Halftime Reaction: Northwestern trails by 11 at end of first half


Jacob Swan/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior cornerback Matthew Harris defends Tenneesse wide receiver Jauan Jennings. The Wildcats trail the Volunteers 17-6 at halftime.

Bobby Pillote , Gameday Editor


TAMPA, Fla. — Northwestern struggled in the opening half of the Outback Bowl, stumbling on offense and failing to take advantage of several Tennessee miscues, falling behind 17-6.

Offensively the Wildcats’ most promising drive of the half came in the first quarter, when Tennessee committed back-to-back personal fouls to gift NU 30 yards of field position. The offense got all the way down to the 24-yard line before stalling out, and junior kicker Jack Mitchell missed the resulting 42-yard attempt.

Without the help of penalties the Cats struggled to move the ball at all. Redshirt freshman quarterback Clayton Thorson threw an early interception on a poorly thrown ball and was inconsistent as a passer but made a few nice plays with his legs to give the offense some life.

NU’s lone scoring drive saw several completions from Thorson and a steady dose of Justin Jackson, with the sophomore running back converting a 4th-and-inches early in the drive and picking his way through the Volunteers’ defense for the touchdown. Mitchell shanked the extra point to leave the Cats with just six points.

The defense was as stout as it’s been all season, limiting a potent Tennessee rushing attack and coming up with big plays when needed. NU had two sacks and four tackles for loss, doing a good job of limiting the Volunteers’ advantage in field position.

Despite being outgained 197 yards to 129, the Cats remain very much in the game heading into the second half.

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