With four minutes left in the first quarter of this afternoon’s game against Maryland, Justin Jackson (The Ball Carrier) became Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher. The run was nothing special – it was for five yards – but it so perfectly represented who Justin Jackson is as a player. He’s not as physically gifted as tailbacks like Damien Harris or as flashy as Saquon Barkley, but at the end of the day, he works hard and consistently carries the NU offense.
And today it was that consistency in the running game that helped propel the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2 B1G) to a 37-21 win on the road against Maryland (3-3, 1-2 B1G).
Jackson ran the ball 28 times for 171 yards and two scores in the contest, a huge improvement from last week’s game against Penn State where he rushed for only 66 yards. A big part of that improvement was better offensive line play: the unit was able to generate a lot of push against a team with a smaller front seven than Penn State’s.
The offensive line also performed better in pass protection. Quarterback Clayton Thorson was sacked only one time the entire game after being sacked 12 times in the previous two games. He finished the game 27 of 49 for 293 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions as well as. Offensive coordinator Mike McCall helped out the struggling quarterback by running a lot of quick crossing routes so that Thorson was not sitting in the pocket for too long.
Defensively, the Wildcats played a solid game overall despite missing standout defensive players safety Godwin Igwebuike and linebacker Paddy Fisher in the first half. The defensive line set the tone by winning in the trenches as Maryland averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. Northwestern stopped many plays in the backfield and recorded 11 tackles for loss.
The secondary, however, did have some problems stopping the Terps’ passing game. Maryland receiver DJ Moore exposed the unit as he went off with 12 receptions for 210 yards and two touchdowns. However, a consistent pass rush along with the return of Igwebuike and Fisher in the second half helped slow down the Maryland pass attack and allowed the Wildcats get a win.
The win improves the Wildcat’s record to 3-3 on the year. Their next game is at home against Iowa next Saturday at 11 am.