The Northwestern football team led the number-one ranked and defending national champion University of Sioux Falls for most of three quarters but couldn’t finish as the Cougars took advantage of turnovers to win the season opener, 41-24. USF has not lost a game since the 2007 national championship and has remained undefeated in the GPAC since October 15, 2005.
Neither team was able to score in the first quarter. A 56-yard run by sophomore Brandon Smith set up a one-yard touchdown run by senior Taylor Malm as the Raiders took a 7-0 lead to begin the second quarter. USF answered with a field goal and then forced NW to punt.
Junior Ben Aguilera tackled USF’s running back on the one-yard line to stop the Cougars and fourth-and-goal. USF’s defense returned the favor, forcing a fumble and setting their offense up for their first touchdown and giving the Cougars a 10-7 lead.
The defense again changed the course of the game as senior Jon Gerber intercepted a pass and advanced to the Cougars’ 19-yard line. The Raiders drove down the field and converted on a fourth-and-goal, allowing Smith to score at the end of the first half, giving the Raiders a 14-10 lead.
NW came out confident in the second half, scoring again on a trick pass play from Smith to sophomore Tyler Walker to take their biggest lead of the game, 21-10. Chevron Walker, a senior transfer from NCAA Division I Eastern Illinois lead the Cougars downfield on the next drive and a five-yard touchdown pass cut the Raiders’ lead to four.
The Raiders took the ball back into Cougar territory and gained a first down before USF forced and recovered a fumble. The Cougars completed an eight-play drive with a touchdown to regain the lead.
NW was then forced to punt, but a bad snap allowed USF to block the punt and recover the ball on the eight-yard-line. A five-yard run two plays later gave the Cougars their third unanswered touchdown.
The Raiders fought back with an impressive 46-yard field goal by sophomore James Rodriguez, but USF came back with a field goal of their own to give them a 34-24 lead with three minutes left of play. NW was unable to score and a last minute fumble by the Raiders was recovered by Sioux Falls in the endzone to end the game with a 41-24 Cougar victory.
The NW offense gained 239 yards in the game, while USF had 359. Smith averaged 11.3 yards per carry for a total of 113 yards and two touchdowns. Malm scored one touchdown and had 13 carries for a total of 50 yards. Junior quarterback Jayme Rozeboom completed 8 of 20 passes for 71 yards. Senior Austin Rozeboom led the defense with eight tackles, while senior Caleb Van Otterloo had 7.5.
The Raiders travel to Nebraska on Saturday to take on 13th-ranked Hastings College.