(AP) Linebacker Damien Proby and defensive end Dean Lowry each had an interception return for a touchdown to lead No. 18 Northwestern to a 35-21 win over Maine on Saturday.
Northwestern improved to 4-0 as it wrapped up its non-conference slate, but this was not the consistent, steady performance coach Pat Fitzgerald was looking for heading into the Big Ten season. If not for the interception returns for scores, Maine (3-1) very well could have been shooting for an upset down the stretch.
Running back Mike Trumpy and quarterback Kain Colter each had rushing touchdowns for Northwestern.
Marcus Wasilewski was 25-for-40 for 237 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Maine, which had a 379 to 373 edge over the Wildcats in total yards. Northwestern had posted better than 500 yards of offense in each of its first two games against California and Syracuse.
Northwestern scored on its first offensive possession as Colter and receiver Tony Jones hooked up on a 27-yard scoring pass to cap a nine-play, 76-yard drive with 10:18 left in the opening quarter. That was the Wildcats last offensive score until the fourth quarter. Fortunately for Northwestern, the defense came through.
Proby had a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute of the second quarter to give Northwestern a 14-0 lead. On the play, Wasilewski's pass was tipped by receiver Derrick Johnson and Proby snatched it out of the air and headed the other way with a convey of blockers along for the ride.
Less than five minutes into the second half, the defense made another huge play. Proby pressured Wasilewski caused the quarterback to lose control of the pass as he attempted to throw on the run. Lowry scooped the floating pass and returned it 19 yards for the score to make it 21-0.
Maine finally got on the board with 3:02 left in the third as Wasilewski found tight end Justin Perillo for an 11-yard scoring pass to make it 21-7.
Northwestern, though, dashed hopes of a Maine comeback on the ensuing possession when the offense produced an 8-play, 74-yard scoring drive capped by Trumpy's 7-yard run that made it 28-7 five seconds into the fourth quarter.