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    Northwestern Comeback Falls Short at Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, 33-22

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Dan Persa finished his Northwestern career with a 72.7 percent completion percentage -- the NCAA Division I all-time record.

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Dan Persa finished his Northwestern career with a 72.7 percent completion percentage -- the NCAA Division I all-time record.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Dec. 31, 2011

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    Event: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
    Site: Houston, Texas (Reliant Stadium)
    Score: Texas A&M 33, Northwestern 22
    Records: NU (6-7, 3-5 Big Ten), Texas A&M (7-6, 4-5 Big 12)
    Next NU Event: Season Complete

    HOUSTON, Texas -- Appearing in a bowl game for a fourth straight year, Northwestern came out on the short end of 33-22 outcome against Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas at Reliant Stadium in Houston. NU scored the first touchdown of the game but TAMU ran off 27 straight points to take command.

    In the final game of his Northwestern career, senior quarterback Dan Persa established himself as Division I's (FBS or FCS) all-time record-holder in completion percentage. Persa wraps up his tenure at 72.7 percent (460-of-633), besting the previous NCAA record of 70.4 as set by Hawaii's Colt Brennan.

    Senior safety Brian Peters came up with his 12th career interception in the game, giving him sole possession of third place on NU's all-time list, with three of those coming in bowl games.

    Against the Aggies, Persa threw for 213 yards, but the Wildcats were held in check by a stout A&M defense that collected eight sacks on the day.

    The teams traded punts on their opening drives before Texas A&M moved their next drive into the red zone with a 26-yard pass on third-and-6 by Ryan Tannehill to Ryan Swope. NU's defense held, however, keeping A&M to a 24-yard field goal conversion by Randy Bullock on what was the first score of the game.

    Northwestern put together a solid drive on its next crack at it despite facing a second-and-23 scenario following a penalty. Persa hit Rashad Lawrence for a 20-yard pickup and a first down as Lawrence held on despite being hit hard on the catch. Eventually, however, Northwestern's drive stalled inside the Aggie 40-yard line, and Brandon Williams flipped field position by pinning A&M at the 10.

    NU again forced an Aggie punt and found its rhythm with a fast-paced tempo on offense. After connecting several times through the air, Persa scooted 14 yards into the red zone before turning things over to Kain Colter on the next two plays. Colter took the `Cats to the 1-yard line before Houston native Venric Mark scored his first career rushing touchdown on a pitch from Persa, giving NU a 7-3 advantage. It capped a 13-play drive that ate up nearly five minutes off the clock.

    The Aggies quickly found the answer and moved inside the 5-yard line when Swope took a swing pass from Tannehill and rumbled 37 yards before being stopped at the goal line. Ben Malena punched it in on the next play as A&M regained a 10-7 lead with 7:58 left before half.

    Tannehill went back to work on the Aggies' next drive, completing all six of his pass attempts on the series and capping it with a 26-yard strike down the left sideline to Jeff Fuller for a score.

    Northwestern was unable to move the chains on the ensuing series and the Aggies took advantage of a 35-yard punt return to get in field goal range. Bullock punched home a 40-yard try on the final play of the first half as the Aggies took a 20-7 lead into the locker room.

    The lead grew on A&M's first second-half series, a 93-yard drive that culminated in a 19-yard scoring rush up the middle by tailback Ben Malena. A third Bullock field goal on A&M's next drive, this time from 47 yards, increased the Aggie lead to 23 at 30-7.

    On the first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, Peters came up with the interception on a deep pass by Tannehill. An acrobatic run by Colter brought the 'Cats to the 5-yard line and two plays later, Colter dove in from one yard out for NU's second score. Northwestern brought the score to 30-15 with a trick two-point conversion play as Jeremy Ebert took a pitch and passed to Demetrius Fields in the end zone with 11:15 to play.

    NU forced a three-and-out on A&M's next drive and moved the ball across midfield following a fourth-and-one conversion on its offensive series. The `Cats continued to sprint down the field on the strength of Persa's arm before Colter hooked up with Tim Riley at the edge of the end zone to pull within a single score at 30-22 with 5:22 left to play.

    Texas A&M converted a third-and-13 deep in its own territory on the ensuing drive before gaining another first on a circus catch that set up a field goal and put the game on ice, 33-22, with 30 seconds to play.

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