EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — The blowout loss to Duke didn’t leave Northwestern reeling.
Clayton Thorson threw for a career-high 370 yards and two touchdown passes, Justin Jackson rushed for three touchdowns and Northwestern beat Bowling Green, 49-7, on Saturday night.
After a lackluster win against Nevada in its season opener and a lopsided defeat to Duke last week, Northwestern (2-1) played like the team that many predicted to be a factor in the Big Ten West division.
The team had many reasons to be down after offensive stars Thorson and Jackson could get little going, and the Duke offense totaled 538 of offense against The Wildcats’ defense.
“When I walked into the locker room I didn’t feel like I was walking into a funeral. I thought the guys attitude was like, alright we just got our fanny whooped, but everything that happened in the game we can solve, but we’re going to have to do it this week in practice,” said Fitzgerald.
The Wildcats scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions in the first half, Bennett Skowronek caught consecutive touchdown passes from Thorson in the first half and Jackson rushed for two.
“You get knocked down like that, you kind of have one or two choices. You can pout and feel sorry for yourself or you’re going to do something about it. I think they responded,” said Fitzgerald.
After only gaining 66 rushing yards as a team in a 41-17 loss at Duke, Jackson set the tone for the offense on the Wildcats’ second possession of the game with a 5-yard touchdown run. Jackson finished with 121 yards on 18 carries.
Bowling Green (0-3) freshman Matt Wilcox beat the Northwestern secondary for a 33-yard reception to set up a 20-yard touchdown run for Josh Cleveland to tie the score at seven in the first quarter.
Bowling Green quarterback James Morgan was 15 of 26 for 166 yards. He was replaced in the fourth quarter by freshman Jarret Doege. Cleveland finished with 54 rushing yards.
Northwestern took the lead at the end of the first quarter as Skowronek ran by Falcons cornerback Clint Stephens for a 58-touchdown reception. On the next offensive play from scrimmage, Thorson connected again with Skowronek for an 18-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 21-7.
Thorson didn’t let last week’s struggles carry over.
“You always go into a game thinking you’re going to do well, that’s the goal and if you go in timid you’re going to do poorly,” said Thorson.
Skowronek’s second touchdown was set up after Montre Hartage stripped Falcons wide receiver Datrin Guyton and Godwin Igwebuike returned the fumble for 45 yards.
Bowling Green head coach Mike Jinks saw Northwestern gain total control of the game after the fumble.
“That was huge. And we have to respond better to adversity,” said Jinks.
Bowling Green: The Falcons, who lost seven straight games midway through the season last year, is on a familiar path. Despite the lopsided score in the first half, the Falcons did move the ball. They had 197 yards of total offense and Cleveland was effective on the ground with 64 rushing yards on 10 carries. Bowling Green lost for the first time in three games with Northwestern.
Northwestern: The Wildcats found some much needed confidence as their next opponent is Big Ten West heavyweight No. 10 Wisconsin. … Linebacker Jango Glackin was carted off the field after appearing to injure his arm on a Bowling Green punt in the third quarter.
Northwestern wide receiver Garrett Dickerson became Thorson’s primary target on offense. He had nine catches for a career-high 150 yards.
“Lot of it is what the defense was giving to us,” said Dickerson. “Without Clayton putting it on me it wouldn’t be the same way.”
Bowling Green: The Falcons cap off its non-conference schedule on Saturday at Middle Tennessee State.
Northwestern: The Wildcats are on a bye next week before kicking off its Big Ten schedule against Wisconsin.
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