By Ben Krieger
Like many of the freshmen sitting in the stands of Ryan field for the first time on Saturday night, the Northwestern football team is adjusting quite nicely to life without Carr.
In the team’s third game without last year’s Big Ten Receiver of the Year, the Wildcats produced an offensive explosion for the ages, pounding the Bowling Green Falcons 49-7 in front of a packed Ryan Field.
Northwestern’s offense had a day for the history annals, gaining a school-record 9.2 yards per play (easily shattering the previous record of 8.3 yards per play against Wisconsin in 2005). The team’s 678 yards from scrimmage came up just shy of its record-holding 704-yard day against Indiana in 2012.
Northwestern opened the scoring eight minutes into the game with a five-yard touchdown run by Justin Jackson (the ball carrier). The Falcons answered right back with a touchdown of their own, exposing the same issues that plagued the ’Cats defense in the first two weeks of the season on a nine-play, 81-yard drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown run by Josh Cleveland.
Getting the ball back with just over three minutes left in the first quarter, Northwestern took control and never looked back, scoring on its next four possessions.
First, Clayton Thorson connected with standout sophomore Bennett Skowronek on a bomb from 58 yards out.
Clayton Thorson is out here dropping dimes.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 17, 2017
Following a Bowling Green fumble returned 45 yards by Northwestern safety Godwin Igwebuike, Thorson again found Skowronek for a touchdown, this time an 18-yarder. Northwestern then strung together two more touchdown drives of 75 and 90 yards before the end of the first half, with Justin Jackson and Jeremy Larkin finding pay dirt.
In the second half, Northwestern got off to a slow start, with its first three possessions ending in a punt and two fumbles. The defense was locked in though, keeping the Falcons off the scoreboard until the offense regained its form. Northwestern added two fourth quarter scores on runs by Justin Jackson and Jesse Brown to extend the lead to 42.
All told, Bowling Green did not score in the last 48 minutes of the game, as the Wildcats put up 42 unanswered.
As one would expect on a record-shattering night, the box score looked quite good for Northwestern. Justin Jackson gained 121 yards and scored three (!) touchdowns on 18 carries, quieting fears that he had lost his dominating ways over the last nine months. Garrett Dickerson and Bennett Skowronek formed a terrific receiving duo, as Dickerson lead the team with nine receptions and 150 yards to go along with Skowronek’s 86 yards and two scores. The defense held Bowling Green to just 352 total yards, including only 96 yards rushing on 30 carries.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson finished the day a sizzling 23 of 30 for 370 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers, looking more than comfortable in his third Carr-less game.
The Wildcats will enjoy their lone bye week of 2017 next week before beginning Big Ten play with games against two of the conference’s toughest teams — a road tilt with Wisconsin and a Homecoming matchup with Penn State.