ND beats NW in football opener
The 2019 season didn’t get off to a good start for the Northwestern Lehigh Tigers when Notre Dame’s Christian Greggo took the opening kick-off and cut through a sea of white jerseys, winding up in the end zone 90 yards later to give the Crusaders an early lead.
Notre Dame rode the quick start to a 42-35 opening-week win. Northwestern needed a late-game rally to keep it close, as the Tigers attempted to overcome six turnovers (three fumbles and three interceptions) against one of the better teams in the Colonial League.
After Northwestern’s second lost fumble of the night late in the first quarter, Notre Dame needed just two plays to go 47 yards and move out to a 14-0 lead.
While the Tiger offense tried to figure out Notre Dame and the offensive line worked to get time for quarterback Deven Bollinger to throw, it was the Tigers’ defense that got the scoring started for Northwestern.
Junior Wyatt Ledeboer picked off a Collin Quintano pass and raced 40 yards into the end zone to cut the Crusaders lead in half. Quintano, a sophomore starting his first varsity game, finished the night with 293 yards passing, completing 25 of his 36 passes.
Every time that Northwestern looked to gain some momentum, as they did on a two-yard touchdown run from Bollinger followed by a two-point conversion pass from running back Nick Henry to Dom Harding in the second quarter, Notre Dame came right back to score. With just 54 seconds left in the first half, Quintano struck with a nine-yard strike to Greggo and made the score 28-14.
“I thought we came out a little flat,” said Northwestern coach Josh Snyder. “We just couldn’t get things in sync and just were letting them dictate things a little. We knew their defensive ends were going to be tough and they gave us some problems, especially early.”
Northwestern looked to put Notre Dame on their heels to open the second half when they took the kick-off and put together a 73-yard drive to cut into Notre Dame’s lead. Bollinger had a 17-yard run and then capped the drive with a three-yard jaunt into the end zone, making it a 28-21 game.
The momentum didn’t stay with the Tigers for long as the Crusaders took the next possession and traveled 76 yards, highlighted by the Quintano to Greggo connection hooking up again, this time on an 18-yard pass play.
“You have to hand it to them because they never let us get much going,” said Josh Snyder. “They always found a way, whether it was forcing a turnover or getting into the end zone, to stop our momentum. Their one interception, if the ball was a couple inches higher, it goes from being their ball to being a touchdown for us and it makes a big difference.”
Notre Dame stretched their lead to 42-21 on a 15-yard touchdown run by Mike Frauen with 1:50 left in the third quarter. Undaunted by the deficit, Northwestern put together another long drive, going 65 yards with Nick Henry going in from five yards out on the first play of the first quarter.
Northwestern was knocking on the door again, but Bollinger was intercepted at the Crusaders 13-yard line to stop the drive short. Bollinger was also intercepted on the next drive and a fumble ruined another drive at the Notre Dame 15 with just 3:19 left in the game.
The Tigers got the ball back and Bollinger completed three quick passes to take his team 45 yards and make it 42-35.
The Tigers attempted an on-side kick, but Notre Dame recovered and ran out the clock.
“We couldn’t take a lot of positives out of this one other than the fact that we fought our way back and didn’t lay down late in the game,” said Snyder. “Other than that, we missed a lot of opportunities and handed them a lot of opportunities throughout the game. We’ve got to cut down on the mistakes going forward and that’s what we’ll work on.”