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January 1, 2011

The streak continues

DALLAS--Northwestern will have to wait at least one more year to end a bowl drought that has survived intact through eight games, 62 years, 12 presidents and four wars.

Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts shredded the Wildcats for 369 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Red Raiders to a 45-38 win over Northwestern.

The loss means that the Wildcats' last bowl win remains the 1949 Rose Bowl.

You have to hand it to the Wildcats, though. They fought back to make what looked to be a blowout in the third quarter interesting in the fourth by cutting a 22-point third quarter deficit down to seven points twice in the final period.

But every time Northwestern seemed to seize momentum with a score in the second half, the Red Raiders answered to regain the advantage.

The Wildcats recovered a Texas Tech fumble on the third-quarter kickoff, and then scored on a Stefan Demos field goal to cut Tech's lead to 24-9. On the very next play, Eric Stephens burst up the middle for an 86-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 22.

Right after Evan Watkins hit Demetrius Fields for an 18-yard touchdown pass to trim the lead to 38-31 with 10:33 left in the final period, Texas Tech went 69 yards in 10 plays to push its edge back to 45-31.

Then, after Jordan Mabin again cut the lead to seven with a interception return for a touchdown, the Raiders ran nine plays and ate 5:06, leaving Northwestern with just 25 seconds to try and tie the game.

That wasn't enough time.


Game MVP: Potts. Texas Tech's gunslinger had a full chamber today. He got rid of the ball quickly to negate the pass rush and put the ball on the money to his receivers all day. His favorite target, Lyle Leong, finished with 10 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns.


Northwestern MVP: Kain Colter. The true freshman quarterback provided a much-needed spark to Northwestern's offense. He totaled 175 yards of total offense (a team-high 105 and two touchdowns rushing, 38 passing and 32 receiving), and the offense seemed to be a step quicker when No. 14 was taking the snap.


Big play: Northwestern used a little trickeration to register a big play near the end of the third quarter. Colter took the snap and threw a pass (actually, a lateral) to Jeremy Ebert split to the left. The receiver and former QB then threw back to Colter, who rumbled 32 yards down the sideline to the Texas Tech 4-yard line. Watkins scored on the next play.


Highlight: Mabin's pick-six in the fourth quarter. The cornerback deflected a pass, plucked it out of the air, and then outran everyone down the right sideline for the touchdown. The score came with 5:37 left and cut Tech's lead to seven, giving Northwestern a glimmer of hope.

It turned out to be the final points of the contest.


Lowlight: Northwestern failed to convert an extra point in its fourth straight bowl game. Brandon Williams bobbled what looked to be a good snap after NU's first touchdown.


New wrinkle: Northwestern flip-flopped its quarterbacks throughout the contest, letting Watkins (10-of-21 for 76 yards and 1 TD) do most of the throwing and Colter most of the running. The Wildcats also had both signal callers on the field for a significant amount of snaps. Colter lined up in the backfield or at wide receiver, and Watkins was split wide on many plays, where he was called on to (gulp) block on occasion.


Surprise statistic: Despite not having much of a passing game -- just 146 yards passing -- Northwestern rushed for 229 yards, the team's most since 2008. The Wildcats averaged 4.6 yards per carry.


Questionable decision 1: Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald elected to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Texas Tech 1 with his team trailing by 18 in the third quarter. Demos hit the 18-yard chip shot to make it 24-9, but Stephens exploded for an 86-yard TD on the Raiders' next play from scrimmage.


Questionable decision 2: After his team scored to take a 38-17 lead in the third quarter, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville called for an onside kick. Northwestern recovered it at the Tech 41 and scored a TD two plays later.



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