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Justin Jackson, Solomon Vault enjoy "Wildcat Welcome"

As Northwestern heads into Big Ten play, its two freshman running backs are leading the charge.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

It's freshman orientation at Northwestern this week, meaning that, starting on Monday, members of the class of 2018 begin a hectic regimen of lots of activity and almost no downtime during "Wildcat Welcome."

"They had us running all over the place. They had us running from practice, one day we had to go to Millennium Park, we had meetings all over the place. It was busy but manageable," Solomon Vault, one half of Northwestern's tandem freshmen running backs, said.

Vault, and his running-mate Justin Jackson, powered Northwestern to its first win of 2014 with a 24-7 victory over Western Illinois. Vault punched in two touchdowns while Jackson was a workhorse leading Northwestern with 92 yards on 21 carries, along with a score.

Saturday was the first day that the two budding stars were able to play in front of their classmates in a game that started with the annual tradition of the "Running of the Freshman" where the class of 2018 and transfer students run across the field.

Over the past few weeks, it's become more and more clear that the combination of Vault and Jackson is one that head coach Pat Fitzgerald can trust.

"We trust them pretty well," he said. "As a freshman you're learning and growing. We want to make sure we don't put too much on them. But I think they've handled everything we've thrown at them and they'll continue to add more and more to their play."

The duo's potential is clear and based on early season results, Jackson and Vault could develop into one of the best tailback combos in the country.

A self-described all-purpose back, a player who isn't necessarily faster than everyone but uses his vision and shiftiness to make plays, Jackson complements Vault's speed and outside running ability. Jackson and Vault compliment each other as well.

"It's awesome. I haven't really had another back since my sophomore year [of high school] when I had my brother. It's really awesome when someone else scores and you're just as excited as if you score. It's definitely nice, we're becoming better friends throughout the weeks, and it's awesome to see him doing well," Jackson said after the game.

For Northwestern's sake, the team hopes that Vault's and Jackson's success should continue to grow past this opening act.