Justin Jackson and Warren Long led a strong rushing attack for the Wildcats in an easy 41-0 victory over the Eastern Illinois Panthers. Northwestern outplayed the Panthers in every part of the game, following up the big win over Stanford with a shutout over it's FCS opponent.
Northwestern's coaches must have seen a weakness in EIU's rush defense last week, because they came out with a sustained running attack. NU gained 189 yards on the ground in the first half, keeping the EIU defense on the field for over 20 minutes. Neither Jackson or Long saw the field in the 4th quarter, with the team up big. They still finished with a combined 150 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson had another solid game for NU, in his second career start. He threw his first career touchdown pass to Austin Carr in the third quarter, a 44 yard strike. He added an eight yard rushing touchdown earlier in the game, his second of the season. With the big lead after the third quarter, Thorson was pulled in favor of Senior Zach Oliver. NU's other backup, Sophomore Matt Alviti also saw some game action, but neither he nor Oliver attempted a pass.
Thorson finished with 152 passing yards, and completed 11 of his 16 passing attempts.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats were just as dominate. Junior cornerback Matthew Harris had a huge game, intercepting two passes. One came the conventional way off of Junior QB Jaylen Whitlow, and the other on a trick play thrown by a WR. He returned the second one 71 yards for a touchdown. Anthony Walker had another good game, and Ifeadi Odengibo added a sack, giving him 2.5 on the season.
There wasn't much to celebrate for Eastern, especially in the statistics department. Whitlow completed 10 of 19 passes for 68 yards and the Harris interception. Junior RB Devon Church finished with 63 rushing yards on 11 carries. Two members of the Panters defense finished with double digit tackles, which isn't surprising given how much time they spent on the field.
Just like in the Stanford game, the Cats dominated after the opening drive. It never felt like Eastern was in the game, and that's how it should have been. A loss would have been a killer for Northwestern, but they didn't fall into the trap. Next week the Cats go on the road for the first time, and will face Duke at 11:30 am central time. This will be the third game in it's four game non-conference schedule, which will close out against Ball State.