Friday, 19 October, 2018

NU withstands injuries to grind out Music City Bowl win

NU withstands injuries to grind out Music City Bowl win NU withstands injuries to grind out Music City Bowl win
Edmund Robinson | 01 January, 2018, 04:34

Johnson ran for his second TD of the second half with 37 seconds left.

The Cats trailed 17-7 at the half, but Johnson came back - as Johnson has done in so many games in his two-year United Kingdom career - and guided United Kingdom 74 yards down the field and ran in a 3-yard score to make it 17-14 Northwestern. Facing a fourth-and-1 from its own 39-yard line, Fitzgerald opted to keep his offense on the field instead of punting it back to Kentucky.

Johnson completed a pass for 16 yards to Justin Rigg, then ran it himself for six yards before taking a sack. Warren Long sacked Johnson on 2-and-4, but a pass interference on third down set up 1-and-goal from the United Kingdom nine-yard line, and Johnson sprinted for the right pylon to score and pull the Wildcats to within one point.

However, sometimes things don't work out, and Johnson's two-point conversion pass to Tavin Richardson was incomplete as the pass went through Richardson's fingers. The next Kentucky drive led to a touchdown, but when they chose to go for two to win the game, the pass was broken up by the NU defense in the far right endzone, sealing Northwestern's 24-23 win. As the best player on the field for the SEC's Wildcats, it was a huge blow and one Kentucky struggled to recover from.

Stephen Johnson led his Wildcats right back down the field and MacGinnis knocked through a 48 yard field goal. He added two touchdowns and 17 yards on the ground. If Richardson hauls in the pass from Johnson, we are having a completely different conversation but that wasn't the case. On Kentucky's second possession of the quarter, "Juice" Johnson made a tremendous first-down catch. However, UK shut it down from there as Northwestern settles for a 33 yard field goal from Charlie Kubander.

Jackson closed his final season strong, exceeding 144 rushing yards in four of NU's final five games.




On the first play of the quarter, Thorson handed the ball off to Jeremy Larkin, who passed back to Thorson. Three plays later, Johnson scored from three yards out on an option keeper.

"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. Jackson was named the game MVP after rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns in his final game in purple. He finished his career with 27 100-yard games. Northwestern all-Big Ten linebacker Paddy Fisher was ejected for targeting - a call that coach Fitzgerald called perhaps "one of the worst calls I have ever seen in the history of football".

Kentucky's defense proved especially vulnerable against the run as the regular season wore on, which could lead to trouble in the postseason.

Northwestern's appearance on Friday in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl is one that's hard to put into words. Unfortunately, because of an injury he sustained against Kentucky, Thorson's offseason schedule - and therefore, his 2018 season - looks much murkier.

Despite all that production, NU opted for another trick play on fourth-and-1 from the Kentucky 2 in the fourth quarter. 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. After Thorson was carted off the field, Matt Alviti would replace him. Kentucky's season ends at 7-6.

But Johnson came back in the second half and got United Kingdom within three points in the third quarter before throwing an interception to Kyle Quiero, who scored from 26 yards out, that looked like it would end the suspense midway through the final quarter. But it still didn't look good, and it appears the likeliest scenario is the rising senior leader will miss spring practice at the very least while beginning a long recovery.

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