Desperate Northwestern entertains FCS test from Indiana State

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Indiana State seeks to continue a recent trend of FCS teams upsetting bigger programs when it travels Saturday to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern.

Six FCS teams won Week 1 matchups against FBS teams, including Montana’s upset of then-No. 20 Washington.

Indiana State (1-0) has never beaten a Power Five opponent in program history.

Northwestern (0-1) has struggled in the month of September over the last few seasons. The Wildcats are 4-10 during September since 2016.

The losses include home losses to Group of Five teams Western Michigan and Akron, and a brutal 9-7 defeat to FCS Illinois State in 2016.

The Wildcats opened their season with a disappointing 38-21 loss to Michigan State last Friday.

Northwestern’s defense, one of the best in the country a year ago, was torched for 510 total yards. Kenneth Walker III alone rushed for 264 yards and four touchdowns.

One Wildcats player who impressed against the Spartans: quarterback Hunter Johnson.

Johnson, a former five-star recruit, struggled in his first go-around as a starter in 2019. After graduate transfer Peyton Ramsey started every game last season, Johnson re-earned the starting role in camp and backed up the decision with his play against Michigan State.

Johnson was 30 of 43 for 283 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Spartans, and coach Pat Fitzgerald said the team had more explosive pass plays Friday than it did all last season.

“I’m really proud of Hunter,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s been through a lot, and I thought he had a great offseason. He’s worked his tail off to put himself in position to be our starter and gave us, in a lot of ways, an opportunity to win that game.”

The Sycamores defeated Eastern Illinois 26-21 in their season opener during Week 0. Eastern Illinois is coached by former Northwestern assistant Adam Cushing.

The Sycamores defense led the team to its victory, recording five sacks, forcing one fumble and intercepting two passes. Michael Thomas returned one of those picks 75 yards for a touchdown.

The Sycamores were off last week, giving them extra time to prepare for their first-ever meeting with the Wildcats.

“We have a great opponent, first of all, but it is about us (and) getting better from week one to week two,” Indiana State head coach Curt Malloy said. “And that’s been the main focus this week.”

–Field Level Media

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