Northwestern Outlasts Kentucky In Music Bowl Thriller

Northwestern Outlasts Kentucky In Music Bowl Thriller

They did that despite losing quarterback Clayton Thorson to a right knee injury on a trick play and a decision to go for it on a late fourth down that almost cost them the game. But the Music City Bowl quickly became embroiled in controversy thanks to some dubious calls by the officials in the first half that saw star Kentucky running back Benny Snell, Jr., get ejected and star Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher get the boot.

Johnson built a reputation for toughness all season, then backed it up one final time in a Wildcats uniform by almost willing Kentucky back from two 10-point deficits.

Running back Justin Jackson had arguably the biggest impact, closing his career with a 157-yard, two-touchdown performance on 32 rushes that carried NU's offense in Thorson's absence.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound quarterback left late in the second quarter with pain in his right acromioclavicular joint suffered on a big hit after a throw near Kentucky's sideline. Also, there was no guarantee that Northwestern wouldn't have marched down the field for a game-winning field goal attempt. United Kingdom running back Benny Snell Jr., the SEC's leader this season in rushing touchdowns with 18, was ejected in the first quarter for "contact with an official".

Start of the 2nd Quarter, Northwestern was into United Kingdom territory when Clayton Thorson pitched to Jeremy Larkin, he then pulled up and threw it back to Thorson who was tackled by Jordan Jones and appeared to suffer a knee injury. It was a vintage workhorse effort by Jackson, who moved into the Top 10 of all-time rushers in FBS history. It would have set up a field goal attempt but the United Kingdom sideline was flagged for complaining to the officials pushing them too far away for an attempt.

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

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No other member of the football team better represents the ideology of giving 100 percent than Stephen Johnson.

When Kentucky stuffed Northwestern quarterback Matt Alviti on fourth-and-1, it gave United Kingdom and Johnson one last chance 39 yards from the end zone and 2:31 remaining.

Johnson drove the Cats down the field and on first-and-goal, ran it in for a touchdown.

When he came back in the second half, Johnson ran in two touchdowns and almost led United Kingdom back from a double-digit deficit twice. Unable to get the touchdown, United Kingdom settled for a 48 yard field goal from Austin MacGinnis.

Northwestern would drive again. The combined yardage set a Belk Bowl record, as did the combined points and total plays (190). UK's deficit grew once more to 10. Unfortunately, Johnson's pass missed Richardson and the score remained 24-23.

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