A ranked team came to Ryan Field to open the 2015 season, and Northwestern came away with a W. The offense did not generate much through the air, but the Wildcats were stellar nearly everywhere else in the 16-6 victory over the Stanford Cardinal. Here’s how NU opened the season 1-0:
-Stanford looked good right out of the gate. Kevin Hogan had all day to throw on the first drive, and the Cardinal capped off the 64-yard drive with a field goal to go up 3-0. Their offense sputtered from there though….
-The Wildcat defense kept Stanford off the scoreboard for the next 44 minutes. Pressure on Hogan increased significantly. The Cardinal’s stable of running backs never got going against a very strong defensive front. And Anthony Walker was everywhere. Everywhere. He had 10 tackles, two for loss and half a sack.
-Justin Jackson was still Justin Jackson. The sophomore rushed for 134 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He was elusive, strong between the tackles and quick in the open field. Jackson was basically NU’s offense Saturday.
-Clayton Thorson was solid as a game manager. Although he only completed half of his passes and threw for just 105 yards, he didn’t turn the ball over and didn’t get sacked. The redshirt freshman was actually most effective with his legs, running for 68 yards, including a 42-yard score that put the Cats ahead 10-3 in the second quarter.
-Even the special teams were great. Jack Mitchell hit three of four field goal attempts, including a 49-yarder that essentially iced the ballgame. His only miss was a 48-yard attempt into the wind. The Wildcats did not do much in the return game, but Stanford didn’t give them much of a chance by punting out of bounds.
-Overall, this was a fantastic win for Northwestern. The secondary was as good as they have been billed. Traveon Henry, Matt Harris and Godwin Igwebuike combined for 19 tackles. Walker looked like a star in the making, and the defensive line improved as the game went along. And only so much could be expected from Thorson in his debut. The Cats played a complete game.