Wednesday afternoon, Northwestern squared off against Pittsburgh at one of the more unique bowl game locations, Yankee Stadium. Despite Pittsburgh having the better record of 8-4, compared to Northwestern’s 6-6 record, FiveThirtyEight ranked this matchup as the second best of any bowl game. Coached by Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh entered the game slight favorites.

  • Northwestern would receive the ball first, going 3-and-out. Pittsburgh responded with a 38 yard pass on their first play to set up a field goal.
  • Down 3-0, Northwestern would soon respond. Starting at their own goal line, Justin Jackson would accumulate 99 rushing yards to pull Northwestern ahead. The highlight was a 68 yard run from Jackson at Northwestern’s own goal line.
  • After another Justin Jackson touchdown, Pittsburgh responded with a 69-yard touchdown bomb to pull the Panthers to within 4 of Northwestern, as the team’s entered half with NU leading 14-10.
  • Starting off the second half, Northwestern squibbed it to Pittsburgh, something they would do for the majority of their kickoffs in this game.
  • Continuing their struggles in the secondary, Pittsburgh reeled off a 57 yard run on their first down of the half before running it in for a touchdown to go ahead 17-14.
  • After getting the ball back, Northwestern switched off running and completing short passes to get into Pitt territory. From there, Justin Jackson capped off the drive with a 40- yard run to take back the lead for Northwestern, 21-17.
  • After a Pitt missed field goal and ensuing punt 3 and out, Pitt blocked NU’s punt to get the ball back at the opponent’s 22-yard line as the 3rd quarter approached an end.
  • Despite starting QB Nathan Peterman being out after taking a (questionable non-targeting call) shot to the head, backup QB Ben DiNucci came in for Pitt and helped them cap off a short drive with a 6-yard passing TD to put them up 24-21 early in the 4th
  • As was the case for most of the game, Pitt’s score was responded with a Northwestern score. This time, quarterback Clayton Thorson threw 8 completions and capped the drive off with a 21-yard pass to Garrett Dickerson for the touchdown and a 28-24 lead.
  • In another demonstration of their resilience, Northwestern forced a fumble on the first play of the ensuing Pitt possession. Northwestern would settle from a Jack Mitchell FG to give them a 7-point lead.
  • Pitt was able to work down to the NU 18-yard line. However, on 4th and 10 and under pressure, DiNucci threw an interception to put NU at their own 3-yard line. NU was forced to punt leaving Pitt with just over 2 minutes left to try and pull of the comeback.
  • After a short run and incompletion, DiNucci again threw an interception and NU would knee the ball to win the game.
  • Despite both teams having around 450 yards, Northwestern had over 35 minutes of possession, compared to just over 28 for Pitt. Much of that advantage was clock time that resulted from keeping the ball on the ground.
  • Pitt lead the way in passing with 269 yards, compared to NU’s 214, however NU rushed for 248 yards while Pitt ran for 169. Justin Jackson ran for an astounding 224 of those yards.
  • Ultimately, the game came down to turnovers. Not only did Pitt have 4 of them, compared to NU’s 2, but 3 of them came in the Red Zone.
  • Pitt finished with a respectable 8-5 record for the 2nd year in a row, likely putting them just out of the top 25 when it is all said and done. Northwestern finished their season 7-6, giving Pat Fitzgerald his 2nd bowl win as NU head coach.

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