March 20, 2018

#21 Northwestern sneaks by Kentucky 24-23

01 January 2018, 12:52 | Kenneth Drake

Jeff House

Jeff House

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.

But as it did on the Queiro pick-6 Northwestern's defense rose to the occasion, clinching the team's 10th win of the season. The senior quarterback had 54 rushing yards after being pressed into duty in the Music City Bowl. The outcome wasn't determined until 37 seconds remaining in the game, as Kentucky failed to convert a 2-point conversion after pulling to within one point on a Stephen Johnson 9-yard touchdown run.

"We came here to win", Barnhart said. "There's a lot of plays you can go back and look and there were opportunities, but I was very proud of how Stephen led us back".

"You're not a four-time 1,000-yard rusher without being really talented", Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House said.

Now the job to replace him begins with a quarterback battle between the senior Barker, sophomore Gunnar Hoak and redshirt freshmen Danny Clark and Walker Wood. Thorson handed off to running back Jeremy Larson, who then passed back across field to Thorson. He won seven of UK's last 11 games last season, highlighted by a victory at Louisville. He was carted off the field and never returned.

Alviti, meanwhile, was far less impressive statistically - he completed just 4-of-11 passes for 50 yards and no touchdowns - but nonetheless led the offense for almost three quarters and had 54 rushing yards on nine carries.

After the game, the official who ejected Snell explained the decision to a pool reporter saying, "I was on top of the play". 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. "The player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away. I don't need help getting up".

Northwestern finished fourth in the Big Ten in scoring offense (29.7 points) and total offense (405.2 yards). There were several other questionable calls from the Pac 12 crew. But it was the Kentucky coaching staff that was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for reacting to the play. 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. More significantly, Johnson had to be evaluated in the locker room following the hit and missed several offensive series.

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