Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Football: Northwestern puts together best brand of football this season in third quarter

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Daily file photo by Micah Sandy
Senior linebacker Bryce Gallagher and other Northwestern defensive players after a play. Gallagher was one of three players that had an interception in Saturday’s win versus UTEP.

By points scored alone, it’s easy to proclaim that Northwestern produced its best brand of football this season in the third quarter against UTEP.

The Wildcats’ 21 unanswered points turned a tied ball game at halftime into a one-sided victory. NU fans haven’t witnessed this big of a win since the program’s 35-6 triumph over Ohio in 2021.

But, there’s much more to the story than the point total. The Cats’ dominant play provided a glimpse into the team’s potential and showed fans what it looks like when both sides of the ball are in sync.

Interim head coach David Braun pointed to time as the reason behind NU turning the tide.

“It takes four quarters and I think what you’re starting to see is that complimentary football,” Braun said. “There’s nothing flashy about the way the Cats are going to win, but (I’m) just so proud of the way that they came out in the second half and continued just to plug away.”

To Braun, this idea is put on display in a number of ways. Through the defense getting a couple of three-and-outs or takeaways, or the offense finding a rhythm through a few strong run plays. It chips away at the other team and gradually breaks the game open.

It creates a domino effect. 

Although NU didn’t score again in the first half after its opening drive, the offense’s run game came alive in the third quarter, especially on the first drive. The Cats ran nine run plays on a 13-play drive, illustrating how the game’s momentum moved into their favor and how effective their game plan was beginning to become. 

Senior running back Cam Porter referenced how consistent, successful runs wear down defenses. Porter set the tone with a six and eight-yard rush to start the drive, while the offense ran the ball seven straight times later in the possession.Three other players carried the tote during the drive.

Although graduate transfer Ben Bryant threw a touchdown to cap off the drive, it was the run game that made it possible.

“Just like they feel it, we feel it…so it’s a momentum thing,” Porter said. “Once we were starting to pick up those tough five, six-yard gains, we knew that momentum was kind of going in our favor.”

The same could be said about NU’s defense, a group that became consistently harder to beat as the game continued.   

After being overpowered by UTEP’s offense to start the contest, NU hemmed up the Miners for the rest of the first half. This included an interception by senior linebacker Bryce Gallagher, and in a way, provided a preview of what was to come.

During the Cats’ first defensive possession of the second half, like Gallagher, senior linebacker Xander Mueller picked off UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison. With no immediate threat, Mueller said he zoned off, noticed where Hardison’s eyes were looking and had a strong feeling that he was going to throw it where he did.

On the following defensive possession, the Cats produced another three-and-out.Even though the Miners next drive amounted to more than one set of downs, NU forced UTEP to beat them with a 4th and five 21-yard reception.

The Cats defense got stronger as the game continued, and the third quarter was its culmination. 

“One of the big things that coach Braun preached (is) that we need to be more passionate and kind of play with passion. I think that definitely showed on the sideline and on the field,” Mueller said. “It was great to see everyone flying around and it’s fun to be back out there getting a win.”

Besides NU’s 18-yard receiving touchdown and Mueller’s interception that put the offense on the three-yard line, sophomore running back Joseph Himon II opened the game wide open taking a screen pass to the house for 85 yards. NU also poured it on the Miners in the fourth quarter with another interception and 10 more points.

Still, it’s important to remember that the rain began in the third quarter, which highlighted both sides of the ball for the Cats. 

On Sunday, NU’s defense struggled early on against Rutgers, giving up 17 of the Scarlet Knights points in the first half. However, the bunch bounced back by surrendering only seven points in the second half. Again on Saturday, it was the second half where the lights were the brightest. 

Scoring 21 points in a quarter isn’t an easy task — most teams aren’t expected to create these types of results. And especially not NU. 

But the big win did reveal what the Cats can do when clicking on all cylinders, and how the second half can be their best friend moving forward. 

“We keep talking about complimentary football and what complimentary football is, it’s not flashy. It’s not instant gratification, it takes time,” Braun said. “This program has won games over the years by being a great second half team, by being a great fourth quarter team. That’s how we won today and that’s how we’re going to have to continue to win.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @LPIII_TRES 

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