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The Daily Northwestern

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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: Top performances by NU O-Line and Tight Ends versus UTEP will be even more important against Duke

Daily file photo by Micah Sandy
Northwestern players block and run routes on offense against Rutgers. NU’s offensive line and tight end play were key in the 38-7 win over UTEP.

In a 31-point win over UTEP that left interim head coach David Braun smiling and speechless meant one thing — Northwestern (1-1, 0-1 Big Ten) clicked on all cylinders last Saturday.

The Wildcats second half performance was one of the best in the program’s recent history. And, just a few days removed from the celebratory victory, Braun named two position groups that stood out the most: the offensive line and tight ends.

“I was really proud of the way the offensive line moved the line of scrimmage, and I’ll involve the tight ends in that,” Braun said. “And then there was just some downfield, effort plays out of our tight end group.”

After combining for 120 total yards in the first and second quarters, the Cats offense blew past that in the third quarter alone, finishing with 170 yards. They followed with 101 in the fourth.

Whether it be through the air or on the ground, NU got everything they wanted and more offensively. Versus Rutgers, the Cats finished with only 12 rushing yards.

Sixth-year quarterback Ben Bryant noticed how much more successful the run game was against UTEP than versus Rutgers and contributed to his protection unit stepping up.

“The run game wasn’t really there much against Rutgers and then we really emphasized that going into Week Two against UTEP,” Bryant said. “You see on film, all the tight ends blocking downfield, the o-line working super hard, and that’s going to be really key for our success moving forward.”

Sophomore running back Joe Himon II’s 85-yard touchdown on a screen pass was the perfect example of the energy and effort Braun spoke to.

Braun singled out senior tight end Marshall Lang for his work on the play. Although he didn’t record a stat in Saturday’s win, Lang made an important block on a defensive back chasing down Himon that made the touchdown possible.

The team voted him Offensive Player of the Week.

“That Joe Himon touchdown? That’s Marshall Lang,” Braun said. “Straining to finish a block that springs that thing from a big gain into a touchdown.”

With No. 21 Duke on the clock, NU prepares for a defense that has only given up only 14 total points in two contests. The Cats’ battle in Durham, North Carolina will present an arguably tougher challenge than it saw against Rutgers or UTEP.

NU’s offensive line and tight end groups made the necessary changes and progress between week one and two to succeed. Now, facing a stout defense proven to be a threat on all three levels, the Cats’ protection unit will need to do the same against the Blue Devils.

Once again, it starts at the line of scrimmage.

“I was overall just so impressed again with the energy, the effort, the passion that was coming out of our guys, and that is the expectation every single week regardless of the result,” Braun said. “Very impressed with the growth in that offensive line room, specifically in the run game. And I’m very impressed with the way that our tight ends continue to stress defenses with their ability to be multiple and the effort that those guys are playing with right now.”

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