The 18th ranked Northwestern Red Raiders survive a dangerously close game to defeat Dana 35-27 on Saturday.
“The game didn’t go as planned,” said head coach Kyle Achterhoff, “and we didn’t play up to our potential and that is disappointing.”
NW started well with a five-yard scoring run by junior Taylor Malm with 3:29 left in the first quarter to open the game with a score of 7-0.
However, Dana soon struck back with two field goals of 20 and 22 yards late in the first and a 13-yard pass from Zach Lesiak to Jake Harrel to make the score 6-13 with 10:51 remaining in the half.
Malm found paydirt again with a 1-yard rush with 3:35 to go to put the Raiders up 14-13 at half.
“I was very pleased with how we moved the ball offensively and our completion percentage was very high,” Achterhoff said. “So, we should be able to build on those positives. Our special teams played well all game.”
To open the third quarter, Malm scored touchdown number three on an 85-yard kickoff return. Senior Reed Van Hulzen hauled in a pass from senior Brad Payne with 8:05 remaining in the third to give NW a comfortable 28-13 lead.
Dana wasn’t out of it yet, however. With 2:29 remaining in the third, Kyle Fries received a 41-yard touchdown from Harrel, followed soon after with a 36-yard touchdown reception by Bernel Swinson to bring Dana within a mere one point.
“We have to give Dana College credit for making some very good plays,” Achterhoff said. “We gave their quarterback too much time to find open receivers, and he did a good job of getting them the ball.”
NW sealed the victory when freshman Brandon Smith plowed into the endzone on a 2-yard burst to put the Raiders at the final score, 35-27.
Though coming away with the victory, the Raiders turned the ball over four times and struggled defensively throughout the game.
“We need to improve our pass rush and our tackling,” Achterhoff said. “Offensively, we need to take care of the ball and finish every play by handing the ball to an official.”
NW plays host to Concordia in their homecoming matchup Saturday.
“They are a team growing under a new head coach so we really don’t know exactly what to expect, other than we know they will play hard,” Achterhoff said. “They had a tough game last Saturday against Sioux Falls, but if we do not play better, we will be in for another tough game.”