Northwestern's Music City Bowl win marks team's 10th victory of the season
The Northwestern University football team capped off a successful 2017 season by raising the trophy at the Music City Bowl on Dec. 29, defeating the University of Kentucky 24-23.
In a post-game press conference, Northwestern’s head coach Pat Fitzgerald said he was happy to see all of the hard work the team has put in pay off.
“I’m not sure words can describe that game,” Fitzgerald said. “What a great job by our young men, we had to persevere through so much and the guys are the reason we won. They persevered, they fought and they battled and it was indicative of the season. We had to fight through a lot this year.”
Senior defensive back Kyle Queiro sealed the game for the ‘Cats midway through the fourth quarter when he picked off a pass and ran it back for a 26-yard touchdown. Queiro’s pick-six made it 24-14. Kentucky mounted a comeback, but Queiro’s touchdown would prove to be the game-winning score.
Fitzgerald said that sealing the win was a great way for Queiro to finish a solid career at Northwestern.
“Kyle now has back-to-back interceptions in bowl games, and I think that’s really special,” he said. “I’m just really proud of the career he’s had.”
Late in the game, Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson scored with 37 seconds left in the game to pull Kentucky within one point. Kentucky would go for the two-point conversion, but the ‘Cats' defense held strong, securing the win for Northwestern.
The ‘Cats were led by running back Justin Jackson, who ran for a game-high 157 yards and recorded two touchdowns in his last game in the purple and white as the Wildcats claimed back-to-back bowl game victories for the first time in school history. This marked the 27th time in Jackson’s career that he broke the 100-yard mark. During the game, he also moved up to 10th in career rushing yards in NCAA history.
Redshirt freshman Jeremy Larkin also had a big game on the ground for Northwestern, rushing for a career-high 112 yards. Overall, NU rushed for 333 total yards and racked up 442 total offensive yards in the game. Wildcats quarterback Matt Alviti ran for 54 yards and threw for 50 yards.
The win was Northwestern’s 10th of the season and caps off an eight-game winning streak. This is the fifth time in program history that the Wildcats have won at least 10 games in a season, three of which were in the past five seasons
Kentucky got things started, scoring the first touchdown of the game, but then Northwestern took control and scored 17-straight points to take a 17-7 lead into the locker room at halftime. In the second half, Kentucky held the Wildcats scoreless in the third quarter and outscore NU 9-7 in the fourth quarter. But, Northwestern managed to hold onto the win, thanks to Queiro’s defensive heroics.
Fitzgerald said he was happy to be a part of one of the most successful times in Northwestern's football history.