EASTON – Both teams had opportunities. Northwestern capitalized on Wilson's mistakes, while the Warriors struggled to turn their successes into points in a 27-20 Tigers win Saturday afternoon at Smith Field.
The teams traded fumbles in the final four minutes, but neither turnover turned into points as Northwestern, which never trailed in the game, made one last defensive stand to hang on for the win.
"Every time Wilson took its shots," said Northwestern head coach Josh Snyder. "We sort of staggered a little bit, but we didn't fall. We were able to bounce back and answer back and maintain that lead."
Northwestern was on the ropes late in the fourth quarter. Wilson had goal at the Tigers' 2-yard line with four minutes left in the game. The Warriors (1-2) had gone for two-point conversions on every touchdown and down 27-20 late in the game, they were certainly going to try for the win.
But Wilson running back Trey Robinson fumbled on the next play and the Tigers came up with it in the end zone. They turned the ball right back over on a second-down Ty Richardson fumble, giving the Warriors the ball 41 yards from pay dirt with plenty of time (2:41) left in the game.
Northwestern (2-1) allowed a pair of first downs, but eventually halted Wilson's drive at the 6-yard line to seal the win.
"The team is really tight and they play for one another," said Snyder. "The defense just picked (Richardson) up on the sudden change, so that was nice to see."
Wilson gained yardage (444 total yards), but failed to get into the end zone consistently.
"I have nothing but respect for Northwestern and its football program," said Comp. "This wasn't about Northwestern beating Wilson; it was about Wilson beating Wilson."
The Warriors piled up 21 first downs in the game. Robinson had 26 carries for 143 yards and 3 receptions for 61 yards.
The Warriors most inspirational performance was given by quarterback Ryan Dailey, who was playing the game just two days after the passing of his father. He completed 17 of 31 passes for 223 yards and ran for all three Warrior scores.
The statistics might indicate Northwestern struggled on defense, which wasn't the case. The Tigers set up their first score and set the tone for the game with their defense.
After forcing a three and out on Wilson's first possession of the game, Northwestern's Taylor Breininger blocked a punt inside the 15-yard line. Ty Richardson picked it up and scampered seven yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 9:59 left in the first quarter.
"That blocked punt really set us," said Cam Richardson, who caught a pair of touchdown passes for Northwestern. "We set that up all week. We were going after him every single time."
The teams traded blows for a while in the first half.
Cam Richardson caught an 84-yard touchdown pass from Frank Dangello for a 13-0 lead with 2:10 left in the first quarter.
Wilson got the ball back and went 67 yards in four plays, highlighted by a 59-yard Bogoly catch and capped by Dailey's 8-yard touchdown run.
Northwestern responded with a five-play touchdown drive, which included a 35-yard Ty Richardson catch and Cam Richardson's 24-yard touchdown reception.
Wilson made it 20-14 on its next possession, going 75 yards on six plays before Dailey scored on an 18-yard run with 6:57 left in the first half.
The defenses took over until Wilson tied the game on its first possession of the second half. A 77-yard, 7-play touchdown drive ended with another Dailey run to tie the game at 20 with 7:05 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers answered again. They got the ball back and went 58 yards on five plays. Cam Richardson's 45-yard touchdown catch with 4:28 left capped the scoring at 27-20.
Northwestern, which lost its season opener 41-0 to Palisades, has now won two straight games.
"Our intensity has been up the past two weeks," said running back Mason Schuler, who ran for 88 yards on 19 carries. "That first game made us mad. We don't want anybody to think just because we're young we can't win a football game. This team's come a long way."