No. 16 Northwestern hosted conference rival Briar Cliff on Saturday in a game that was dominated by the Raiders from start to finish, resulting in a 57-7 thumping.
The Raiders were spearheaded by senior running back Brandon Smith, who rushed for a career high 247 yards and four touchdowns and played a pivotal role in helping the Raiders break the school record of offensive yards by accumulating 663.
“I had no idea I had even rushed for that many yards until one of the coaches told me at halftime,” Smith said. “I was really shocked to be honest.”
On the Raiders’ first possession, Smith scampered 53 yards to pay dirt, putting the Raiders up 7-0 following senior kicker Mike O’Brien’s extra point.
After a Charger three and out, Smith ran 76 yards for another score on the Raiders’ first play of the possession. Following a fumble recovered by the Raiders, junior running back Theo Bartman punched it in from the two-yard line on the ensuing drive, putting the score at 21-0.
The Chargers punted on their next possession, and a six-play, 68-yard drive was capped off when Smith scored yet again on a seven-yard run.
On the second possession of the second quarter, Bartman crossed the goal line on a four-yard run that put the score at 27-0 on a failed extra point.
After another Charger punt, the Raiders capitalized on a 63-yard drive that climaxed when junior quarterback Davis Bloemendaal found senior tight end Jacey Hoegh on a four-yard touchdown strike.
With 2:53 left in the first half, Smith punched in his fourth touchdown of the first half to put the score at 48-0 at the midway point.
In the second half, the dominance continued even as many of the starters’ days were done.
An impressive display of special teams commenced when O’Brien added a 31-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
Then freshman safety Donavan Weldon blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown that put the Raiders up 57-0 after three quarters.
Briar Cliff scored on a late fourth quarter touchdown run that ended the game at 57-7.
Apart from Smith’s career day, Bartman rushed for 117 yards on 12 carries.
The two backs broke the school record for single game rushing yards with 475.
Bloemendaal went 11-20 for 150 passing yards and a touchdown pass.
Bartman was also the Raiders leading receiver, hauling in three passes for 53 yards.
Senior linebacker Aaron Jansen was a one-man wrecking crew for the Raiders, tallying up 5.5 tackles with 2.5 sacks.
“Theo and I complement each other so well. We do have similar styles of play, but we are both complete players that make defenses unable to key in on a single aspect of our game,” Smith said.
The 6-2 Raiders return to action at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Mitchell, S.D. against Dakota Wesleyan.