Northwestern Quietly Blows Out Indiana State on 9/11

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It certainly wasn’t exciting by any means, but winning comfortably, in any way shape or form, is exactly what you wanted to do today if you’re the Northwestern Wildcats.

They did just that, cruising past FCS foe Indiana State 24-6, with only a late, garbage time touchdown from the Sycamores preventing a Wildcats shutout. Coming off a decisive defeat at the hands of Michigan State in week one, NU needed a comfortable win like this. However, you can’t really call it a dominant performance.

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Northwestern finished with just 66 passing yards, and only out-gained their opponent by 94 yards. It was a game that could certainly be described as “sleepy,” at least when it comes to the atmosphere.  Attendance was extremely low, for a host of reasons: the early start, the students not having returned to campus yet and a lack of a brand name opponent.

You also had the somber atmosphere of the 9/11 20th anniversary, which has been observed all over America today, and has made every sporting event more mellow. The somber tone means every stadium and arena has less juice on this late summer Saturday.

But for Northwestern, they did a lot of things right today, and strengthened in some areas that were definitely a weakness in the season opener.

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“As a Big Ten team against an FCS team, you’ve gotta be able to pound the ball,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said of the team’s run-first approach today.

NU ran the ball 46 times for a 209 yards today, led by Evan Hull, who assumed the feature back role. Hull had 126 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

“It was a challenge, honestly. We were looking through the archives trying to find things,” Hull said of game-planning against a team that didn’t play in 2020. In order to properly prepare, the team focused on the tape from Indiana State’s 2019 finale against Eastern Illinois.

While the running game was much better this week, the biggest improvement came on the defensive side of the ball.

Fitzgerald credited communication between players as a major reason for that. The defenders were communicating their calls much better this week. “From a communication standpoint, execution and a little better tackling… we’ve still got a lot of coaching to do,” he said.

However, he also added that there is still a lot of improvement to come.

“We got to be so much better and we got to commit to that,” Fitzgerald added.

“We’re far from where we need to be, and that’s probably what’s most exciting to me.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.

Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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