EVANSTON, Ill. — Twice in the first half, Western Michigan jumped out to a lead and began to dream of what might be.
But in the end, reality sunk in quickly as the more-talented team took control.
Treyvon Green rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Kain Colter ran for 106 yards and a score and passed for another, and No. 17 Northwestern beat Western Michigan 38-17 on Saturday night.
Northwestern had 474 yards of total offense – including 335 on the ground – to extend its winning streak in non-conference home games to 15.
Green, the No. 3 running back on the depth chart, took advantage of the absence of starter Venric Mark, who missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
"A talented team that's that sound and you miss a gap, that hole went from being like (small space between his hands) this to like this (spread arms apart) and bang," Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck said . "Green's good enough, he's agile enough, he's slippery enough, fast enough to hit that thing and go. He showed it."
Western Michigan (0-3) was led by quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen, who was 16 of 41 for 202 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
"We had some opportunities, but we just didn't make enough plays," Van Tubbergen said. "Credit to them. That's a pretty good team. Ranked in the top 20 in the country."
Despite starting its first three drives in Western Michigan territory, Northwestern trailed 3-0 following the first quarter and couldn't get much going offensively. The Wildcats finally got going when safety Ibraheim Campbell intercepted Van Tubbergen at the Northwestern 43 – his fifth straight game with pick.
Northwestern needed just seven plays to cover the 57 yards, with Colter running the ball in from four yards out to give Northwestern a 7-3 lead.
"With Colter, we had a guy on him," Fleck said. "If I was in the National Football League still right now I would make sure that I would pound the table to draft him. I would take him in the first round. He's a football player. You can't coach what he has. They have a special, special player."
Western Michigan needed only one play to retake the lead at 10-7 when Van Tubbergen and freshman wide receiver Corey Davis hooked up on a 75-yard scoring pass. Davis made a cut as if he were running an out and then turned the route up field, fooling cornerback Dwight White.
That play did little to quell the offensive rhythm Northwestern established on the previous series. After starting their next drive on their own 35, the Wildcats covered 65 yards in six plays, culminating in Colter's six-yard touchdown pass to Christian Jones to take the lead for good.
That score kicked off a stretch in which Northwestern scored 24 consecutive points. The Wildcats scored on their final four possessions of the first half.
A four-yard dash by running back Mike Trumpy made it 21-10 with 2:15 remaining in the half before Northwestern got the ball back with 51 seconds remaining before the break and moved downfield to set up Jeff Budzien's 35-yard field goal and 24-10 lead.
The Wildcats kept at it in the third quarter with an 87-yard, 14-play drive that ended with the first of Green's two touchdowns – a one-yard run that gave Northwestern a 31-10 lead.
Western Michigan finally snapped its scoreless string when Van Tubbergen and receiver Josh Schaffer hooked up on a 25-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to make it 31-17.
Northwestern answered on its next possession when Green broke off a 42-yard touchdown run to restore the three-TD lead.