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Northwestern drops Miss. St. for first bowl win in over six decades

Quentin Williams, AP

In the first of three New Year’s Day bowl games pitting Big Ten schools against SEC teams, Northwestern gave an early shot in the arm to a conference that’s seen more downs than ups in a rough 2012 season.  And, in the process, accomplished something that hasn’t happened since Harry S. Truman was sitting in the Oval Office.

Thanks in large part to utter quarterback ineptness on the part of its opponent, No. 21 Northwestern took an early two-score lead before pulling away late in a 34-20 Gator Bowl win over Mississippi State.  The Wildcats, who entered the game No. 15 in the country in rushing yards per game, did the majority of their scoring damage on the ground as they ran for three touchdowns on the day.

The win marked Northwestern’s first in a bowl game since January of 1949.  It also snapped the football program’s nine-game losing streak in the postseason, dating back to the Wildcats’ 20-14 Rose Bowl win over Cal exactly 64 years ago today.

“I’m just so ecstatic for this football program,” an emotional NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald said immediately after the game. “This was the one last negative we needed to erase.”

That decades-long streak was stopped thanks in large part to Tyler Russell.  The Bulldogs starting quarterback entered the Gator Bowl having thrown just six interceptions all season long; 28 pass attempts later, Russell added four to that total in a single game.  His third pass of the game was intercepted by NU’s Quentin Williams (pictured) and returned 29 yards for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead that the Bulldogs could never completely overcome.

Russell’s miscues resulted in 17 points for Northwestern, clearly the difference in the game.  While Northwestern threw three interceptions of their own, MSU was able to convert those turnovers into just three points thanks to a Wildcats defense that, in addition to the four picks, sacked Russell four times and limited him to just 106 yards on 12-of-28 passing.

Northwestern finishes the season at 10-3, the program’s first year with double-digit wins since 1995 under Gary Barnett.  Mississippi State, on the other hand, limped, staggered and stumbled to the end of an eight-win season.  After beginning 2012 7-0, the Bulldogs lost five of their last six games by an average of 21.4 points per game.

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12 Responses to “Northwestern drops Miss. St. for first bowl win in over six decades”
  1. indywvu says: Jan 1, 2013 3:45 PM

    Happy for Northwestern and their alumni. As a WVU grad, I thought our streak was brutal when I was younger. As ecstatic as I was once we finally won one, I can’t imagine how the Northwestern faithful everywhere feel.

  2. dkhhuey says: Jan 1, 2013 4:00 PM

    Nicely done Northwestern! Nicely done!

  3. nickp91 says: Jan 1, 2013 4:01 PM

    Big Congratulations to Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats on their first Bowl victory since 1949

  4. chitownjeff says: Jan 1, 2013 5:15 PM

    Absolutely amazing considering how bad the cats were in the 80’s when I was a kid growing up in Chicago.. they actively thought about terminating football totally then..

    Congrats coach Fitz!!

  5. dmvtransplant says: Jan 1, 2013 5:40 PM

    This guy should have been considered for coach of the year. The only B1G vs SEC game I watched and I never turned the channel once. Congrats to NU for doing what no other team from the college had done in 6 decades.

  6. irishdodger says: Jan 1, 2013 6:24 PM

    Did u hear or see all the Wildcat fans chanting “Big 10!, Big 10!, Big 10!”?

    No…I didn’t either.

  7. cfballfan1 says: Jan 1, 2013 6:31 PM

    Congrats to NU & Coach Fitzgerald – he has completely turned that program around. Nice win!

  8. bunyanj says: Jan 1, 2013 6:43 PM

    Hats off to Northwestern on a well deserved victory.
    As for Mississippi State, please take your cowbells and go join Conferenence USA , where you belong. Your four conference wins came against programs that were down in 2012. All four schools (Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas) have fired their coaches and will be competititive soon. In the next few years the Bulldogs will return to their usual one or two SEC wins; and maybe go to a conference where they belong.

  9. seamus0317 says: Jan 1, 2013 6:49 PM

    Congrats to Coach Fitz!! A true class act

  10. burgandy2260 says: Jan 1, 2013 6:57 PM

    An awesome job and high praise to Coach Fitz & the team. NU should maybe think of grooming someone soon. I think Fitz is meant for much bigger things and soon!! Ken its all about the elephant & the mouse in the Forrest!

  11. atwatercrushesokoye says: Jan 1, 2013 7:24 PM

    Remember when the SEC fans were saying they’re by far the best conference in the world and no one can compete with them?…not so much, so why are they annually so overrated in the initial polls?

  12. rsmeans says: Jan 1, 2013 9:31 PM

    The hype surrounding Dan Mullen during his stay at MSU has been considerable. I now find that most of that hype was generated by Mullenl. There was an underlying assumption that Mullen not Meyer was responsible for the Utah and Florida success. Even Smart Football claimed the spread was the Mullen-Meyer Spread. Dan Mullen is a great salesman who often sells himself to him. He is a constant braggart who talks about how he has turned MSU around.

    The fact is that Crooms not Mullen turned MSU around but Mullen inherited MSU at exactly the right time. Unllike Crooms he is a terrible recruiter who has let the MSU resurrange die in its tracks. His on field play calling and QB choice is pathetic to say the least. It is time to give the boot to Mullen.

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