Western and Northwestern both are off to 3-0 football starts, making their rivalry game tonight on the Tigers’ field even spicier than usual.
The Mid-Indiana Conference squads have met in Week 4 since 1997. This will be first time both come in unbeaten.
“It should be a fun atmosphere,” Northwestern coach John Hendryx said.
Western has hammered its opponents by a combined score of 116-11. The Panthers laid the groundwork for their impressive start with a 40-0 beatdown of Frankfort in Week 1.
Northwestern has outscored its opponents 77-14. The Purple Tigers are coming off a 14-8 victory over always-tough Cass in the first week of MIC play.
Hendryx points to the Panthers’ depth as his biggest concern.
“They present problems that no one else that we play will. With their platoon system, they’re playing about 20 one-way guys, and they’re not hiding anyone out there. They have quality kids all over the place,” Hendryx said. “They’re very physical as well, offensively and defensively. It’s going to be a challenge.”
Second-year Western coach Nate Andrews is impressed with Hendryx’s work with the Tigers. Northwestern beat Western 28-13 last year.
“I think the world of their coach,” Andrews said. “I think he does a tremendous job maximizing his talents and this year is no exception.”
Hendryx likes how his defense has played through the first three weeks, but he calls the Panthers “a different beast.” Western running backs Ryan Alexander and Ben Lenahan both average 5 yards per carry and quarterback Drew Bellus averages 8 yards per carry.
“Their offense likes to hit you in the mouth — ‘here we come, can you do anything about it?’” Hendryx said. “You can play well for four or five plays, then the next play is a 60-yard run because they have the speed to hurt you if you miss one assignment. We’ve seen that on film. We’re going to have to play consistent defensively. There’s no plays off.