Northwestern (2-3, 2-1 Big Ten) finally found a way not to waste a halftime lead. The Wildcats took down No. 20 Michigan State (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) in East Lansing behind a solid defensive effort and a three-touchdown performance through the air from Clayton Thorson. Northwestern’s 29-19 win also helps keep Northwestern in the early running in the Big Ten West Division thanks to the crossover matchup with the Spartans.
After Northwestern’s defense brought pressure on Brian Lewerke in the end zone on two straight plays and somehow managed to not get a safety ruled in their favor on those two straight plays, the defense dialed up a fourth down stop on 4th and 1 on the Michigan State 11-yard line. Northwestern took over in a great spot to put the game away, and a strong push on the goal line by Thorson put the 10-point underdogs up by 10.
Thorson passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns and he pushed forward on the goal line score late in the game gave Northwestern’s quarterback four touchdowns in the game.
Each of Thorson’s touchdown throws came from outside the red zone. The first to Kyric McGowan in the first quarter and traveled 77 yards came as a result of a bit of blown coverage down the field, as McGowan was wide open behind the Michigan State defense. Thorson’s perfectly placed ball into the hands of JJ Jefferson covered 34 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, helping to give Northwestern a 14-6 lead as the Michigan State offense was failing to cash in on their opportunities. A third touchdown pass to Cameron Green in the third quarter from 21 yards pulled Northwestern back in front of Michigan State after the Spartans had taken a 19-14 on their second touchdown of the second half.
Northwestern missed a field goal to keep Michigan State in it in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats defense forced a three-and-out and then
Northwestern will return home next week to play a home game against Nebraska. The Huskers, already off to a woeful start at 0-4, could be searching for their first win of the season after a road game at Wisconsin on Saturday.
Michigan State will be on the road next week to play a division game at Penn State. The Spartans knocked off the Nittany Lions with a last-second field goal to effectively remove any thought of the College Football Playoff for Penn State. The Nittany Lions lost a tough one last week at home against Ohio State and have this week off to prepare for their next revenge situation against Michigan State.