Football: After win over Bowling Green, Northwestern turns toward Big Ten play


Lauren Duquette/Daily Senior Staffer

Ben Skowronek runs with the ball. The sophomore wide receiver hauled in a pair of touchdowns against Bowling Green.

Max Gelman, Reporter


The Wildcats’ non-conference rollercoaster ended with a thrill.

Northwestern (2-1) pounded Bowling Green (0-3) 49-7 on Saturday, and it now turns its attention to the Big Ten schedule. The Cats have played inconsistently thus far, performing poorly against Duke and Nevada but hammering the Falcons to rebound.

“Last week, I walked into the locker room, and I didn’t feel like I was walking into a funeral,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When you get knocked down like that (against Duke), you have one of two choices: You can pout and feel sorry for yourself or you can do something about it, and I think they responded well. We need the bye though, we’re obviously beat up.”

After taking next week off, NU will travel to No. 10 Wisconsin (3-0) and then host No. 5 Penn State (3-0) in successive weeks to kick off its conference schedule. A tough ask, but the Cats feel up to the challenge.

“It starts with another great week or two of practice,” senior safety Godwin Igwebuike said. “Film study’s gonna be big, preparation’s gonna be big. … Going into the Big Ten we’re excited. We’re ready to have a party.”

Breakout performances from sophomore receiver Ben Skowronek (three catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns) and senior superback Garrett Dickerson (nine catches for 150 yards) are a good sign heading into the Sept. 30 tilt in Madison. Senior running back Justin Jackson also rebounded from his 2.6 yards-per-carry performance against Duke, rushing for 121 yards and three scores.

Junior quarterback Clayton Thorson said Skowronek’s second touchdown catch — a back-shoulder fade in the end zone — is something he does all the time in practice. If Skowronek can keep it going, Thorson said, he can be a big weapon.

“I remember his true freshman year, he caught a ball over someone in 7-on-7, and (linebacker) Anthony Walker came up to me and said ‘This guy’s gonna be really good,’” Thorson said. “We’ve been seeing that since his true freshman year and it’s great to see him have success.”

NU escaped Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium with a 13-7 win in its last trip two years ago. And the Cats have knocked out the Nittany Lions twice in the last three years.

Both opponents appear improved since those past meetings, however, evidenced by their top-10 rankings. It will take a lot for NU to stop their big-time offenses.

And despite Saturday’s decisive win, Fitzgerald and his players said there’s much the Cats need to do to improve.

“There’s a ton we’ve got to work on,” Fitzgerald said. “Fundamentally we’ve got get a lot more consistent. I still see some fundamental issues that we have, and for us to win a Big Ten football game, you’ve gotta be close to 100 percent.”

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