point margin.
The victory may have come at a price for NU. In addition to Colter’s concussion, starting junior cornerback Daniel Jones suffered a lower leg injury and had to be carted off the field. Freshman cornerback Matthew Harris also suffered an injury early on and did not return.
Fitzgerald said after the game he was most proud of how players were prepared to play when starters went down with injuries.
“We talked a lot back home about our depth,” Fitzgerald said. “We weren’t perfect today but we had a lot of guys step up that maybe didn’t go into the game thinking they were going to play as much as they did. So, I’m incredibly proud of them.”
NU welcomes Syracuse to Evanston on Saturday for its home opener. But after a game that saw 169 plays, sophomore superback Dan Vitale said the team has a recuperation plan for Sunday.
“Probably just sleep,” Vitale said. “It’ll be nice to lay in bed and just hang out.”