Sophomore defensive end Dean Lowry capped his stunning September with a pick-six against Maine. He currently leads the team in pass deflections and forced fumbles. He's second in sacks, tackles for losses, interceptions and quarterback hits.
Even with Deonte Gibson (his fall camp competition) playing fairly well, Lowry has distinguished himself through work ethic and his stat line. On a talented unit that includes Tyler Scott and Ibraheim Campbell, Lowry might be the best so far.
"He's been the best defensive player of the game three times now internally," Damien Proby said. "It's been a great transition to see."
Throughout the offseason, Scott praised Lowry for his freshman year diligence. Lowry focused on learning the playbook and did well enough to see the field in year one—no easy task when you're coached by Pat Fitzgerald.
But Lowry plays with veteran instincts: On the interception return that gave NU a three-score lead, he positioned himself perfectly to haul in the ill-advised throw from Marcus Wasilewski. Collin Ellis–of former pick-six infamy–closed on the quarterback and Maine made an FCS-quality play.
"I was in the right place at the right time," he said.
Thing is, there was minimal luck involved. He gets it.
After serving up another dud against Maine, NU will need to capitalize on even more opportunities to knock off No. 4 Ohio State in two weeks. Though recent games did nothing to instill confidence from the Wildcats faithful, fans can still point to defensive playmaking as reason for optimism.
"We preach turnovers," Lowry said.
And he's been the catalyst, forcing fumbles, grabbing interceptions, quickly establishing himself as a defensive star.
"I definitely feel more confident than last year," he said. "The game's a little slower this year."
From here, you could argue it's faster, more thrilling. When Dean Lowry takes the field opposite Tyler Scott, NU can anticipate the absolute best.