For the first time since the 1949 Rose Bowl, the Northwestern Wildcats emerged victorious in a bowl game, downing Mississippi State 34-20 in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
The Wildcats nearly squandered an early 13-0 lead, but out-scored the Bulldogs 21-7 in the final 30 minutes of the game to come out as winners.
3 Thumbs up:
-Northwestern was very efficient on third down conversions early in the first half. They finished the game 10-19 on third down, a respectable mark.
-The Wildcats did a nice job getting ahead early. There were some concerns, as their always are, that rust would be an issue at the onset of the game, but that did not appear to be the case as NU scooped up an early 13-0 lead.
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-Four forced turnovers helped propel the Wildcats in this one, there is no way around it. The defense embarrassed Bulldogs’ quarterback Tyler Russell on several occasions and it kept the momentum in NU’s favor.
3 Thumbs down:
-Settling for field goals on promising drives can come back to haunt even the best of teams. When Mississippi State made its move in the second and third quarters, it looked like the Wildcats were going to fall victim to missed opportunities. Some timely scoring helped bail them out.
-As good as Northwestern was at forcing turnovers, was about as bad as they were at taking care of the ball themselves. Three turnovers are far too many in a game like this. Yet, NU was able to overcome them.
-Regardless of whose fault it is, Venric Mark was never established as a legitimate threat. Give some credit to the Mississippi State defense, but it seems as though the Wildcats never fully used a weapon of such a high caliber.
Final thoughts: How can you not be happy for Northwestern? This is a program that has been progressively getting better in recent years and the seniors who worked so hard to establish a solid foundation in the program were rewarded with a bowl victory over a quality opponent. The health of the Northwestern program is good for the conference as a whole.