Ballyhooed sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson recorded his first career touchdowns — one rushing and one passing — to lead Northwestern to a 30-14 victory over UNLV in nonconference action Saturday afternoon at Evanston, Ill.
Johnson completed 12 of 25 passes for 165 yards and rushed 11 times for 55 yards for the Wildcats (1-1). Redshirt freshman Drake Anderson and junior Jesse Brown stepped in for injured starting running back Isaiah Bowser and contributed a career-high 141 and 79 yards, respectively, to aid the hosts.
Junior running back Charles Williams served as most of the offense for UNLV (1-2). Williams, who came in averaging 155.5 yards per game, wound up with 144 yards and two scores on 16 carries. Junior quarterback Armani Rogers hit 16 of 26 passes for 120 yards and one interception.
Northwestern’s defense, led by junior middle linebacker Paddy Fisher, forced three turnovers and earned five sacks while holding UNLV scoreless for the final 40-plus minutes.
Northwestern took the opening drive and marched 75 yards for a score. The Wildcats had to convert a fourth-and-3 along the way — Johnson hitting junior wideout Kyric McGowan for 16 yards — before Johnson capped the nine-play drive with a 1-yard plunge. The Clemson transfer’s first career touchdown gave Northwestern a 7-0 lead.
UNLV didn’t need nearly that long to pull even. On the Rebels’ third play from scrimmage, Williams sprinted 65 yards down the right sideline for the touchdown and 7-7 tie.
After junior kicker Charlie Kuhbander booted a 33-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 10-7 edge, Williams produced UNLV’s only lead when he zipped 37 yards down the right sideline again for his second touchdown with 10:56 left in the first half.
Kuhbander added field goals of 30 and a career-long 44 yards to stake Northwestern to a 16-14 halftime lead. UNLV’s Williams owned 134 yards on 12 carries at the break.
After halftime, Northwestern’s defense stacked the box and all but dared UNLV to throw the ball. The Wildcats swarmed Williams whenever he touched the ball and limited him to 10 yards on four carries in the second half.
Fisher picked off Rogers early in the third, then forced a Rogers’ fumble late in the third (his 11th career force) that junior safety Travis Whillock recovered.
Meanwhile, Northwestern’s rushing attack did plenty to loosen up UNLV’s secondary. Johnson’s pump-and-go sprung sophomore wideout JJ Jefferson behind the secondary and they hooked up for a 50-yard score to make it 23-14 with 5:58 left in the third.
Anderson added a 7-yard touchdown run — his first career score — with 1:30 left to provide the final margin.
—Field Level Media