EVANSTON, Ill. — Throughout the course of any season, there will be times where a team doesn’t perform up to its standards in all phases of the game. Northwestern’s 35-21 win over Maine on Saturday afternoon was one of those moments.
With the offense struggling and off to a slow start, it was the defense’s turn to step up.
“We know that it’s a team sport. We talk to each other all the time coming off [the field] like, ‘Hey we need you offense.’ If the defense is having a slower day we’ll say, ‘Come on offense, we need you to get us going,’” linebacker Damien Proby said after the game. “It’s a team thing. That’s something that we’ve really built here. It’s like a family. The offense was having a rough day at the beginning of it and Kain came to some defensive guys [and said,] ‘Hey guys, just get us going. Just get the ball rolling and we’ll get it going from there.’ We’re not going to sit here and jump for excitement for a bad offensive play, but we’re happy to go out there and put the fire out at any given point.”
With Northwestern up by seven late in the first half, Proby picked off Maine’s Marcus Wasilewski and returned it for a touchdown. It was Proby’s first interception of his life.
“I think that might be Proby’s first ball he’s ever caught here,” Pat Fitzgerald said about Proby’s interception.
Once Proby secured the ball, he had only one goal: to score.
“Honestly, [I wanted to] just get home, just get there,” Proby said. “Good thing our defensive line was in front of me. I had a cavalry. They were kind of helping me walk it in. It was a good play. I’m happy about.”
Along with Proby, defensive lineman Dean Lowry also did his best Collin Ellis impression, returning an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“He’s been playing amazing,” Proby said of Lowry. “We’re happy for him. He’s been—defensive-wise—the player of the game the past three games internally. It’s been amazing to see a young guy like that really step up and take over the position, switching from right side to left side defensive end. It’s been a great thing to see him transition and perform extremely well.”
As Proby noted, the defense doesn’t necessarily want to have to spark the offense. But through their first four games, the Northwestern defense has been a turnover machine, adding two interceptions and a fumble to bring their turnover total up to 11 for the season.
“It’s the defense’s job to create turnovers,” Fitzgerald said. “I think we had an opportunity for another one, too. We dropped a potential fourth one there and I think there was another tip and we could have had a chance [to intercept it], so we could have had five today. Those are things we talk about a lot. We emphasize taking the football away.”
Lowry agrees with his coach and teammate, that turnovers are essential in helping Northwestern win games.
"Yeah, it's something we preach everyday at practice and before games,” Lowry said. “Turnovers are huge, especially with that margin, to keep winning games."