Northwestern earns spot in championship

Big Ten roundup

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Northwestern clinched bowl eligibility and a spot in its conference title game on the same day.

Only in the Big Ten West.

Isaiah Bowser ran for 165 yards and a touchdown and Northwestern upset Iowa, 14-10, on Saturday to clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship.

The Wildcats will now await their opponent for the league title game in Indianapolis next month. Despite a 6-4 overall record, Northwestern downed the likes of Purdue, Wisconsin and Iowa to reach the top of the division with a 6-1 conference record.

“This team has overcome a ton of adversity,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We got beat up. We had a bunch of injuries, lost some tough games there. The brotherhood in that locker room is the glue that kept everything together.”

Bennett Skowronek’s 32-yard touchdown that came off an incredible catch in the fourth quarter gave the Wildcats a 14-10 lead they wouldn’t surrender.

After a first half that yielded just three total points on a field goal from Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos, the scoring ramped up in the second.

Bowser hit a hole for a 34-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game.

Bowser was the only Wildcat to surpass 45 yards from scrimmage other than quarterback Clayton Thorson, and his performance certainly gave Northwestern a boost after a first half in which it only posted 75 total yards.

“I think (the touchdown) got us going,” Bowser said. “Obviously, not scoring in the first half, so coming out and scoring in the second half, that was big for our offense and big for our defense too, knowing that they had a lead.”

After Recinos missed a field goal to respond, Iowa safety Jake Gervase intercepted Clayton Thorson’s pass off a tip.

Iowa cashed in just two plays later with Nate Stanley’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

The Hawkeyes had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth, but Northwestern’s Cameron Ruiz forced Mekhi Sargent to fumble, and the Wildcats jumped on it.

Iowa had one final chance with under two minutes to go, but another fumble by Ivory Kelly-Martin ended the Hawkeyes’ chances.

“They outplayed us tonight,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Nobody’s more disappointed right now than the 115, 116 guys on our football team. They’ve worked hard, they’ve invested and I thought they competed hard tonight. But I guess it wasn’t good enough.”

Elsewhere:

No. 8 Ohio State 26, No. 24 Michigan State 6: Drue Chrisman kept Michigan State pinned back with a sensational second half of punting, and eighth-ranked Ohio State eventually pulled away for a victory over the 24th-ranked Spartans. In a tight defensive struggle, the Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten, No. 10 CFP) enjoyed a huge advantage in field position during the second half. Chrisman’s punts forced Michigan State (6-4, 4-3, No. 18) to start its first five drives after halftime from its own 5, 6, 3, 1 and 2-yard line.

No. 4 Michigan 42, Rutgers 7: Shea Patterson threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns, Karan Higdon ran for a pair of 1-yard scores and No. 4 Michigan kept its national championship hopes intact with a win over Rutgers.

Minnesota 41, Purdue 10: Minnesota’s maligned defense held Purdue to season-lows in yards and points, and Seth Green had a touchdown rushing and passing for the Gophers in a win against the Boilermakers in the cold and snow. Redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim ran for 156 yards for Minnesota.

Indiana 34, Maryland. 32: Peyton Ramsey threw two touchdown passes, Logan Justus made the go-ahead field goal with 2:32 left and the Indiana Hoosiers recovered a fumble in the final minute to preserve a victory over Maryland. The Hoosiers (5-5, 2-5 Big Ten) ended a four-game losing streak and kept their bowl hopes alive with the victory.

Nebraska 54, Illinois 35: Adrian Martinez threw for 290 yards and accounted for four touchdowns and Devine Ozigbo ran for 162 yards and three scores to lead Nebraska past Illinois, which committed turnovers on four of five full possessions.

COMMENTS