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Site: Minneapolis, Minn. (TCF Bank Stadium)
Score: Northwestern 29, Minnesota 28
Records: NU (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten), Minnesota (1-4, 0-1 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Oct. 9, 2010 -- vs. Purdue (Ryan Field), 6:30 p.m.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Trailing by eight early in the fourth quarter, Northwestern scored the last nine points of the game -- including a go-ahead field goal by Stefan Demos with 2:07 remaining - to down Minnesota, 29-28, and improve to 5-0 Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. NU quarterback Dan Persa threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in leading the 'Cats to their eighth-straight regular-season victory.
Persa began Northwestern's comeback by orchestrating a seven-play 68-yard drive that culminated in a miraculous 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ebert, who won a jump-ball in the end zone to account for his fifth touchdown of the season.
After the Wildcat defense forced a critical three-and-out on the Gophers' ensuing possession, Persa and the 'Cats got the ball back on their own 34-yard line with 7:36 to play. Persa converted a huge third-down with a 22-yard scamper which he followed up with an 11-yard rush to the Minnesota 13. Three plays later, NU kicker Stefan Demos came on and punched home a 27-yard field goal to give NU its first lead since 14-7 in the first half.
Minnesota had one last chance to drive down the field for the winning score, but a Ben Johnson interception near midfield on fourth-and-11 iced the Wildcat win, giving NU a Big Ten-best 10 road games since the start of the 2008 season.
Ebert once again finished as Northwestern's leading receiver, finishing with seven catches for a career-best 105 yards. Persa also set a career high Saturday with his 408 yards of total offense (309 passing, 99 rushing).
NU got the Big Ten season off to an auspicious start early in the game. After forcing a punt on Minnesota's opening possession, Northwestern struck paydirt on its fourth play from scrimmage. Persa hit true freshman Tony Jones -- on the first play of Jones' college football career -- for a 45-yard touchdown pass to put NU up early, 7-0.
Minnesota knotted the game after capitalizing on a Northwestern fumble, but the Wildcats came right back down the field, going ahead 14-7 at the midway point of the first quarter on a 12-yard option run by Mike Trumpy.
The frenzied pace slowed down considerably, leading to a penalty-filled drive for both teams that resulted in an eight-yard halfback pass touchdown for Minnesota to again tie the score, 14-14, with 7:30 to go in the second quarter. The Gophers turned the Wildcats over on downs on the ensuing drive, then punched in a go-ahead touchdown to take a 21-14 advantage into the locker room.
That marked the first time in 2010 that Northwestern had trailed in a game, completing a stretch of 269 minutes and 1 second to start the season.
Northwestern took the opening drive of the second half 74 yards on 12 plays, capping things with a Jacob Schmidt one-yard touchdown run. Stefan Demos' extra point attempt sailed wide left, though, leaving the Wildcats trailing by a point, 21-20.
Northwestern drove deep into Minnesota territory on its next possession as well, but an interception near the goal line -- NU's second turnover in the red zone and third overall in the game -- thwarted the drive. The Gophers again capitalized on the turnover, connecting on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 12:15 to go in the game to take a 28-20 edge.
The Wildcats came right back down the field and pulled within two when Ebert out-jumped his defender and managed to hold on to the ball on the way to the ground. NU's two-point conversion attempt to tie the game failed, setting up the late-game heroics by Demos on the next Wildcat possession.
Northwestern returns to action at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday, Oct. 9, against Purdue at Ryan Field. Tickets still area available by clicking this NUsports.com link or by calling 847-491-CATS (2287).
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