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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern stomps UMass 45-6, narrowly fails to cover the spread

Yes, UMass is that bad

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

EVANSTON — Today was a fun day at Ryan Field.

In the game of the century, Northwestern (2-8, 0-7) secured its second victory of the season against UMass (1-10), who was as bad as advertised.

In a game where both teams looked equally terrible for most of the game, the Wildcats prevailed 45-6 thanks to some solid play from its front-seven and a career day from running back Evan Hull. The true freshman had quite the breakout game, finishing with 224 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Despite the final score, there were still plenty of woes and concerns for this Northwestern team. The Wildcats committed three turnovers, and coughed up the ball a few more times that they luckily recovered.

The ‘Cats got off to an extremely slow start in the first. The offense quickly went three and out, and the defense allowed UMass to march down the field and nearly score a touchdown, but a penalty called back the score. A sack by Alex Miller forced a UMass’ field goal that gave the Minutemen a 3-0 lead.

The offense managed to move the ball into UMass territory on consecutive possessions, only for Aidan Smith to be intercepted twice, first by linebacker Xavier Steele and second by cornerback Josh Wallace. In what was supposed to be an easy win, the ‘Cats were struggling against arguably the worst defense in college football history.

The ‘Cats trailed 3-0 to start the second quarter and were poised to go down by six until Joe Gaziano blocked Cameron Garcia’s field goal attempt, which was returned by Chris Bergin for an 85-yard touchdown. Despite being out-gained 115-86 in total yards and losing the turnover battle, Northwestern had finally taken the lead.

From that point on, the game finally became bearable for Northwestern fans. Riley Lees was the only receiver to catch a pass for Northwestern all game, and overall had a strong game finishing with seven catches and 76 yards.

The offense’s consecutive scoring drives were both punctuated by touchdowns from Hull. After an abomination of a first quarter, the ‘Cats had responded with their most productive offensive quarter of the season, and held a 21-6 lead at the half.

The first eight minutes of the second half were uneventful until Northwestern’s faulty ball security reared its ugly head yet again. The ‘Cats attempted a fake-handoff then reverse to Berkeley Holman, who promptly fumbled the ball and gave the opposition great field position.

Fortunately, that opposition was still UMass, who proceeded to lose six yards and turn the ball over on downs, ironically leaving the Northwestern offense in a better position than it was prior to fumble.

In total, the entire third quarter was some of the worst collective football ever played. Both offenses competed to see who could sabotage their own team more, and UMass somehow found a way to out duel the NU offense in ineptitude. Quarterback Randall West threw an absolute duck that was intercepted and returned inside the red zone by Blake Gallagher. Northwestern’s offense “capitalized” with a legendary four play drive for -1 yards that resulted in a Kuhbander field goal.

Early in the fourth, Hull capped off his career day with a 46 and 31 yard touchdown runs that gave Northwestern a 38-6 lead.

Things started getting weird later in the fourth, as the ‘Cats recovered an onside kick in opposing territory, Zac Krause took snaps at quarterback and wide receiver Raymond Niro III got in at running back, managing to find the end zone for his first career score.

Next up, Northwestern will take on a potential top-10 Minnesota team for its final home game of the season.