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Posted By Ben Chiswick On Sep 21 2010 @ 12:46 pm In Northwestern | 2 Comments

Don’t look now, but the Northwestern Wildcats (3-0) are rolling.

Week 1 was a true challenge, but Northwestern snuck out of Vanderbilt with a 23-21 primetime win over an SEC opponent. Week 2 was more of a scrimmage, as the Wildcats were able to work on their shortcomings during the Vanderbilt game and turn them into a 37-3 win over Illinois State.

Heading into another night game under the lights on Saturday at Rice, we knew the outcome would be telling. As important as a win or a loss was how Northwestern would respond against a legitimate FBS opponent after spending the last two weeks trying to shore up some weaknesses.

Consider that question answered, as the Wildcats steamrolled to a 30-13 blowout win in which they did not allow a touchdown until the last 15 seconds of the game.

As usual, Northwestern’s offense starts and ends with Dan Persa. He was fantastic again, going 24-for-32 with 307 yards passing, 34 yards rushing, and one touchdown in each facet of the game. Persa spread the ball around, finding Drake Dunsmore and Demetrius Fields six times each while eight different players caught at least one pass. The star quarterback has now accounted for eight touchdowns without turning the ball over this season.

While Persa runs the offense, however, the defense has keyed the 3-0 start.

Linebacker Quentin Davie was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after recording 10 tackles, including 1.5 tackles-for-loss. He also made the play of the game late in the second quarter. The ‘Cats held a slim 6-0 lead with less than four minutes remaining before halftime when Davie picked off a Taylor Cook pass and returned it 11 yards for the first touchdown of the evening.

That 13-0 lead was trimmed to 13-3 by halftime, but both of Persa’s touchdowns came in the third quarter as Northwestern seized a commanding 27-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Davie’s performance led a defensive attack that forced four turnovers, registered three sacks, and stifled what had been a productive Rice running attack. The Owls were held to just 86 rushing yards and were forced to abandon a ground game that got only 23 carries.

During the first three wins of the year, the Wildcats’ ferocious defense has allowed just 12.3 points per game while forcing nine turnovers. They have given up a total of three points in the first quarter while their offense has posted 27.

Entering this season, we recognized that the expectations are higher for Northwestern Football. After consecutive seasons with plus-.500 records and bowl appearances, nothing short of a bowl victory will do in 2010. With their fourth and final non-conference game looming against a high-octane Central Michigan team on Saturday, the ‘Cats have a chance to head into Big Ten play undefeated.

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