Second-ranked Northwestern remained undefeated Friday night, but it didn't come easy.
The Trojans and Nation Ford went back and forth for all four quarters like two prize fighters. The game was closer than many Trojans fans wanted.
"We had to fight," Northwestern coach Jimmy Wallace told his team. "They are a good football team and we stopped them when we had to."
Senior quarterback Justin Worley hit seven receivers while completing 27 of 35 passes for 362 yards and four touchdowns.
The Falcons were idle last week, which gave them two weeks to prepare for Northwestern. Senior quarterback Thomas Condron was well protected in the first half and Nation Ford came out swinging despite being the underdog.
Falcons coach Rusty Jester said he was proud of his team's effort.
"This is a win-win for us," Jester said. "For us to play with them the way we did, I couldn't be more proud."
Condron traded pass-for-pass with Worley as the Falcons mixed their ground game and air attack to keep Northwestern off balance in the opening quarter. Condron was 19-for-30 in the game for 332 yards. The two teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards of offense.
Nation Ford shocked the Trojans defense, scoring on the first play of the game when junior J.J. McCullough broke free on a draw for an 80-yard touchdown.
The Falcons forced Northwestern to punt on its first series and came right back to score again.
Nation Ford again started on the 20-yard line and went 80 yards on eight plays as Condron went 3-for-4 on the drive.
He hit senior Will Ford in the back of the end zone to put the Falcons up 12-0 early.
Northwestern put everything together on its second drive, going 65 yards in six plays. Worley connected with junior B.J. Boyd on a 30-yard touchdown pass, but the extra point was blocked.
Condron again led the Falcons down the field, hitting Ford for a 64-yard touchdown.
With under a minute left in the half, Worley led the Trojans down the field, throwing 18 yards to senior Delvieon McCloud to a touchdown to make the score 19-12.
Northwestern took the second-half kickoff and drove 75 yards in 10 plays.
Worley threw 24 yards to sophomore LaThomas Long.
Nation Ford didn't panic. The Falcons marched down the field in 14 plays to score on a one-yard run by Condron.
The Trojans took eight plays to get into the end zone as Worley hit Boyd on a big 51-yard pass to set up the scoring play.
NATION FORD 35
NF- J.J. McCullough 80 run (kick failed)
NF- Will Ford 24 pass from Thomas Condron (two-point conversion failed)
N- B.J. Boyd 30 pass from Justin Worley (kick failed)
NF- Ford 64 pass from Condron (Gary Pence kick)
N- Delvieon McCleod 18 pass from Worley (kick failed)
N- LaThomas Long 24 pass from Worley (two-point conversion failed)
NF-Condron 1 run (Pence kick)
N-Long 5 run (two-point conversion failed)
NF-Pence 38 field goal
N-Devonta Gibson 73 kickoff return (Worley run)
NF-McCullough 51 run (kick failed)
N- Boyd 57 pass from Worley (Ryan Maddox kick)
N-Kenneth Mitchell 100 interception return
RUSHING-Nation Ford: J.J. McCullough 14-172, Thomas Condron 9-28, JoJo Williamson 5-5, Jake Williams 3-(-2). Northwestern: LaThomas Long 7-34, Justin Worley 3-19, Marcus Marshall 3-20.
PASSING-Nation Ford: Thomas Condron 19-30-332-1. Northwestern: Justin Worley 27-35-362-0.
RECEIVING-Nation Ford: Will Ford 7-158, Nick Damm 4-68, McCullough 1-0, Williams 2-50, Williamson 5-56. Northwestern: Robert Joseph 2-13, B.J. Boyd 10-198, Rontavious McClure 7-52, Linwood Sims 1-5, Marshall 1-24, Delvieon McCleod 4-40, Long 2-30.
RECORDS: Nation Ford 3-2, Northwestern 5-0