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EVANSTON, Ill. – Solomon Vault rushed for two touchdowns, Justin Jackson had 92 yards rushing and a score, and Northwestern snapped a six-game home losing streak with a 24-7 victory over Western Illinois on Saturday.
Vault and Jackson, both freshmen running backs, led the way as the Wildcats amassed 166 yards on the ground. Jackson had 21 carries for an average of 4.4 yards, while Vault had 31 yards on six carries, an average of 5.2.
Quarterback Trevor Siemian was 15 of 25 for 117 yards.
Northwestern (2-1) had lost nine of 10 games going back to last season. The Wildcats began last season with four straight wins and finished at 5-7.
Northwestern opened this season with losses against California (31-24) and Northern Illinois (23-15).
Western Illinois (2-2) lost despite having a 376-283 advantage in total yards.
Quarterback Trenton Norvell was 29 of 50 for 292 yards with a touchdown and an interception for WIU. Wide receiver Lance Lenoir had 11 receptions for 115 yards.
Defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo had three forced fumbles and one recovery to lead an NU defense that gave up yards but didn't allow the Fighting Leathernecks to score after their first offensive possession.
Northwestern took a 7-0 lead on its first possession on a 1-yard run by Vault to cap a nine-play, 70-yard drive. But Western Illinois answered on its first possession with a 10-play, 60-yard drive capped by a 4-yard scoring pass from Norvell to Joey Borsellino for a 7-7 tie.
Vault then put the Wildcats back on top 14-7 with an 11-yard touchdown run with 10:54 remaining in the first half. That drive covered just 17 yards and was set up by a sack and fumble recovery by Odenigbo.
The Leathernecks racked up 243 yards of total offense (compared with 147 for NU), but couldn't complete drives. They had a 40-yard field-goal attempt blocked with 6 seconds remaining in the half.
The momentum of the blocked field goal seemed to carry over into the second half. NU forced a punt after WIU received the second-half kickoff and stretched its lead to 21-7 with a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped by a 21-yard TD run by Jackson.
Western Illinois maintained its edge in total yards in the second half, but three turnovers — two fumbles and an interception by NU cornerback Nick VanHoose — helped keep the Leathernecks scoreless.