Oct. 13, 2012
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Site: Minneapolis, Minn. (TCF Bank Stadium)
Score: Northwestern 21, Minnesota 13
Records: NU (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten), Minnesota (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Oct. 20 vs. Nebraska 2:30 p.m. CT (ABC) Evanston, Ill.
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MINNEAPOLIS -- After leaping out to a lightning fast lead Saturday in a Big Ten Legends division contest at Minnesota, Northwestern made two late defensive stops in a driving rain to hold on for a 21-13 win and bowl eligibility with a 6-1 record. NU now is bowl eligible for the sixth-consecutive season.
Junior RB Venric Mark finished the game with a career-best 182 yards on the ground, securing is fourth 100-yard rushing performance in seven games this year and raising his per-game rushing average to 113.1. Mark found the end zone twice on a pair of long runs on which he was untouched, while junior QB Kain Colter accounted for NU's other touchdown while finishing the day 10-for-10 through the air.
Northwestern got off to a dream start when it recovered a Minnesota fumble on the opening kickoff, with C.J. Bryant falling on the loose ball to give the Wildcats the ball on the Gopher 26-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Mark took a handoff and darted untouched through the left side of the line, going 26 yards for the score just 11 seconds into the contest.
Minnesota regrouped in time to kick a 31-yard field goal on its ensuing drive, but the Wildcats offense kept humming on the next series. Mark provided the spark with a 47-yard carry down the left sideline, and four plays later Colter punched it in on a keeper from two yards out for his eighth rushing score of the season.
|Minnesota Game Highlights|
The hosts countered on their ensuing series with a 10-play drive that culminated in a 25-yard touchdown run up the middle by MarQueis Gray on the first play of the second quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Wildcats, Northwestern's defense came up big on Minnesota's ensuing first-down play when senior DL Quentin Williams batted down a pass that was then intercepted by David Nwabuisi, Nwabuisi's second career pick. Two plays later, Mark went straight up the middle untouched for a career-long run of 48 yards and his second touchdown of the afternoon, putting the Wildcats in front by a 21-10 count.
The score remained the same when Northwestern received the kickoff at the start of the second half, but the Wildcats were forced to punt and saw their lead shrink to eight following Jordan Wettstein's second field goal of the day for the Gophers. It was the only score by either team in the third quarter, as the steady rain kept the ball on the ground and the clock running with few interruptions.
Late in the third quarter, NU safety Ibraheim Campbell delivered a blow to Gray's legs that left the versatile Minnesota QB unable to return to the game. It was one of Campbell's team-best 10 tackles on the afternoon.
The teams continued to trade punts in the early going of the fourth quarter, with the driving rain hindering both offenses. A promising 12-play drive for the Gophers advanced the ball down to the 6-yard line of Northwestern, but the Wildcats defense held on third-and-goal before CB Nick VanHoose broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone to return the ball to the Wildcats.
That play was one of three key pass breakups on the day by VanHoose, with all three coming in the end zone.
When Minnesota got the ball back at midfield for one final drive with 1:17 left on the clock, Tyler Scott stepped up with a huge sack and forced fumble to finish off the victory. The sack was Scott's team-best fifth of the season; he entered the game ranked fourth in the Big Ten.
With the victory, Northwestern's current senior class matched the school standard for most career wins by a five-year senior class with 36, tying the mark set by last year's departed seniors.
Next week, Northwestern returns to Evanston to host another Legends Division foe, Nebraska, Saturday at Ryan Field. The contest against the Cornhuskers will begin at 2:30 p.m. and can be seen on ABC (ESPN2 mirror).
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