CAMPUS CHECK-IN: Northwestern’s offense looks reborn in the opener

Big 10 Sports

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS – OCTOBER 24: Peyton Ramsey #12 of the Northwestern Wildcats runs for a first down as Almosse Titi #91 of the Maryland Terrapins closes in at Ryan Field on October 24, 2020 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

EVANSTON – There really couldn’t have been a more perfect start to the season for Pat Fitzgerald than the one which Northwestern had last Saturday.

A year after having one of the worst offenses in FBS, the Wildcats opened up their 2020 season with a dominating effort against Maryland. Led by new starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey, Northwestern’s unit gained 537 total yards, with 212 coming from the arm of the quarterback.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats’ rushing attack was dominant, gaining 325 yards on 53 carries – an average of 6.1 – with four touchdowns on the ground. It helped Northwestern to a 43-3 victory, their biggest in Big Ten play since 1970, and brought some good vibes after a 3-9 season in 2019.

After so much inconsistency the year before, it was great for Fitzgerald to see such a dominant effort out of his offense.

“We came with the right mindset. Obviously getting off to the fast start on offense to gain confidence,” said Fitzgerald. “Everybody handled it well on the offensive side of the ball, and then I think when we got our first-first down, we got rolling a little bit, for the most part, we were able to have some success.

“So hopefully consistency will come at a higher level.”

The offense will hit the field Saturday to take on Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, where the Wildcats have won their last two games. Iowa allowed 24 points to Purdue in an opening week loss in West Lafayette.

NOTRE DAME: MOVING FORWARD AFTER THEIR OUTBREAK

The team that many are looking forward to the Irish next Saturday is currently dealing with the problem they had earlier in the season.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence tested positive for COVID-19, putting him out for the Tigers’ game against Boston College. It also puts his status in doubt for the November 7th showdown with Notre Dame in South Bend.

Many had hoped it would be a match-up of two undefeated teams, with both teams doing their part through this weekend. Whether that will still be the case is to be seen, but Brian Kelly’s mind remains focused on the Irish’s game with Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday.

So far, the head coach doesn’t think looking ahead will be a problem with his team, considering their commitment to getting things done so far this season. Despite losing a game and practice time due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in late September and early October, the group has remained undefeated through five games.

Kelly attributes that to his team’s mindset in approaching workouts on a daily basis during a weird season.

“Our guys have been incredible. Their will to prepare has been outstanding, so it can’t change, right?We can’t all the sudden say ‘Let’s get to Saturday,'” said Kelly of his team. “So embracing our process and going out there on Tuesday and really having a great attitude and going through the week and being detailed about our prepration.

“If we start there and continue to do the things that we’ve done, week in and week out for the last three-and-a-half years, that sets us up for us to go and look at the way we play the game against Pittsburgh; with that great energy, that mindset that I want to be a playmaker.”

NORTHERN ILLINOIS: GAME WEEK HAS ARRIVED

After being the first FBS conference to postpone their season back in August, a long wait is about to come to an end for the MAC and Northern Illinois.

Play in the conference starts this coming week and the Huskies will have the chance to start their shortened six-game slate at home Wednesday night against Buffalo.

Since the conference postponed the season so early, NIU has conducted the bulk of their training camp during the academic year, which is different than the past. Head coach Thomas Hammock believes his team has done what they can to be ready for a run at a conference title.

“This has been a long time coming,” said head coach Thomas Hammock. “Seeing the ups and downs of guys wanting to play football. We’ve been practicing extremely hard, our guys are anxious, and I think we’re ready to go.”

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