GREEN POND - After scoring 27 unanswered points, it looked like the Northwestern Tigers would pick up a pretty easy win over Notre Dame Friday night, until the Crusaders came back with 14 unanswered points and a last minute drive inside the Tigers 10-yard line. In the end, the Northwestern defense bent, but didn't break and the Tigers got away with a 33-27 win over the Crusaders.
In a game filled with big plays, the biggest might have come in the final seconds when Notre Dame marched its way quickly down the field and had a third-and-goal from the Tigers nine-yard line. Crusaders quarterback Kordell Theadford appeared to have an open Derek Gardner in the end zone, but Alex Bobbyn closed ground and batted the ball away. The defense again came up big on fourth down and got the ball back at the eight-yard line with just one-second left in the game.
"Bobbyn and all of our safeties really do the job for us," said coach Josh Snyder after the win. "They gave up some yardage tonight, but in the end, they also did what they had to do to keep us on top."
The game featured three touchdown passes of over 40 yards, a 94-yard kick-off return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery that was returned for a 48-yard touchdown.
The first of the big plays came on Notre Dame's first drive when Theadford hit Owen Loughlin for a 63-yard touchdown.
Not to be outdone, Frank Dangello hit Dylan Snyder on a 41-yard strike to even the score.
On the next drive, Notre Dame faced a fourth-and-11 and Theadford hit Loughlin again, this time for 28 yards. The drive went for 72 yards in 11 plays and put the Crusaders up 13-7. Again, Northwestern took the ensuing drive and cashed it in when Dangello hit Cameron Richardson on a 64-yard pass down the sideline and Brandon Miller added the extra point to put the Tigers up 14-13.
With just 3:25 left in the half, Northwestern moved down the field and Harry Hall capped off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run and the Tigers took a 20-13 lead into the lockers.
Hall finished the game with 195 yards rushing, a career-high, on 29 carries.
"That's usually what I try to do, just grind it out," said Hall. "Personally, I love to run the ball that way."
Ironically, the offensive hero for Northwestern prefers defense over big offensive displays.
"I don't like high scoring games, I love defense, but if that's how it's going to be, it's all right. We did have a lot of nice defensive plays," said Hall, who plays on both offense and defense.
The opening kickoff of the second half was taken by Richardson at the six and he maneuvered his way through the defense and made a quick move outside to beat the final Notre Dame defender to score on a 94-yard return, expanding the Tigers' lead to 27-13.
The Tigers were again on the board when Hall ran one-yard for a touchdown with just over 2:00 left in the third quarter, giving the Tigers their 27 unanswered points and a 33-13 lead.
From there, it was primarily the Crusaders offense on display. Theadford had a 13-yard run for a touchdown and Loughlin ripped the ball away from Dangello on a hand-off to Hall and raced 48 yards for another touchdown, cutting the Tigers lead to 33-27 with 6:25 left to play in the game.
After being stopped once on downs, the Crusaders had one last crack from their own 20-yard line. A 46-yard completion to Gardner on the first play of the drive took Notre Dame to the Northwestern 34-yard line. Theadford then hit Gardner again for 24 yards and a first down just inside the 10-yard line. Theadford again looked for Gardner, but Bobbyn stepped up to make his game-saving play and preserve the Northwestern win.