ST CHARLES, Mo - In a 38-17 victory over the Lions Oct. 20, the Bearcats found the second half scoring they have been lacking in previous weeks.
Northwest (7-1) put up 14 points in the third quarter against Lindenwood (3-5) outscoring its total from the last two second halves combined, with nine points. A big key to the success in the second half was the ground game on both sides of the ball.
The Bearcats totaled 236 rushing yards on 48 carries as a team while holding the Lions to 47 rushing yards on 28 carries. Senior defensive end Austen Eskew credited the entire defense for the dominant rushing performance.
“When you can make a team one dimensional it helps a lot more,” Eskew said. “You can get off the ball, rush the passer and go hunt. It makes it a lot more fun that’s for sure.”
Eskew and the rest of the defensive lineman took advantage of the opportunity to rush the passer, applying pressure all game long and totaling five sacks. Coach Rich Wright has preached all season the impact pressuring the quarterback can have and has allowed the defensive front to win their individual matchups.
“Our defensive line has really stepped up in the last couple of weeks,” Rich Wright said. “I feel like they are playing very well and we are consistently rushing with four, I think we blitzed twice today and they are generating a ton of pressure.”
A steady pass rush benefits not only the interior of the defense but allows the secondary to be more physical at the line of scrimmage with the wide receivers.
“It’s awesome seeing those guys (defensive line) get back after the quarterback,” senior safety Jack Richards said. “All we (defensive secondary) have to do get our hands on the receiver for a couple seconds and we know we are in the clear.”
On the opposite side of the ball, the Bearcat offensive line was able to move Lion defenders around all game and open up big holes for the running backs to gallop through. The four running backs and freshman quarterback Braden Wright combined to average 4.9 yards per rush.
The steady dose of the run game was a key in continuing the first half momentum out of halftime.
“We worked on it all week, putting together more of a complete football game,” Rich Wright said. “I felt like we did that. The offense really moved the ball consistently and ran the ball very well, so I want to continue to build off of that.”
Another category that saw improvement against the Lions was the points off turnovers. Before the game, Northwest had scored a mere 10 points off turnovers this season. It more than doubled that total scoring touchdowns on both interceptions forced.
While a 14 point third quarter is an improvement, there is still more room for growth as the Bearcats were held scoreless in the fourth quarter. With the offense scoreless, the defense stepped up and held Lindenwood to 35 offensive yards and zero points in the the final quarter.
The next chance at improvement is in Tahlequah, Oklahoma in a matchup against Northeastern State. The Bearcats will make the nearly six-hour journey Oct. 27 in search of a fifth straight win.