Northwestern had something to prove this week.
After losing their opener by 41 points, the Tigers wanted to prove they're a better team than the one that was shut out by Palisades last week. They wanted to show improvement in all phase of the game, and they did that this week.
This time it was Northwestern pitching a shut with a 23-0 win over Salisbury in the home opener at Tiger Stadium.
"To come back off a 41-0 loss and win 23-0, it feels great," said Northwestern running back Mason Schuler.
If last week's final score wasn't enough to motivate the senior running back, the team's rushing statistics were. The Tigers finished last week's loss with no rushing yards on 20 carries. This week, Schuler accounted 80 of his team's 170 total rushing yards.
"That's never happened to me before," Schuler said. "I wasn't letting that happen again. Our line wasn't letting that happen again. Our line coach pushed them all week. We've got to have a running game."
The holes weren't huge, but they were just enough to get the shifty Tiger backs into the second level and keep the chains moving.
Northwestern's defense allowed just one Falcon first down in the first half, and that came on the game's first play. The Tigers (1-1) allowed just 2.2 yards per carry and only four first downs in the game. The Falcons (0-2) managed just 80 yards of offense Friday night and turned the ball over twice.
The best stat for Northwestern's defense is that it gave up 41 points fewer than last week.
"We went to a more attacking man to man defense," said first-year head coach Josh Snyder. "We had every gap filled and our linebackers were unblocked most of the night and played downhill. Our secondary was phenomenal. They tackled well and ran to the football."
The Tigers' special teams were also key to the win over Salisbury. The punt return team constantly harassed Falcon punter Derek Brown, including a partially blocked punt that resulted in just a three-yard punt.
Tiger punter Justin Betz booted a 61-yarder that pinned the Falcons on their own 1-yard line and led to Cameron Richardson's 34-yard return touchdown.
"Our special teams played tremendous," said Snyder.
The Tigers managed just one first down on their first three possessions, but put together a 77-yard, 10-play drive late in the first quarter that was capped by Frank Dangello's 31-yard touchdown pass to freshman Dylan Snyder for a 6-0 lead with 11:50 left in the first half.
Northwestern's next drive was another three-and-out, but Betz boomed his big punt, which rolled to a stop on the Salisbury 1-yard line. The Tiger defense held strong for three plays before the Falcons punted to Richardson at the 34-yard line. He took it all the way, giving his team a 13-0 lead with 6:18 left in the second quarter.
Salisbury finished the first half with just 34 yards of offense and one first down.
The Tigers made it 20-0 on their second possession of the third quarter.
Dangello hit Tyler Richardson with a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap a 9-play, 92-yard drive and give his team a 20-0 lead with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.
Dangello, a sophomore making his second varsity start, went 6 for 18 for 84 yards with a pair of touchdown tosses.
He was happy the offense bounced back this week and expects the progress to continue.
"This week at practice was the most intense we've had," he said. "All the hard work paid off.
"We left a bunch of plays on the field tonight and we still came out with a 23-point victory. There's a lot of room to improve. We can still get better."
The Tigers capped the scoring with John Dolonich's 25-yard field goal, which deflected off the right upright and through for a 23-0 lead with 4:56 left in the game.