Tiger defense shuts down Pirates
The plan was for Northwestern Lehigh to come out quick and look to put away Palisades early in the game. That changed when rain started to fall heavier and heavier as the game started then diminished later in the contest.
The outcome was still the same as the Tigers moved out to an eventual 35-0 lead and beat the Pirates 35-7 Friday night.
The Pirates stuck to the ground game rather than trying to throw through the rain. Junior quarterback Matt Santos was limited to just five pass attempts and he faced pretty heavy pressure on every one of those attempts. The result was Santos going 0-for-5 in passing as the Northwestern defense shut down routes and flushed Santos out of the pocket.
On the ground, Northwestern limited the Pirates to 101 yards rushing, led by Gus Yocum, who finished with 80 yards on six carries.
In their first two games of the season, Northwestern’s defense had been strong, with only a few gaps in its play. Against Palisades, the starting defensive unit allowed just a nine-yard gain by Yocum as its longest gain of the night. It wasn’t until reserve players entered late in the game that Yocum was able to open up for a 45-yard touchdown run.
“We really wanted to cut down on some of those mistakes where we gave up big plays,” said Northwestern senior lineman Connor Snyder. “We got caught a couple times in the first two games and tonight we really focused on limiting anything that they did. Everybody stepped up their game tonight, especially on defense.”
While Northwestern limited the damage that the Palisades offense could do, the Northwestern offense started to roll late in the first quarter and wasn’t able to be stopped the rest of the way.
Deven Bollinger hit Justin Rodda for a four-yard touchdown catch with 49 seconds left in the first quarter. Bollinger found Nick Henry for his second touchdown toss, with that one going for 14 yards in the second quarter.
The big hit of the night for Bollinger was also to Henry when the two hooked up on a 75-yard catch-and-run down the right side to put the Tigers up 21-0 with 1:57 left in the first half.
Bollinger’s fourth touchdown pass of the night capped the scoring when he found Paul Huff open in the end zone for a two-yard strike. On the drive before that, Henry ran through the middle for a five-yard touchdown run, the only rushing TD of the night for Northwestern.
“We thought we could run between the tackles and we were able to do that,” said Tiger head coach Josh Snyder. “Our offensive line really played a good game for us and it was one of those nights where things worked out pretty much how we planned them.”
Bollinger finished with 147 yards passing, completing nine of this 16 passes. His four touchdown passes gave him nine in the past two weeks and 10 on the season. The Pirates pulled in one interception on the night when Yocum intercepted a Bollinger pass on Northwestern’s second drive of the game.
Bollinger also finished with 64 yards rushing, just off the team-high of 65 yards rushing by Henry. The Tigers finished the night with 208 rushing yards and 345 yards of total offense.
Justin Holmes, who missed the first two games with an injury, was in the starting lineup for Northwestern. Holmes didn’t take long to get in on the action, pulling in his first catch of the season on Northwestern’s third play from scrimmage. The sophomore receiver finished with two catches for 13 yards.
The Tigers have next Friday night off, but will be in action Saturday afternoon when they travel to Wilson. The Warriors are 1-2 after pulling out a win with just 20 seconds left in their week two game against Palisades, but came out on the wrong end of a 27-24 overtime decision against Salisbury last Friday.