The gap between Booker T. Washington and Northwestern’s football programs appeared to be huge this season.
Such was definitely not the case on the field Saturday night at Traz Powell Stadium.
Until senior running back Krondis Larry broke a 23-yard touchdown run with 2:57 remaining in the fourth quarter, Booker T. did not feel comfortable during a tightly contested 21-9 victory over Northwestern.
“We knew Northwestern was going to come to play, and it was going to be tougher than people thought,” Booker T. coach Tim “Ice” Harris said. “This game has a lot of history, and the kids have played together since they were little. Northwestern did a great job against us.”
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Led by senior linebacker Mike Smith’s four sacks, Northwestern’s defense put constant pressure on Booker T. quarterback Treon Harris as the Bulls (3-3) gave the nation’s consensus No. 1-ranked team all it could handle for nearly four quarters.
“We’re playing the best and best-coached team in the country, and my kids fought all four quarters,” Northwestern coach Stephen Field said. “These kids believed all week they could win this game.”
Booker T. Washington (7-0) totaled 427 yards on offense, led by Larry’s 144 yards rushing.
Booker T. played without two starting offensive linemen, defensive end Demetrius Jackson, who was still hobbled by an ankle injury, and barely played running back Mark Walton also who also had an ankle injury.
Northwestern still managed to limit the scoring chances of one of the country’s deepest teams with timely third-down stops as the Bulls finished with six sacks overall and limited Harris to 206 yards passing.
Northwestern’s own quarterback Trevis McKinney had an efficient game completing 17 of 30 passes for 245 yards and threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jabari Dowling with 10:20 remaining to cut Booker T.’s lead to 14-9. Dowling finished with four catches for 68 yards, and senior Odis Grimes had six catches for 113 yards.
The Bulls nearly got even closer and the ball back with more pressure.
An errant snap in shotgun formation got past Harris and rolled to the end zone. Harris was able to recover and get rid of the ball to the sideline before being sacked. The ball landed out of bounds but near enough to a Tornadoes receiver to avoid an intentional grounding penalty that would have resulted in a Northwestern safety and a possession that could have given the Bulls a chance to take the lead.
Instead, Booker T. drove 85 yards for Larry’s clinching score.
“One thing this team has shown is no matter how tough a game has gone, they’ve put it together when they’ve needed to at the end,” Harris said. “We didn’t get the turnovers tonight, but our offense can go 99 yards on a drive if we have to. We have to work on getting our tempo back so we can finish the season strong.”
Northwestern had a better chance to take the lead late in the second quarter when Booker T. receiver Lamar Parker was stripped of the ball near his own goal line. A Northwestern defender recovered, but then fumbled, resulting in the ball rolling out of the end zone for a touchback. Parker finished with six catches for a game-high 129 yards.