By KENNY HETZLER
---- — DENVER — Northwestern’s football team made big plays, but it was Mother Nature who made the biggest play Friday night as the Purple Tigers’ game against North Miami was halted early because of lightning.
Northwestern (2-0) was up 40-6 with 7:38 left in the third quarter when play was suspended. The game was later called because of several more sightings of lightning.
“We had an half-hour delay every time you see lightning, and when it was 9:15, it would have been 9:45 just to be able to go out and warm up, and go at 10:00. At that point it was lightning, so it was the right decision,” Northwestern coach John Hendryx said. “If the score was 6-6, we would come back [today] if we had to or wait it out. In this kind of game, they don’t want anybody hurt, and I don’t want anybody hurt. We shook hands and moved down the road.”
When the game started, Mother Nature already had a hand in the game with the extreme heat, and Northwestern started making big plays on the first play of scrimmage. The Tigers’ Tanner Wildrick took a handoff and rumbled 34 yards to the North Miami 23 yard-line. After three more plays, Keegan Fessenden went in from five yards to give Northwestern a 6-0 lead with 10:21 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers started from their own 46 yard line on their next possession. Wildrick scampered for 48 yards to the 6-yard line. Michael Plummer then pounded it in from six yards for the first of his four touchdowns.
Northwestern’s third big play came on its fourth possession of the game as Fessenden scored from 56 yards with 7:31 left in the first half for a 20-6 lead. Another big play was also in the first half as Plummer rambled up the middle for 37 yards. He later scored from 10 yards for his second touchdown, giving the Tigers a 26-6 lead with 4:20 left in the half. Plummer’s third touchdown, also from 10 yards, came two minutes later as the Tigers led 33-6 at halftime.
Northwestern’s final score came on a 47-yard run by Plummer with 7:38 left in the third quarter. The game was then halted.
Hendryx was pleased with how is team performed.
“I am real happy with our offense,” Hendryx said. “We made some changes, moved some kids around. We have a lot good skilled guys, and we need to play them all. The only disappointment I had was [we didn’t get a chance to throw the ball]. I would have liked to thrown the ball, but it didn’t present itself. We had so many big run plays that we didn’t get into a lot of third and longs, so the only thing that we didn’t do was get [freshman quarterback Trey Richmond] some more attempts.”
Northwestern ended up with 323 total yards, while the Tigers gave up only 198 total yards to the Warriors.
“I give North Miami a lot of credit,” Hendryx said. “They made a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2. I told the kids every team is that way. Defensively, they made us do somethings that we were not prepared for.”
North Miami’s (0-2) only score came on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jacob White to Keith Rouch with 10:34 left in the first half.
Plummer led Northwestern with 120 yards rushing with four touchdowns. Wildrick added 84 yards, and Fessenden 61 yards with two touchdowns. Damon Gipson led North Miami with 79 yards.