COLLEGE PARK, Md. — With record-setting Justin Jackson leading the way, Northwestern got its groove back on offense and cruised to a much-needed victory.
Jackson scored two touchdowns and ran for 171 yards to become the Wildcats’ career rushing leader , and Northwestern beat Maryland 37-21 Saturday for its first Big Ten win of the season.
Jackson has 4,639 yards on the ground over four seasons at Northwestern. He moved past Damien Anderson (4,485) to the top of the school list and also supplanted Anderson as the Wildcats’ career leader in all-purpose yards with 5,350.
“It’s special with Justin. It’s unbelievable,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I think at times we all take for granted special players just because they’re so consistent. But it seems like just yesterday that Justin came into our program, and now to have him at this mark, I’m incredibly proud of him and honored to be his coach.”
Clayton Thorson completed 27 of 49 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown to help the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2) avoid their first 0-3 start in the conference since 2013.
Northwestern ran 93 plays and amassed 531 yards in a reversal of form following last week’s 31-7 loss at home to Penn State.
“Great job bouncing back by our offense, especially our offensive line,” Fitzgerald said. “I think they shut the noise off and went to work.”
Jackson gave credit for his record to the offensive line, most notably center Brad North.
“It means a ton doing it with these guys around me,” Jackson said. “Brad has been my center for three years, so it’s very cool to have some consistency back there.”
D.J. Moore had career highs with 12 catches and 210 yards receiving for Maryland (3-3, 1-2).
Max Bortenschlager went 17 for 38 for 255 yards and three touchdowns (two to Moore) in his third college start. He was returning from a hard hit to the helmet that put him on the sideline for the fourth quarter last week in a 62-14 loss to Ohio State.
Bortenschlager started the season as the Terrapins’ third-string quarterback but became the starter after Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill sustained season-ending knee injuries.
The defense, however, allowed 30 first downs and the Wildcats turned 10 third downs into a new set of downs.
“We didn’t do a very good job today tackling, and that let to big plays,” linebacker Jermaine Carter said. “We’ve got to get off the field on third down.”
Thorson ran for an 18-yard touchdown and threw a scoring pass to Flynn Nagel during the final four minutes of the first half to put Northwestern ahead 24-14.
It was 27-14 before Bortenschlager capped a 79-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Taivon Jacobs.
Charlie Kuhbander’s third field goal upped the margin to nine points with 13 minutes left, and Jackson clinched it with a 21-yard TD run with 1:54 to go.
After Maryland went up 7-0 on a 12-yard touchdown catch by Moore, Kuhbander kicked a field goal before the Wildcats grabbed the lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Jackson. The drive also featured a 23-yard run by Jackson on a third-and-19 from the Northwestern 20.
Moore turned a short pass into a 52-yard touchdown to put Maryland in front — for the last time.
MOORE CATCHES ON
Moore moved into 10th on the school career list with 110 catches and ranks 11th with 1,610 yards receiving.
The 5-foot-11 junior ranks fourth in career TD catches at Maryland with 16. His 12 receptions on Saturday were the most by a Terp since Torrey Smith’s 14 against NC State in 2010.
Northwestern: After starting their Big Ten schedule with losses to Wisconsin and Penn State, the Wildcats showed they have enough talent to handle middle-of-the-pack teams such as Maryland. That should bode well for Northwestern down the stretch because the remainder of its schedule does not include Ohio State or Michigan.
Maryland: The Terrapins have an outstanding talent in Moore, but when their running game isn’t working, they have a tough time scoring points. Maryland finished with 85 yards on the ground, and Ty Johnson — who came in averaging 8.1 yards a carry — was limited to 20 yards on 10 attempts.
Northwestern: Plays hosts to Iowa on Saturday. The Hawkeyes lead 50-25-3 in a series that began in 1897.
Maryland: Visits Wisconsin in the third meeting between the schools. The Badgers won the first two, 52-7 and 31-24.