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    Valiant Comeback Falls Short in Outback Overtime, 38-35

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Mike Kafka broke Drew Brees' Outback Bowl passing record in just three quarters.
    Mike Kafka broke Drew Brees' Outback Bowl passing record in just three quarters.

    Jan. 1, 2010

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    TAMPA, Fla. -- Senior Mike Kafka broke an Outback Bowl record with a school-record 532 passing yards, throwing for four scores and running for another to lead a furious Northwestern comeback to force overtime, but the Wildcats ultimately fell to Auburn, 38-35.

    With NU trailing by 14 and three minutes to play, Kafka scrambled for a 2-yard score to draw the Wildcats within eight, 35-27, after the extra point was blocked. On the ensuing Auburn possession, Brad Phillips forced a fumble recovered by Sherrick McManis, setting up a Kafka to Sidney Stewart 18-yard strike with 1:15 to go. A beautiful tricky 2-point conversion pass from Andrew Brewer to Brendan Mitchell tied the game.

    A fumble on the ensuing kick gave NU the ball back again, but a field goal attempt went wide to force overtime. After Auburn kicked a field goal on their possession, Northwestern first attempted one of its own, but it clanged off the right upright. Auburn drew a roughing the kicker penalty to give NU another shot, however. A fake field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 2 was not successful, ending the game.

    Northwestern got off to a rough start when a third-down pass from Kafka slipped through the hands of Scott Concannon, deflecting to an Auburn defender. The Tigers put together a touchdown drive off the short field to take an early 7-0 advantage. The Wildcats responded with a 17-play, 68-yard drive to the Tigers' six-yard line, but an interception in the end zone on third down was returned 100 yards to put Auburn up 14-0.

    Northwestern again drove down the field on its ensuing drive, this time with Kafka hooking up with Brewer for a 39-yard touchdown down the left sideline to make it 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

    Midway through the second quarter Auburn got a long pass play of its own, finding the end zone on a 46-yard pass to restore its 14-point advantage with 8:54 to go in the half. Late in the quarter, Auburn tried one of its many trick plays, throwing a double-pass back across the field. McManis was all over it, leaping in front of the receiver to pick it off. Kafka then directed a six-play, 90-yard drive but was picked off in the end zone for the second time to end the half.

    Auburn drove down the field to open the second half, but Brian Peters -- who has a broken hand wrapped in a club -- made a lunging one-handed interception at the goal line to thwart the attack. The teams then exchanged possessions to no avail.

    Late in the third quarter, NU took over at its own 20 yard line -- its best field position in five-straight possessions -- and drove 80 yards on six plays, capped by another bomb from Kafka to Brewer, this one good for 35 yards to make the score 21-14.

    The defense quickly forced a 3-and-out with help from a Nate Williams sack, then Drake Dunsmore turned in the most impressive catch-and-run in recent Northwestern memory to tie the score entering the fourth quarter. Grabbing a ball in the flat, Dunsmore broke several tackles to get clear of traffic, then rumbled down the sideline 66 yards to paydirt while carrying an Auburn defensive back for much of the final 20 yards.

    Auburn struck back early in the fourth with a 60-yard touchdown drive followed by another to push its lead back to a pair of touchdowns, 35-21, and set the stage for Northwestern's dramatics.

    Brewer finished with 133 yards receiving while Dunsmore had 120. Markshausen caught 12 passes while Sidney Stewart caught 10. Kafka completed 47 of an astounding 78 pass attempts for his 532 yards and four scores. He also tossed five interceptions in the game.

    Defensively, Jordan Mabin and Quentin Davie led NU with nine tackles, with Davie making a team-best 2.5 TFLs. McManis had three stops, a fumble recovery and a pick.