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Northwestern offense explodes in the first half against Illinois

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, right, celebrates with running back Warren Long (13) after Long scored a touchdown against Illinois during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Things started slow for Northwestern against the Illini in Chicago. After punting on their opening drive, Northwestern’s defense allowed an Illinois touchdown to fall behind 7-0. But things quickly changed.

On the next three drives, Clayton Thorson and the Northwestern offense found their rhythm and put up three consecutive touchdowns.

The first Wildcats score came on a pass from Thorson to Dan Vitale. After initially bobbling the ball, Vitale was able to corral it and turn up field. He dove into the end zone to even the score at seven.

A quick Illinois punt gave Northwestern’s offense the ball back with all of the momentum. With a 12-play drive, the Wildcats moved into the Illini red zone. This time it was the running game that put points on the board.

Another three and out gave the Wildcats a chance to score again. Just as they had on the previous two drives, Northwestern moved through the Illini defense. This time, when they moved inside the five-yard-line, it was Justin Jackson who got the rushing touchdown.

With the exception of a missed Illinois field goal, neither team made much of a scoring threat for the remainder of the half. The game went to break with Northwestern up 21-7.