Football: Defensive line proves vital in Saturday’s win against Wisconsin

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Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Several Wildcats defenders team up to bring down Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale. Northwestern's defense, and its defensive line in particular, carried the team in Saturday's 13-7 win.

Stephanie Kelly, Managing Editor


Football


MADISON, Wis. — In the Wildcats’ penultimate game of the regular season, the defensive line did not disappoint.

Northwestern’s pass rush in particular helped the Cats to their 13-7 win Saturday in Madison. Wisconsin ended with 58 total lost yards on tackles and sacks against a strong NU defensive front.

“Both defenses … played outstanding football today,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We found a way to get one more stop and that was key.”

Senior defensive end Deonte Gibson had a standout game with three sacks and four tackles for loss. In arguably the most vital defensive play Saturday, Gibson sacked Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave in the last minute of the game with the Badgers one yard away from the end zone. The sack — which resulted in a loss of 10 yards for Wisconsin — came after two would-be Wisconsin touchdowns and resulted in a Badgers quarterback replacement.

“It’s just fundamentals,” Gibson said. “As the season goes along, everybody has a ton of film on you, so it’s a point of emphasis on execution, and I think we got that done today.”

On Wisconsin’s last play of the game, the defense called its own shots, Fitzgerald said.

Senior defensive end Dean Lowry said they knew they would be able to stop the drive.

“We had a lot of confidence in our group up front and made it happen,” Lowry said.

Lowry also came up strong in a game that reflected his overall productive senior season—the defensive end contributed to a massive second-quarter sack, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble.

The defensive line began the game immediately blitzing and making aggressive plays, Lowry said. An outstanding first half saw four sacks and six tackles for loss against Wisconsin.

Gibson’s play in the second quarter exemplified this aggressiveness after he made two sacks. One of those plays stamped out a Wisconsin drive when, after a Gibson sack brought the Badgers to third-and-18, they weren’t able to convert.

“If we can get to the quarterback, we make the job a lot easier on the back guys,” he said.

The defensive line also helped stop the run. By the end of the game, Wisconsin garnered -26 rushing yards.

“We just wanted to prove to Wisconsin, the rest of the Big Ten and the nation that we’re a great defense,” Gibson said. “And I think we got that done today.”

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