Northwestern will try to bounce back from a disappointing loss in its season opener when it hosts UTEP on Saturday in Evanston, Ill.
The Wildcats believe they can turn things around quickly, even if not many other people do. Northwestern (0-1), of the Big Ten, entered the week as a slight underdog in its home game against UTEP (1-1), a Conference USA member.
“I’ve never paid attention to (betting) lines, never will,” said Northwestern interim coach David Braun, who took over for Pat Fitzgerald after multiple hazing allegations surfaced this summer. “I think this group is at its best when it’s an underdog, so that sits just fine with me.”
Northwestern lost 24-7 to Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., a week ago. Wildcats starting quarterback Ben Bryant completed 20 of 36 passes for 169 yards and threw two interceptions, and backup quarterback Brendan Sullivan led the team in rushing with only 11 yards on four carries.
Braun said Sullivan played well in backup QB duty (3 of 4 passing, 13 yards, one touchdown) but said he planned to stick with Bryant as the starter for a second straight week.
“Ben will be our starter for UTEP,” Braun said. “Proud of the way ‘Sully’ came in. You take stock in everything, everything’s being evaluated. But Ben knows he needs to play better. We know we need to find ways to give him and the rest of the offense more opportunities to create rhythm.”
UTEP is coming off a 28-14 win against Incarnate Word. That was the Miners’ first win of the season after they dropped their season opener 17-14 on the road against Jacksonville State.
Gavin Hardison has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and two interceptions in his first two games for UTEP. Deion Hankins has been the team’s top producer on the ground, tallying 228 yards and a touchdown.
UTEP coach Dana Dimel praised Northwestern despite its recent struggles.
“(It is) a Big Ten team that has a lot of physical, physical football players,” Dimel said. “We know we’ve got to be ready for that type of football.”
—Field Level Media
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