EVANSTON, Ill. - -Northwestern was so dominant in the first quarter Saturday, the Wildcats barely had to flip to Chapter 2 of their playbook.
Mike Kafka led three touchdown drives in the quarter and passed for a career-high 192 yards to lead Northwestern to a 47-14 victory over Towson, spoiling Rob Ambrose's debut as Tigers coach.
The Wildcats (1-0) scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and then got a safety while building a 30-0 lead and never looked back. Towson simply was no match, which was no surprise.
"We got a true test today," Ambrose said. "Northwestern is a heck of a team. The numbers on the scoreboard don't look great, but the looks on the faces in our locker room tell a different story. We played hard and we played hard for longer than we've ever played before. We showed a lot of heart, and I can take some solace in that."
The Tigers (0-1), who fired Gordy Combs after a 3-9 finish last season, were playing a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent for just the second time.
The Wildcats basically got what they wanted - a glorified tuneup against a Football Championship Subdivision team.
Kafka's 27-yard pass to Andrew Brewer (career-high 145 yards receiving) and 16-yarder to Drake Dunsmore on the Wildcats' first possession helped set up Jacob Schmidt's 2-yard touchdown run. Arby Fields then scored on a 2-yard run and 22-yard dash to make it 21-0 with less than a minute left in the quarter, and backup quarterback Dan Persa made it 28-0 early in the second when he found Brewer deep over the middle.
The only downer for Northwestern was losing backup running back Jeravin Matthews to an ankle injury late in the first half.
For Towson, freshman Peter Athens completed 15 of 25 passes for 140 yards. He threw a touchdown pass but got intercepted twice.
Towson had an opportunity on its first possession to make a statement when Athens' screen pass to Tremayne Dameron gained 28 yards to the Wildcats' 30. But a holding penalty nullified the gain and eventually led to Billy Shears' first punt.
After Towson fell behind 30-0, the Tigers' first bit of good news came when Raymond White intercepted Persa to stop the Wildcats for the first time in the game.
Athens led the Tigers on a 78-yard, 12-play touchdown drive. His 21-yard completion to Casey Cegles set up Towson on Northwestern's 5. Two plays later. Dameron scored the Tigers' first points of the season on a 1-yard run with 3:44 left in the first half.
In the third quarter, Athens threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to David Newsom (six catches for 74 yards).
After the game, Ambrose would not declare Athens the winner in the quarterback competition with fellow freshmen Brian Potts and Tommy Chroniger.
"He is not going to be the solidified starter unless I evaluate something off the film and we come up with an answer that just says he's done so well," Ambrose said. "My instincts say, 'No, we're still a work in progress.' "
COASTAL CAROLINA@ TOWSON
Sept. 19, 7 p.m.
Radio: 1570 AM