EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — After waiting his turn for nearly three months, Evan Hull made the most of his opportunity on Saturday.
The freshman running back had four touchdowns and 220 yards rushing as Northwestern snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 45-6 victory over UMass.
Hull averaged 9.2 yards on 24 carries and became the first Wildcats player with at least 200 yards and four touchdowns in a game since Tyrell Sutton against Northern Illinois in 2005.
Hull had a total of 15 yards and eight carries (an average of 1.9 yards) before moving into the starting lineup because of injuries.
“I put a lot of work into this, so to have this happen for me was a very good feeling,” he said.
Northwestern (2-8) last won on Sept. 14 with a 30-14 victory over UNLV.
“A great team win,” Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “I’m really happy for our guys. It’s been a long time in the making for a win.”
Quarterback Randall West was 19 of 36 for 175 yards and Bilal Ally had 66 yards rushing on 16 carries for UMass (1-10), which has dropped five straight.
UMass led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter and had a chance to expand the lead on the first play of the second quarter. However, Cooper Garcia’s 30-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Joe Gaziano and Chris Bergin picked up the ball at the 15 and returned it 85 yards for the game-turning touchdown.
“The protection was good,” UMass coach Walt Bell said. “The field goal just got hit low and they turned it back for a touchdown. “It had a chance to be a really close game at halftime, the majority of that being because of the way our defense played.”
After Garcia connected on a 23-yard field goal, Hull had a 6-yard TD run for a 14-6 lead with 7:59 left in the first half. Less than three minutes later, Hull had a 38-yard TD run to cap a 95-yard drive to make it 21-6. Hull had three rushes on the series for a total of 90 yards.
Charlie Kuhbander hit a 31-yard field goal in the third — following an interception by Blake Gallagher — to make it 24-6.
Hull had a 46-yard TD early in the fourth for a 31-6 advantage and added a 31-yard TD a few minutes later to make it 38-6.
“I’m ecstatic for him,” Fitzgerald said of Hull. “He’s a great young man. He’s got a bright future. Obviously, we’re depleted at that position and I’m really proud of him playing the way he did.”
Northwestern’s final score was an 11-yard TD run by Raymond Niro after Hull left the game.
“We started to wear down in the back half of the game,” Bell said. “Having a really young, really thin defense on the field for that amount of time, I just thought the Big Ten football started to wear on us a little bit.”
UMass: The Minutemen had 227 yards passing but could have had much more. Both West and backup Andrew Brito missed a slew of open receivers.
Northwestern: Aside from Hull’s rushing, the offense continued to sputter and Aidan Smith (7 of 13 for 76 yards with two interceptions) was less than impressive at quarterback. But following seven straight losses, any win is a thing of beauty and the Wildcats will take it. The defense gave up 310 yards but kept UMass out of the end zone.
Afterward, Hull was asked which TD was his favorite.
“All of them,” he said. “This is still pretty new for me. Just being out there today and having the success that I did, just the whole day is my favorite.”
Northwestern played three quarterbacks, but not opening-day starter Hunter Johnson.
“He was banged up last week, so we were resting him this week,” Fitzgerald said.
UMass: Hosts BYU next Saturday.
Northwestern: Hosts No. 7 Minnesota next Saturday.
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