Northwestern rolls past Eastern Illinois for 41-0 blowout victory

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Northwestern rolls past Eastern Illinois for 41-0 blowout victory

Redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson celebrates in the end zone following his second rushing touchdown of the season. Thorson also threw for a score in Northwestern's 41-0 win.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson celebrates in the end zone following his second rushing touchdown of the season. Thorson also threw for a score in Northwestern's 41-0 win.

Zachary Laurence/The Daily Northwestern

Redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson celebrates in the end zone following his second rushing touchdown of the season. Thorson also threw for a score in Northwestern's 41-0 win.

Zachary Laurence/The Daily Northwestern

Zachary Laurence/The Daily Northwestern

Redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson celebrates in the end zone following his second rushing touchdown of the season. Thorson also threw for a score in Northwestern's 41-0 win.

Tim Balk, Reporter

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Last week it was sophomore Kyle Queiro sliding out of bounds after an interception to seal a Northwestern upset victory over Stanford. This Saturday it was junior Matthew Harris streaking down the opposite sideline at Ryan Field after a pick of his own and taking it all the way to the end zone to put the finishing touch on the Wildcats’ 41-0 win over Eastern Illinois (0-2).

This week, the Cats’ victory was neither as surprising nor as dramatic as their 16-6 win over then-ranked Stanford, but it was certainly dominant. NU (2-0) ran away with the game — literally — rolling up 344 yards on the ground en route to their biggest win since 1970.

Sophomore Justin Jackson and junior Warren Long led the way with 81 and 72 rushing yards respectively, and five other Cats ran for at least 20 yards.

Redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson was effective in his second career start. Thorson attempted only 16 passes but operated efficiently, completing 11 throws for 152 yards. He weaved his way to an eight yard rushing touchdown moments before halftime and threw his first career touchdown pass to Austin Carr in the third quarter.

The 44-yard touchdown catch was the first of Carr’s career. The junior wideout earned a scholarship earlier this week.

“Did I score?” Carr laughed after the game. “It hasn’t hit me yet.”

On the other side of the football, the NU defense was stifling for the second straight week, surrendering just 138 yards to the EIU offense in the shutout. Matthew Harris’ fourth quarter pick-six was his second of the day, with the first coming on a failed trick play in the second quarter.

Both interceptions ignited a Northwestern crowd that featured a student section in large part filled with freshmen and new students, who raced onto the field as part of NU’s Wildcat Welcome prior to the game. The crowd thinned out as the day went on and as the Cats’ lead grew, but those who stayed late were rewarded with big plays such as Harris’ second interception.

“We had great student turnout today,” said coach Pat Fitzgerald. “We had awesome fan support these first two games.”

The Cats’ defense was especially tough on third downs against the Panthers. EIU finished the afternoon 0-for-11 on third down attempts. NU’s defense also recorded three sacks.

“(On third downs) we’ve been executing, and our pass rush has been very effective,” said Fitzgerald. “And then also obviously making them be in more third and longer situations always give you an advantage.”

Including the win over Stanford, NU has made it through two games this season without allowing an opponent touchdown. It was the first time the Cats have held opponents without a touchdown for two straight games since 1958.

“Every game we go in, we want to dominate. That’s just our mentality,” said Harris. “But we do have some mistakes to clean up.”

Next up for the Cats and their surging defense will be a road test at Duke next week.

“You can always do better. If you don’t think you can do better, there’s something wrong,” said sophomore defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo. “We expect to have a shutout next weekend.”

Email: timbalk2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @TimBalk

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