SALISBURY TOWNSHIP Northwestern's biggest question mark coming into the season was it's new skill players. The Tigers graduated their top five running backs from last season as well as their quarterback and a few receivers.
For the first half Friday night at Salisbury, the questions still remained.
Early in the second half, however, Northwestern junior running backs Payton Bachman and Ty Cunningham did what they could to provide some answers.
Bachman ran for 104 of his 120 yards in the second half. Cunningham had 142 of his 166 yards after halftime.
"We started to execute a little better [in the second half]," said Cunningham. "The holes were there so we just had to do our part and run the ball."
Northwestern stayed in the game in the first half by playing bend-but-don't-break defense. The Tigers allowed 121 yards before halftime and allowed Salisbury inside their 30-yard line three times, but didn't allow a score.
"It was a tale of two halves," said Salisbury head coach Rob Sawicki. "The disappointing part from our standpoint is we were in good position. We just didn't execute."
Northwestern's offense struggled at times in the first half. It gained just 105 yards and turned the ball over twice.
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead on a field goal set up by David Tirpak's fumble recovery late in the first half.
After forcing a three-and-out on Salisbury first possession after halftime, Northwestern put together a six-play, 51-yard drive capped by Bachman's 22-yard touchdown run.
One possession later, on the first down following a Salisbury punt, Bachman broke free for a 60-yard run to paydirt, giving his team a 17-0 lead with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
With the lead, the Tiger defense dug in. It allowed just one first down on Salisbury's first four second-half possessions.
"In the second half our line dominated the line of scrimmage," Bachman said.
Cunningham's first touchdown came on a three-pay, 68-yard drive. His 44-yard run set up the touchdown, which made it 23-0 with 36 seconds left in the third.
The biggest play of the night was Cunningham's 96-yard run on Northwestern's next possession. It made it 30-0 with 9:40 left in the game.
"Things just seemed to be bouncing our way in the second half," said Northwestern head coach Tom Linette, who was given Friday's game ball after the first win of his head coaching career.