Published: Mon, January 01, 2018
Science | By Dan Gutierrez

Northwestern beats Kentucky in Music City Bowl: 3 takeaways

Northwestern beats Kentucky in Music City Bowl: 3 takeaways

Northwestern led Kentucky 24-17 with less than three minutes to play in the Music City Bowl.

So how does Kentucky stop Northwestern? It's the first time in bowl history the Wildcats have won back-to-back bowl games in school history, and Alviti played a big part. In the end Kentucky scored a touchdown with 37 seconds left and chose to go for a two-point conversion in order to win the game outright.

Northwestern got the ball first in the second half and marched into United Kingdom territory.

After Northwestern backup quarterback Matt Alviti was stopped short on a fourth-down QB sneak, Kentucky took over at the Northwestern 39-yard line. Thorson completed 4 of 8 passes for 35 yards before departing. Earlier in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats, leading 17-14, had another fourth-and-1, this time from the United Kingdom two-yard line.

Down 24-23, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, showing some aggressiveness of his own, went for the winning two-point conversion instead of tying things up with an extra point. Unfortunately it was not to be as Johnson's pass to Tavin Richardson fell incomplete.

Even though the result of the Music City Bowl didn't end in favor of the Cats from Kentucky, they still gave 100 percent in the toughest situations, evening after seeing their star running back get ejected in the second quarter and facing a halftime deficit of 10. Several Kentucky players also approached to offer encouragement and shoulder taps.

To Kentucky's credit, the Wildcats would rebound and put together a drive that would be capped by an Austin MacGinnis 48-yard field goal to pull within seven. Replay seemed to show that Northwestern actually picked up the first down, despite the call otherwise.

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Finally, Johnson threw into the end zone, and cornerback Marcus McShepard broke up the pass. His 19th score came in the first quarter Friday.

Northwestern missed a field goal late in the third quarter as Charlie Kuhbander was wide right from 43 yards out.

Jeremy Larkin added 112 yards on nine carries for Northwestern, which rushed for 333 yards. "We got it did you see the replay?"

"I think that will be something that we'll be fighting for in the offseason, to find a way to get 10 more points to get to Indianapolis [for the conference title game]", Fitzgerald said.

For the first time this season, Kentucky began the game with a touchdown on its opening drive, opening the game with a 26-yard pass to Richardson quickly followed by a 37-yard pass that helped set up a 3-yard score for Snell. Jackson was named the game MVP after rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns in his final game in purple. It was the third straight game that Kentucky's defense had allowed 300-plus yards.

Despite having slow starts, Northwestern improved to 9-3 on the regular season largely because of the offensive rhythm established between two of the program's standouts: junior quarterback Clayton Thorson and senior running back Justin Jackson. Though not completely surprising, hearing the school's all-time winningest QB would be back in Evanston next season was good news for Northwestern. This sealed the fate on Kentucky's quest for an eight-win season. Clayton Thorson caught a pass from his running back near the United Kingdom end zone before an awkward tackle and landing had him exit on a cart with a leg injury.

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