Despite being outscored in the second half for the second straight week, No. 13 Northwest picked up a 27-13 win over Nebraska-Kearney Oct. 13.
Just as in last week's game against Pittsburg State, Northwest (6-1) jumped out to a 21-0 lead early on due to dominance on both sides of the ball. Kearney (4-3) had three drives in the first quarter; all were six plays or less and resulted in punts.
In contrast, Northwest opened with three straight touchdown drives for its only scoring of the first half. Freshman quarterback Braden Wright was not shy about taking responsibility for the offensive struggles after the first quarter.
“We were beating ourselves, getting behind the chains and I can take a lot of the blame for it,” Braden Wright said. “When opportunities were there and I did not make the play on the offensive side that really sets you back and shortens the playbook so much for what you can do.”
As the offense adjusted to the changes made by Kearney’s defense, the Bearcat defense began to show signs of wear as a 19-game streak of not allowing a rushing touchdown ended in the second quarter. Junior Loper quarterback Alex McGinnis found his way to a three-yard rushing touchdown to make it 21-6 after a missed extra point.
Coach Rich Wright shared his feelings about how much this streak meant to the team and what it said about the culture of Northwest defense.
“It’s unbelievable, I just stopped talking about it because sooner or later it is going to come to an end and it did today,” Rich Wright said. “To go 19 games without giving up a rushing touchdown is remarkable and it is a testament to what these kids are out here doing.”
While the Bearcats’ streak ended, the defense held the high-powered Lopers run game well below its season average of 304 yards on the ground. Kearney managed 132 yards on 47 carries, with McGinnis leading the team at 44 yards on 16 carries.
The 21-6 score was the score at half and would remain this way form much of the second half, as well as both defenses, took control of the game. McGinnis would break the scoreless second half with another rushing score, this time from five yards out near the beginning of the fourth quarter, closing the lead to 21-13 for the Bearcats.
Braden Wright and the offense would respond by finding some movement off two interceptions by junior defensive back Trent Nally late in the fourth. The first pick would set up sophomore Parker Sampson for a 39-yard field goal after Sampson put in a 21-yarder on Northwest’s previous drive.
The field goals pushed the score to 27-13, where it would stay for the rest of the game. Even with the second half struggles moving the ball, Northwest was still able to put together enough movement late in the game to keep it out of the Lopers’ reach.
The Bearcats next test is against Lindenwood (3-4) Oct. 20 in St. Charles. The Lions are fresh off a 38-14 win over Northeastern State.