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Northwestern fends off pesky FCS Howard, 23-20

Brendan Sullivan stepped in at quarterback for Northwestern and accounted for three total touchdowns as the Wildcats held off FCS visitors Howard 23-20 on Saturday in Evanston, Ill.

Sullivan started in place of Ben Bryant, who sustained an upper-body injury last week. Sullivan completed 13 of 18 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns and ran 15 times for 38 yards and a score for Northwestern (3-3).

Eden James took 21 carries for 177 yards and added three catches for 36 yards for Howard (2-3). Quinton Williams completed 18 of 30 passes for 169 yards.

James sprinted for a 64-yard touchdown on the first play of a Howard drive with 7:40 left in the game. The Bison could not score a two-point conversion, leaving their deficit 23-13.

Howard forced a three-and-out, and James gained 62 yards from scrimmage and converted two third downs on the ensuing drive. He set up Jarett Hunter for a 1-yard rushing score to trim the margin to three points with 2:32 to go. But Howard’s onside kick did not work, and Northwestern managed to salt the game away.

Howard outgained Northwestern 352-312 but could not climb out of a 16-0 halftime hole.

Cam Porter led the Wildcats with 78 rushing yards.

On Northwestern’s opening drive, Sullivan rolled right and navigated his way 35 yards for a touchdown at 12:51 of the first quarter.

The Bison were downed at their 3 to start their second possession. On third down, Williams was called for intentional grounding while standing in the end zone, giving Northwestern a safety and a 9-0 lead.

After the Wildcats stuffed James on a fourth-down run at the Northwestern 20, they embarked on a 14-play touchdown drive to end the half. Sullivan hit Bryce Kirtz for a 4-yard strike with 26 seconds left.

Howard strung together a 17-play, 74-yard drive eating up 7:49 of clock to open the second half. On fourth-and-1 at the Northwestern 2, the Wildcats gifted Howard a new set of downs by picking up a “disconcerting signals” penalty for trying to impede Howard’s snap count.

Williams was hit hard on first-and-goal and briefly left the game, and backup quarterback Ja’Shawn Scroggins pushed in for a touchdown on the next play.

Sullivan answered when he rolled left and hit Cam Johnson in stride down the left sideline for a 35-yard touchdown, making it 23-7 with 2:46 left in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

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