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: ‘Our best football is still ahead of us’: Braun, players believe in team’s ability to bounce back versus Maryland

Northwestern%E2%80%99s+defense+celebrates+following+a+forced+incompletion+in+last+week%E2%80%99s+defeat+to+Nebraska.+Ahead+of+its+matchup+with+Maryland+on+Saturday%2C+NU+believes+in+its+ability+to+quickly+bounce+back+and+reach+.500+once+again.+
Angeli Mittal/The Daily Northwestern
Northwestern’s defense celebrates following a forced incompletion in last week’s defeat to Nebraska. Ahead of its matchup with Maryland on Saturday, NU believes in its ability to quickly bounce back and reach .500 once again.

Despite being a double-digit underdog, Northwestern was within striking distance throughout its matchup over Nebraska.

The Wildcats (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten) would have been over .500 for the first time in over a year and could have inched closer to bowl eligibility if they had won. At least six wins are needed to proceed to a bowl game.

Two forced interceptions in the game’s opening minutes provided hope for NU. Unfortunately, the offense struggled to generate momentum all afternoon and failed to reach the end zone once. As a result, the ‘Cats were forced to settle for three field goals and trailed from the second quarter onwards.

While Saturday’s defeat served as a major obstacle in NU’s chance of topping the Big Ten West, interim head coach David Braun believes in the team’s ability to turn it around immediately — starting with this Saturday’s home matchup versus Maryland (5-2, 2-2 Big Ten).

“We have a group that is disappointed in the result but also hungry for what is ahead,” Braun said. “You can see that in the way everyone is carrying themselves. It is an intense group who knows that our best football is still ahead of us.”

While the team’s morale is high, there are many questions about the offense’s ability to outplay opposing defenses. NU’s offense failed to capitalize on advantageous field positions and were sacked eight times last Saturday.

Yet, Braun remains confident in his offense — and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian’s play-calling abilities through the final stretch of the season.

“There’s not one person in the locker room that doesn’t want to see that area improve,” Braun said. “There’s trust that (Bajakian) and the offensive staff will put our offense in the best situation to win games. One of the worst things you can do as a head coach is being too involved in the middle of a drive.”

And although the offensive struggles have become a premiere focus of attention, NU’s defense — particularly on the edge — will need to continue to create opportunities.

The Terrapins average around 33 points per game, placing them as one of the conference’s top offenses and citing the importance of consistent elite defensive performances.

“(Maryland) has a well structured run game,” Braun said. “They have a lot of juniors and seniors on their offensive line who understand what they are doing, a very deep and talented wide receiver room and a quarterback that operates at an extremely high level. It will be a great challenge for our defense.”

On Saturday, the ‘Cats presented a committee of running backs rushing the ball. Whether it was senior running back Cam Porter — who had nine rushes for 20 yards — or junior running back Anthony Tyus III who rushed for 63 yards over six carries — there wasn’t a primary ball carrier.

Despite the multiple running backs involved, Porter has prioritized a team-first mindset, understanding the role he has in the team’s overall success.

“(Porter) is the ultimate team player and team captain,” Braun said. “He embodies selflessness, will always put the team first and (represents) what this team is all about. He is a huge reason why this team is positioned to do great things in the second half.

In all three of their losses, the ‘Cats bounced back to win the following contest, highlighting their resilient level of play when it matters most.

Now, with the Terrapins coming into town and NU once again facing the possibility of being two games under .500 for the first time this season, Braun stressed the team’s determined approach.

“We have a group that owns the previous week and goes and attacks the next opportunity,” Braun said. “We fully expect the same to happen again this week. We’re in the third quarter of our season, and we’ve got to set the stage on how we’re going to go forward.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @aayushyagarwal7

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