Rapid Recap: Northwestern 30, UNLV 14


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Hunter Johnson runs with the football. The sophomore quarterback threw for one touchdown and ran for another.

Peter Warren, Print Managing Editor


It took almost 53 minutes for Northwestern to score its first points against Stanford. The Wildcats needed less than three minutes Saturday to reach the endzone against UNLV.

With five members of the 1949 Rose Bowl winning team in attendance, NU’s offense tallied 442 yards as the Cats (1-1) beat the Rebels (1-2) 30-14.

Sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson look much more comfortable to start the game, completing one third down pass to senior Bennett Skowronek and one fourth-down pass to junior Kyric McGowan. He finished the drive with a one-yard run for a touchdown.

UNLV immediately answered when running back Charles Williams found a hole on 3rd-and-1 and galloped 65 yards for a game-tying touchdown. After NU kicked a field goal, Williams broke another big run — this time 37 yards — on third down for six early in the second quarter to give the Rebels a 14-10 lead.

On the next two NU possessions, junior kicker Charlie Kuhbander nailed two field goals to push the Cats up 16-14 at the end of the half.

Johnson got the scoring started in the second half, when he floated a beauty in the arms of a streaking JJ Jefferson for a 50-yard touchdown. Early in the fourth, two pass interference penalties against the Cats put the Rebels in field goal range, but Daniel Gutierrez missed the 38-yard attempt.

UNLV got the ball back with 2:43 left down nine, but senior defensive Joe Gaziano stripped sacked Armani Rogers on fourth down. NU got the ball back, and redshirt freshman Drake Anderson immediately scampered in for a seven-yard touchdown.

Defensively, the three forced three turnovers — two forced fumbles and one interception. Junior safety Travis Whillock forced a fumble and recovered the other, while junior linebacker Paddy Fisher caught one pick.


1. Even without Isaiah Bowser, running game thrives. Coach Pat Fitzgerald elected to start junior Jesse Brown, who was used primarily as a third-down back in the season opener, and Brown carried the ball eight times for 76 yards in the first quarter. But Brown was injured in the second quarter and ruled out for the rest of the game. With Brown out, Anderson took over as the primary running back and performed just as well. He rushed for 91 yards in the second half — 141 for the entire game — and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Johnson also showed a willingness to make plays with his feet — both on scrambles or on speed options. In addition to his touchdown run, Johnson ran for four first downs.

2. Shifty Williams and Rogers prove tough to contain. Behind the RPO-based offense, the Rebels had a lot of early success against the Cats. Williams proved to be a shifty runner, while the 6-foot-5 Rogers was efficient on the ground and through the air. In the first half, Williams carried the pigskin 12 times for 134 yards, while Rogers ran for 49 yards and was 7-for-9 through the air. After the break, the defense did a better job against the two Runnin’ Rebels, holding them to just 21 yards on the ground in the second half.

3. Kuhbander bounces back after tough start. Even after missing a crucial field goal against Stanford and struggling with consistency his first two seasons, junior kicker Charlie Kuhbander did not have to worry about losing his starting spot. “We’ve got great confidence in Charlie,” Fitzgerald said Monday.

Fitzgerald’s words rang true on the Ryan Field ryegrass. Kuhbander was a perfect 3-for-3. His most impressive kick was a 44 yarder that put the Cats up 16-14, and was the second-longest make of his career. It was the first time he hit three field goals in a game since Nov. 11, 2017.

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