Northwestern head coach Tom Linette thought his offensive and defensive lines might take some time to jell with a number of new faces. However, he liked his overall team speed on both lines as well as in his backfield.
By halftime of last night's season-opener against Palisades, some of Linette's doubts were quickly put to rest.
Down 9-0 early in the second quarter, Northwestern responded with 49 unanswered points in a 49-9 rout of Palisades.
"We have a new (offensive) line, and we thought it might take some time," said Linette. "We also liked our team speed.
"But our defensive scores helped us and we really played a solid second half. Ty (Cunningham) had a big game on both sides of the ball and we had some others who played well."
Senior running back Ty Cunningham had a huge night for the Tigers, as he scored on runs of 13, 57 and 4 yards, and tossed a 75-yard touchdown to cap the evening. Cunningham finished as the game's leading rusher with 102 yards on 16 carries, gaining 84 yards in the second half.
"We started a little slow, but we put everything together in a hurry," said Cunningham. "Once the second half came around, we settled down and knew what we had to do. We were able to play our game.
"The (offensive line) did well, and they had a lot of new guys up there. They created holes and we all executed. The momemtum helped a lot."
Cunningham envisoned a big night, but his expectations were as big as his performance.
"I thought I could have a good game, but this was a great start," added Cunningham. "But this is big win for us."
In the final six minutes of the second quarter, the Tigers took advantage of two key Palisades' turnovers, both of which gave them momemtum for the remainder of the game after they started slowly.
Quarterback Ben Synder, who had a pass deflected that resulted in a Palisades 25-yard return for a touchdown on the game's opening play, redeemed himself when he intercepted a pass on the Palisades 30 and brought it back into the endzone.
Northwestern took the lead for good when Payton Bachman scooped up a loose ball on the Palisades 37 and raced down the sidelines for a 13-9 lead with 3:48 left in the first half.
Cunningham, who also took some snaps, sealed the win whenhe found Andrew Deutsch beyond the Palisades secondary and they connected on a 75-yard scoring strike with just 8 seconds left before halftime.
In the second half, Northwestern continued to roll as they scored on their first five possessions and limited Palisades to just 27 yards of offense in the final two quarters. Linette noted the defensive efforts of Cunnigham, Bachman, James Bachert, and Dave Tirpak as catalysts for the evening.
Cunningham scored on a 13-yard run, followed by Snyder's 28-yard touchdown pass to Bachman. In the fourth quarter, Cunningham broke free on a 57-yard ramble before he had a four-yard run in the final quarter.
"I was quite happy with the ways things turned out in the second half for us," said Linette. "We had a really good halftime talk and we made some adjustments. I knew our offense was going to come together and our defense did a great job.
"We'll look at the films and move on from there."