Dean Lowry sat in the flat, watched an ill-advised floater fall into his outstretched arms and raced 19 yards for a momentum-changing touchdown. It set the team’s single-season record for interceptions returned for touchdowns, and the Wildcats were still approximately 20 minutes away from ending their non-conference schedule.
Behind pick sixes from Lowry and Damien Proby, No. 18 Northwestern (4-0) pushed past FCS opponent Maine (3-1) 35-21 at Ryan Field Saturday. The defensive touchdowns erased a sloppy outing from the offense, which sputtered to just 279 yards and one scoring drive through its first three quarters of play.
“Good thing my defensive line was in front of me, they helped me walk it in,” Proby said about his touchdown. “I didn’t keep the ball. I should have, but I did not.”
Northwestern started well, holding the Black Bears to a three-and-out and subsequently marching 76 yards on nine plays that culminated in a touchdown pass from Kain Colter to Tony Jones. But the Wildcat offense wouldn’t crack the scoreboard again until the beginning of the fourth quarter, on a Mike Trumpy touchdown plunge that extended the lead to 28-7.
Maine’s second drive looked considerably better, but resulted in a blocked field goal at the hands of Tyler Scott. The Black Bears would get in scoring range two possessions later, though Sean Decloux missed another field goal try, this time untouched and wide left from 38 yards out.
Up just 7-0 as the first half wound down, Colter’s pass for Jones was tipped and intercepted by cornerback Axel Ofori in Northwestern territory. But the Wildcats would reciprocate just four plays later, with Proby handling a tipped Wasilewski throw and charging 49 yards to the endzone. It was the senior’s first career interception.
“I think that may have been the first ball Proby’s ever caught in his life here,” Pat Fitzgerald laughed. “I was very happy for him.”
Lowry’s touchdown gave Northwestern four pick sixes on the season, with the first two coming from Collin Ellis in week one. NU now has 10 interceptions through its first four games, the highest total in the country as of Saturday evening.
The defense wasn’t without its struggles. Following the Trumpy touchdown, the Black Bears raced 77 yards in just seven plays, with 59 of those yards coming from a Wasilewski connection to Derric Johnson. Johnson torched the struggling Dwight White down the seams and set up a one-yard touchdown toss to wideout John Eberling to close the gap to 28-14 with 11:06 to play.
Colter added a touchdown scamper from five yards out for extra security. The Cats finished with a strong fourth quarter that saw 14 points from their offense, though main contributors Trevor Siemian, Treyvon Green, Christian Jones and Dan Vitale were all held in check.
Northwestern only caught 10 passes–six from Tony Jones–while Kain Colter completed only five passes for 85 yards. Trevor Siemian wasn’t any better, completing five for 37.
“It’s not about style as much as it is about substance. Hopefully we’ll be able to improve. That’s typically been the hallmark of this program,” Fitzgerald said.
The Wildcats will take a bye week before hosting No. 4 Ohio State on Oct. 5.