by Daniel Appel
After taking their first loss of the year against St. Scholastica, the University of Northwestern football team unloaded its power on a hapless University of Minnesota-Morris squad for homecoming weekend. Quarterback Jake Fletcher threw two touchdowns and running back Chris Simon-Wallace added two scores on the ground, leading the way to a commanding 33-0 Eagles victory. The Eagle defense also stepped up, sacking the winless Cougars four times and forcing three turnovers.
On October 18, UNW took on Greenville, a team they had not defeated in 14 years. Despite getting off to a sluggish start and trailing 14-28 at halftime, Northwestern roared back in the second half. Behind four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown from Fletcher, the Eagles took the lead with 26 seconds to go in the game. Greenville promptly threw an interception on their next drive, ending the game and giving the Eagles a 35-28 victory. Wide receiver Joe Sutton made his way into the UNW record books, recording three touchdowns in the game and was awarded the UMAC offensive player of the week.
A key part of UNW’s success this year has been running the football. Too often, however, possibly the most important part of any running game gets overlooked. While the Eagles running backs have been fantastic hitting holes and following blockers, it’s the players that create those holes and lead those blocks that deserve a great deal of credit, but the offensive line are usually unsung heroes.
The offensive line consists of Ben Evans, C.J. Smith, T.J. Palme, Justin Morin and Chris Kirby. Led by senior center Smith, the offensive line excels at creating room to run for Simon-Wallace, Sinnen and company, as well as giving time for Fletcher to throw. Only giving up seven sacks the entire year, the line has been crucial to the team’s passing attack, allowing Fletcher to throw for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns so far. Even more impressive however, is their run blocking, which has paved the way for the Eagles to average 204 yards per game and 1429 total yards running the football, plus 20 touchdowns.
One of the reasons why the line plays so well together is because they’re all extremely good friends. “We’re all pretty close. C.J., T.J., and Morin all live together, so me and Kirby will go over there and hang out all the time,” said Evans.
Smith said, “Basically, we do everything together, we just have total trust. If one of us screws up, we know the next guy will make it right.”
The five linemen are truly a tight bunch on and off the field. Morin said, “It’s like playing with an older or young brother, you’re always trying to be better than them.”
The group also plays very loose when on the field, likely contributing to the great amounts of joy they have playing football. “We get to choose our own offensive line calls, they’re usually inside jokes and we literally laugh at them at the line of scrimmage. For example, for a double team block, we called out ‘Newport’ (cigarette brand) because we wanted to ‘smoke’ the defensive tackle,” laughed Morin.
One of the key factors that the line talked about is the leadership by coach Wilmeth. Palme praised Wilmeth saying, “I’ve played all levels of football, including Division I, and he’s the best coach I’ve played for.”
Morin saud, “Coach Wilmeth is the hands down the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s lighthearted and intelligent, and expects the best out of us.”
Going right along with the line’s humorous ways, Smith ended by saying, “D.J. Pyle, one of our roommates, is single, but we’re trying to make him not single because the whole line has girlfriends, so he’ll be happy for some credit in the paper.”