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‘CATS LET UPSET BID SLIP THROUGH THEIR FINGERTIPS

Posted By Ben Chiswick On Oct 26 2010 @ 10:09 am In Northwestern | 1 Comment

It’s too bad the final score won’t do the game justice.

The Northwestern Wildcats (5-2, 1-2) dominated for most of the day – and led for 58 of the 60 minutes – before allowing two late touchdowns in a heart-wrenching loss to the Michigan State Spartans (8-0, 3-0) on Saturday.

The homecoming final was a 35-27 defeat, overshadowing what was nearly one of the biggest upsets of the college football day.

The ‘Cats were firing on all cylinders while jumping out to a 17-0 lead and held a 10-point advantage heading into the final quarter. Northwestern stuffed the highly-rated Spartans rushing attack, giving up just 105 yards on the ground – 25 of which came on a late touchdown scamper after the outcome had been decided. Dan Persa engineered the offense and moved the ball well again Michigan State’s vaunted D, totaling 268 yards from scrimmage and rushing for all three Wildcats’ touchdowns.

But in the end, a potential top-10 upset melted away when the homecoming-crashers scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to sneak out of dodge with the win. Michigan State remained undefeated and moved up from No. 7 to No. 5 in the BCS standings.

The Wildcats suffered a second straight devastating defeat, letting a golden opportunity slip through their fingertips and dropping below .500 in conference play.

The main culprit was Spartans’ junior quarterback Kirk Cousins, who carved up the Northwestern defense to the tune of 331 yards and three touchdowns on 29 of 43 passing. After the ground game failed to move the chains, Cousins put Michigan State on his back and powered the comeback – tossing two fourth-quarter touchdowns that erased a double-digit deficit and gave the Spartans the lead for good with exactly two minutes to play.

The Wildcats’ comeback hopes were quickly dashed when their next drive failed to overcome a first-down personal foul penalty. Moments later, Michigan State’s Edwin Baker was running for a game-clinching first down when a few missed tackles turned the play into a 25-yard touchdown run, skewing the final score and pouring salts in the wounds of the Wildcats’ faithful.

Not to be overlooked, one of the key plays early in the game was a first-quarter fumble by running back Jacob Schmidt, who was stripped of the ball after being stood up at the goal line on 1st & Goal from the one. Seemingly innocuous after what was then a seven-point lead quickly grew to 17-0, in the end those seven points turned out to be costly.

Northwestern played great football against a very good team, but it was difficult for the players and coaches to mask their disappointment while meeting with the media since the game. Any way you slice it, the loss dropped the ‘Cats to 1-2 in the Big Ten – staring up at seven different teams.

Nonetheless, one more win would make Northwestern bowl eligible and the ‘Cats still have the opportunity to accomplish their most important goal – a bowl game victory. The opportunity for a truly special season, however, is now in the rearview mirror as Northwestern looks ahead to their Saturday trip to Indiana.

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