Nov. 15, 2008
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. - C.J. Bachér threw touchdown passes on his first two drives of the second half to lift Northwestern to a 21-14 win Saturday over the Wolverines, giving the Wildcats eight wins for the fourth time since 1995.
Northwestern finished the road portion of its schedule with a 4-1 mark, the most road victories for the Wildcats since 2003, and now has an 18-4 record in its last 22 games decided by seven points or less. NU had not defeated Michigan in Ann Arbor since 1995, when its head coach was a star linebacker in Evanston.
"It's special to have November be a significant month," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "This was a big program win for us, to come back and respond again and beat an improved Michigan team that was playing their best football of the year on their senior day."
NU (8-3, 4-3) will close the regular season at home against rival Illinois, hoping to improve its bowl destination while preventing the Fighting Illini from winning their sixth game to be eligible for the postseason.
Entering the game, Michigan, which is college football's winningest program, had already sealed its first losing season since 1967 and snapped a 33-season bowl streak.
The latest loss guaranteed the Wolverines (3-8, 2-5 Big Ten) would fail to win consecutive games for the first time since 1962 in Rodriguez's debut season.
"I'm sick to my stomach right now," Michigan senior safety Brandon Harrison said.
Many fans likely felt the same way, leaving Michigan Stadium mostly empty in the second half because of subfreezing wind chill, rain, sleet and snow along with poor play.
"It was tough to stay," coach Rich Rodriguez said. "It's our job to put a team out there that everybody is proud of.
"Everybody's going to judge you on your record, and that's fair," Rodriguez said. "I do think we're making some steps that will eventually show up on game days.
Michigan led 14-7 midway through the second quarter, then fell behind after Northwestern scored back-to-back TDs to open the third.
The Wolverines had two chances late in the game to drive for an overtime-forcing TD, including having the ball at its 42 with 1:46 to go and no timeouts left, but failed to do much with the ball.
In his first start back after missing two games due to injury, Bachér finished 17-of-29 for 198 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Senior Ross Lane had seven receptions for 77 yards and a TD while fellow senior Eric Peterman caught five passes for 79 yards, including a 53-yard score.
Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka
, who had three carries for 20 yards early on, was sidelined in the second quarter with a concussion.
Michigan's Nick Sheridan was 8-for-29 for 61 yards and ran for a score. Steven Threet replaced him in the second half, but left the game with an injury late in the fourth quarter after completing 4 of 7 passes for 22 yards and an interception.
Carlos Brown had a season-high 115 yards rushing for the Wolverines.
The game started off as ugly as the weather conditions. After an interception by Bachér deep in Northwestern territory, NU forced Michigan into a three-and-out before junior Corey Wootton managed to block the Wolverines' field goal attempt to keep the game scoreless.
Following the next Northwestern possession, NU's Stefan Demos hit a low, line-drive punt that bounced off Michigan deep-man Martavious Odoms before Peterman jumped on the loose ball for the 'Cats.
Northwestern took advantage of the good field position, driving to Michigan's 21-yard line before sophomore tailback Stephen Simmons broke off a 21-yard run on third-and-18 to give NU a 7-0 lead.
Michigan tied it late in the first quarter on Sheridan's run. Michael Williams blocked a punt and Ricky Reyes returned it a few yards for a TD, giving the Wolverines a 14-7 lead at halftime.
"All of a sudden you come out in the second half and it's snowing," Fitzgerald said. "It's beautiful Big Ten football weather day."
Bachér tied the game, threading a 17-yard pass to Lane on third-and-goal. It was Lane's first touchdown grab of the year and 11th of his career, moving him into a four-way tie for sixth all-time in touchdown catches at NU. Soon after, Bachér put the Wildcats ahead 21-14 when he connected with a wide-open Peterman on a slant route, freeing Peterman 53 yards to paydirt.
Threet, who had been sidelined by concussion-related symptoms, entered the game after Michigan opened the second half with four straight three-and-out possessions.
He threw behind an open receiver in the end zone and redshirt freshman Jordan Mabin intercepted it early in the fourth quarter. Mabin leads the team with three picks in 2008.
Threet was hurt after running for a first down with 4:21 left and was replaced by Sheridan, who turned the ball over on downs at the Northwestern 34.
Five Wildcats finished with seven tackles on the day.
The Wolverines got the ball back again but were unable to solve the NU defense. Northwestern's seniors picked up their first-career win against Michigan in advance of their final home game at Ryan Field next Saturday.
"Being a fifth-year senior, I've been a part of beating every Big Ten team," Lane said. "It's like a dream come true."
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)