NOCKAMIXON TWSP - Northwestern first-year head football coach Josh Snyder figured his club would endure some growing pains along the way this season. Last night, he found out how quickly those pains could surface.
In the Colonial League and season opener for both clubs, the Tigers were ambushed by a 28-0 first-half onslaught from Palisades and they couldn't recover as they went on to suffer a 41-0 defeat.
Palisades (1-0), coming off a 1-9 campaign last season, scored on its opening drive on a dramatic 63-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Jesiolowski, who also threw for two other scores on the night.
Jesiolowski, who had an effective and efficient 4-for-6, 185-yard, three-touchdown performance all in the first half, also sprinted away from a horde of Northwestern defenders on his way to a 43-yard scamper in the second quarter. Palisades also established an effective running attack in the opening half that contributed to their arsenal.
It was a night when Palisades appeared to be in mid-season form with a crisp offensive and aggressive defensive attack, while Northwestern appeared to be working out some kinks in an another scrimmage for most of the first half.
Palisades' defense hurried and harassed sophomore quarterback Frank Dangello, who was making his first varsity start, all night and sacked him four times and forced a fumble.
"Coming out of our two scrimmages, one of our weak areas was how we were going to be in the middle defensively," said Snyder. "We knew they were going to bang us around in the middle, which they did.
"They wanted to set up their run game early on and they pass when they had to. We had a lot of mistakes in the secondary and we had breakdowns. Communication and coverages were blown and they capitalized on it. That's what good teams do."
However, Snyder didn't doubt his team's preparation. He was aware of their lack of maturity on the field.
"I think we were ready to play," he said. "A lot of guys were playing their first game at this level and we played a bunch of freshmen tonight. The game for them was a lot more faster and physical at this level.
"It is just a learning lesson for us. I don't think we were 41 points worse than they were. We just have to clean up our mistakes and we'll get better as the season goes along. Hopefully, we can pick up a few w's."
Dangello appeared to have an effective short passing game all night, and Snyder also credited some of his dexterity on his 15-for-24, 141 yards, 2-interception game. Northwestern didn't cross the 50 in the opening half, but they drove to the Palisades 11 on their opening drive of the second half for their deepest penetration. That drive ended in consecutive sacks before a lost fumble.
"If we had one bright spot offensively, it was Frank," said Snyder. "Our protection broke down time after time, but that didn't stop him from hanging in there and delivering the ball. We missed some opportunities.
"Now we have to recover next week."