ROCK HILL — About the only thing to go wrong for the Northwestern Trojans in Friday nights football season opener against Gaffney was the opening rush out onto the field. At the head of a hopping, pumped-up bunch of Trojans, a lineman stumbled causing a number of his surprised teammates to tumble over in front of a packed home side.
Northwestern (1-0), led by clinical quarterback Mason Rudolph, thumped the defending Big 16 state champion Indians 51-19. Rudolph completed his first 16 passes and finished 29-for-38 and 260 yards. Rudolphs five touchdown passes and one rushing score helped the Trojans to their 10th straight win over Gaffney (0-1) at District 3 Stadium, and fifth in the last six overall against the Indians.
It felt good. The offense was just rolling, the tempo was good, Rudolph said. The receivers were bailing me out on a couple of throws, and the OL, we ran the ball on them all night, which was great. Kind of opened up the passing lanes for us.
The Indians missed their star quarterback, South Carolina commitment Shaq Davidson, who didnt dress because of a thumb injury. Steepening the odds, a Gaffney defense with 10 new starters was simply no match for the Trojans chief surgeon, Rudolph.
We gave them some things, but hey, the kids good, Gaffney coach Dan Jones said, referring to Rudolph.
Rudolph completed his first 16 passes before a sure touchdown catch was dropped on the 17th attempt. No worry; after an 11-yard completion to Mustafia Love got the Trojans down to the Gaffney 1, Rudolph plunged into the end zone at the second asking to make it 28-12 with just under a minute left in the first half. When the Trojans scored on the first possession of the second half, the Indians looked dead in the water.
Ill be honest with you, I didnt know he was 16-of-16, Richardson said. We were moving the football. I do know when we came in at the half we were 50 percent pass, 50 percent run and we felt really good about that.
Rudolph spread the ball around to all of his weaponry. Dupree Hart had 10 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown and ran in another one, Love grabbed six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown, and running back Tori Adams racked up 106 yards on 19 touches.
But it was Quadarius Fairs breakout night that will raise the pulses of defensive coordinators around the area. The 6-foot-5 transfer from Andrew Jackson High School caught seven balls for 83 yards and three touchdowns. After slot receiver Weston King went down earlier in the week with a serious knee injury, Fairs melding into the offensive scheme was sped up.
He came in and mentally he was really far behind just from transferring in late, but he did some things tonight, said Richardson. We got the ball in his hands when they left him uncovered, and he kind of went and did the rest, and made it look easy out there a couple of times.
Fair was ecstatic after the debut performance.
I had to step up, help my team out in a tremendous way, Fair said. I love the team.
At least three of Rudolphs five touchdown tosses were broken routes, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Fair after he slipped beyond an unwary defensive back on the first possession of the second half to make it 35-12. Richardson said those were the fruits of a scramble drill that the Trojans work on in practice every week.
Its good for them to be able to see what we do in practice parlay into the game, said Richardson. Im really happy for the entire team, offense, defense and special teams.
Northwestern 51, Gaffney 19
NW -- Quadarius Fair 35 yd pass from Mason Rudolph (Sully Foy kick)
G -- Eddie Studyvance 36 yd run (Shaq Smith kick blocked)
NW -- Mustafia Love 12 yd pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
NW -- Dupree Hart 11 yd pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
G -- Eddie Studyvance 1 yd run (Hylek Foster rush failed)
NW -- Rudolph 1 yd run (Foy kick)
NW -- Fair 23 yd pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
G -- Foster 1 yd run (Juan Navarro kick)
NW -- Dupree Hart 1 yd run (2-pt failed)
NW -- Foy 22 yd field goal
NW -- Fair 12 yd pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
RUSHING Gaffney: Hyleck Foster 16-75; Eddie Studyvance 17-40; Ikeem Posey 2-33; Isaiah Hughes 2--6. Northwestern: Tori Adams 19-106; Mason Rudolph 6-16; Chris Bowler 2-4; Dupree Hart 1-1.
PASSING Gaffney: Studyvance 26-17-0. Northwestern: Rudolph 37-28-0.
RECEIVING Gaffney:Scott McCluney 5-86; Foster 5-40; Jo Jo McGill 4-43; Dylan Steppe 2-14; Greg Ellis 1-4 . Northwestern: Hart 10-102; Quadarius Fair 7-83; Mustafia Love 6-51; Adams 4-22; Davion Blake 1-4; Bowler 1- -2.
RECORDS Gaffney 0-1; Northwestern 1-0
McCormick: 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T