Northwestern came out firing on all cylinders and didn't let up until the game was well in hand as they evened their record at 1-1 with a 43-8 win over Salisbury. After a disappointing outcome against Palisades in week one, the Tigers performed well offensively, defensively and on special teams.
Tigers' coach Josh Snyder stressed to his team over the past week that this was a key game even though it was so early in the season, because they needed to avoid starting with two straight losses.
"It was crucial. We told the team all week that this was a must-win game if we wanted to reach our goals," said Snyder. "We know what we're capable of, it's just a matter of getting the reps in practice and coming out and doing it on the field."
It was special teams that got things started when they came up with a blocked punt deep in Salisbury territory, giving them the ball at the Salisbury four-yard line. Thanks to a holding penalty, it took five plays to get the ball into the end zone, but quarterback Frank Dangello took the ball straight up the middle from the one-yard line to open the scoring. Being aggressive, the Tigers went for the two-point conversion and Cameron Richardson scampered around the left side to put Northwestern up 8-0 with 8:26 left in the first quarter.
"We stressed all three phases of the game, but our special teams really lifted us up with that blocked punt leading to that touchdown on the first possession and that was huge," stressed Snyder.
It was the defenses turn on Salisbury's second possession. The second bad snap of the night for the Falcons left them with a third-and-seven and quarterback Troy Patton dropped back to pass, but had no time thanks to Jacob Najarian who broke free and sacked Patton at the Salisbury 29-yard line.
Late in the first quarter, Northwestern embarked on a drive that would cover 46 yards and take nine plays as Northwestern patiently pounded the ball on the ground. Harry Hall picked up 30 yards rushing on the drive, including a one-yard dash to put the ball into the end zone. Brandon Miller added his first of five extra points on the night as Northwestern stretched their lead to 15-0.
It was all downhill for Salisbury from there.
Northwestern would score three more times in the second quarter, with Richardson coming up big with a 52-yard catch from Dangello for one score and then a 59-yard run late in the second quarter to put Northwestern up 36-0 as the two teams headed for the locker room at the half.
"We picked up the intensity as a coaching staff this past week and the kids responded really well. We came out fast and I think we were really ready to play football tonight," said Snyder.
The Tigers opened the second-half at their own 32-yard line and put together a 12-play, 68-yard drive capped by Richardson's two-yard run for a touchdown and a 43-0 lead. At that point, Northwestern pulled most of their starting players off the field and Salisbury was able to put together a long 16-play, 85-yard drivex. Tevon Weber, who rotated in and out at quarterback with Patton, played a big part in the drive, dashing for 30 yards on a second-and-eight keeper and then hitting Devin Irwin with a 25-yard pass. Weber struck again with a 13-yard TD pass to Kyle Hartzell for Salisbury's only score.
The Tigers had one stalled drive and Salisbury (1-1) took over with time running out. Weber threw one incomplete pass and then launched a hail Mary that was intercepted by Ryan Hippensteel at the Tigers 9-yard line as time ran out.
"We saw on tape that their quarterback was very good at hitting his receivers in the seems, so we tried to take away the gaps and we did a very good job at that tonight," said Snyder. "Again, it was all three phases of the game that excelled for us and that's what we need to be successful. This is a win that we can build off of, winning breeds more winning, so it was a good win for us."