Rapid Reaction: Northwestern survives against Ball State

Huzaifa Patel, Reporter

It wasn’t pretty, but No. 17 Northwestern edged out Ball State, 24-19.

Northwestern’s offense littered the first half with sloppy play. Redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson turned the ball over three times himself, fumbling twice and throwing an interception on what seemed to be a miscommunication with senior wide receiver Miles Shuler.

But the Wildcats began the second half in better form with two separate touchdown drives of 80 yards capped by Thorson touchdown passes to Dan Vitale and Austin Carr, respectively. NU also added a field goal to make the score 24-10.

Ball State refused to give up, however, responding with a 75-yard drive of its own to make it 24-16 after a missed PAT. Cardinals receiver Jordan Williams shined, hauling in eight catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cats’ offense failed to generate points to put away the game, giving Ball State multiple opportunities to tie. On their third attempt, the Cardinals took the ball from the Northwestern 40 and drove into the red zone before knocking in a field goal to make it 24-19.

The next drive was a gut-check for Northwestern, and the offense finished the job. The Cats clawed their way down the field, the key play being a 3rd and 8 conversion on a 14-yard draw by sophomore running back Solomon Vault. Although the Ball State defense gave its offense another shot to win the game, it came with just 11 seconds left at the Cardinals’ own 10 yard line.

Sophomore running back Justin Jackson finished the game with a career-high 184 yards on the ground while Thorson threw three touchdowns. Vitale was the beneficiary of two of those touchdowns, the first multi-score game of his career.

Northwestern closes out non-conference play undefeated for the first time since 2013. The Cats will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers next Saturday at Ryan Field.

Email: [email protected]northwestern.edu
Twitter: @HuzaifaPatel95