Rapid Recap: Northwestern 45, UMass 6

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Rapid Recap: Northwestern 45, UMass 6

Riley Lees flies in the air. The junior receiver had seven catches Saturday.

Riley Lees flies in the air. The junior receiver had seven catches Saturday.

Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Riley Lees flies in the air. The junior receiver had seven catches Saturday.

Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Riley Lees flies in the air. The junior receiver had seven catches Saturday.

Jonah Dylan, Gameday Editor

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Football


Two months later, Northwestern’s losing streak is finally over.

After losing seven straight games, the Wildcats (2-8, 0-7 Big Ten) overcame a shaky start to dispatch lowly UMass (1-10) 45-6 in a scarcely attended game Saturday at Ryan Field.

NU’s offense was disastrous from the start and didn’t inspire much confidence. Aidan Smith threw two first-quarter interceptions against the worst defense in the country and the Minutemen moved the ball down the field with relative ease.

The Cats caught a massive break when Joe Gaziano blocked a field goal and Chris Bergin returned it 85 yards down the sideline for a NU touchdown. After a UMass field goal, the Cats finally found their offensive groove. Redshirt freshman Evan Hull took over the game, rushing for his first and second career touchdowns in the second quarter to help NU build a 21-6 lead going into the break.

UMass’ offense stagnated after the blocked kick and struggled to do much of anything. A quarterback change from Randall West to Andrew Brito did nothing to spark the rest of the unit, and NU started to pull away on the back of another Hull touchdown.

With the game clearly out of reach, Andrew Marty replaced Smith, who finished with a disappointing stat line of 76 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Riley Lees was the only NU receiver to catch a pass before garbage time.

Hull later added a fourth touchdown, and redshirt freshman Raymond Niro III found paydirt for his first career touchdown to run the lead up even more.

Takeaways

1. It was a breakout game for Evan Hull. The Maple Grove, Minnesota native earned the lion’s share of the running back work and took advantage of the opportunity, tallying 220 on 24 carries while tying a program record with four touchdowns. NU’s running back corps has dealt with injuries all season, but that led to this opportunity for Hull. While Drake Anderson has struggled during the back half of the season, Hull’s stock is on the rise. It’ll be interesting to see what this performance does to his standing in the running back pecking order moving forward.

2. NU’s defense bent but didn’t break — and got a little help from the special teams unit. UMass had success moving the ball down the field in the first half, but the Minutemen couldn’t find a way into the end zone due to a key penalty and some stout red zone defense from the Cats. Bergin’s blocked kick return for a touchdown helped swing momentum in NU’s favor at a critical time, and the defense picked up its performance after that to help ice the game.

3. NU got a win. Sure, it was against a 1-10 team with easily the worst defense in the country. But for the first time since mid-September, NU found a way to win a game and snapped its seven game losing streak. The offense struggled like it has all season, but the defense and special teams made enough plays to get the job done. The Cats have had a bad season by any metric, but at least for one afternoon, they can celebrate getting back in the win column. And that’s something.

Email: jonahdylan2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @thejonahdylan

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