Music City Bowl: Northwestern survives Kentucky

Sunday, 31 Dec, 2017

When Montre Hardage recovered the onside kick, Northwestern (10-3) could celebrate its eighth straight win and its third 10-win season in six years. "I think they really battled and they deserved to have the opportunity in their hands".

"We came up inches short and that hurts", Stoops said. United Kingdom falls to 7-6 to end the season. Look for Jackson to score two touchdowns and Clayton Thorson to throw a pair as well. Mark Stoops made a decision to roll the dice and go for the two-point conversion to go up by one.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald led his Wildcats into the Pinstripe Bowl last season as the underdog.

WHAT'S ON THE LINE: Northwestern can win eight games in a row for the first time in Fitzgerald's 12-year tenure as head coach while also reaching the 10-win plateau for the third time. He also has 118 total tackles and 21 tackles for loss over that spanNorthwestern and Clayton Thorson spread the ball around to a number of targets this season, but sophomore Bennett Skowronek emerged as the most unsafe threat at wide receiver.

Instead of kicking the extra point to tie the game, Kentucky chose to go for the two-point conversation instead, and it didn't work. Replay seemed to show that Northwestern actually picked up the first down, despite the call otherwise.

"A lot of great skill players", said defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster, who promised that Northwestern would not be overconfident.

But these SEC Wildcats have a terrific running back in Benny Snell Jr., and a two-way threat in quarterback Stephen Johnson. The injury occurred on a trick play.

A sweep to the right for Larkin turned into a throw back to Thorson down the left sideline.

Will Northwestern win and finish with a top 25 ranking or will Kentucky give them an unpleasant holiday loss?

Johnson drove the Cats down the field and on first-and-goal, ran it in for a touchdown. The Cats' offense became almost one-dimensional with Alviti in the game; the senior had almost as many rushes (nine) as pass attempts (11).

Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern: The Big Ten's Wildcats have a durable running back, too.

Jeremy Larkin added 112 yards on nine carries for Northwestern, which rushed for 333 yards. An official came to help Snell up off the ground, but Snell pushed the official's hands away and got up on his own. In a postgame interview Snell declined the opportunity to criticize the call, other than to explain, "I don't feel like I did anything".

Northwestern lost leading tackler Paddy Fisher in the first half's final minute.

Snell's ejection and Johnson's injury put Kentucky in a funk for the second quarter and behind 17-7 at halftime. The Kentucky bench got an unsportsmanlike penalty, pushing its offense out of field-goal range. More significantly, Johnson had to be evaluated in the locker room following the hit and missed several offensive series.