NCAAF Game Recap - Northwestern at Utah
Mon Dec 31, 2018 7:00 PM EST

Okla
34
Ala
45
F
ND
3
Clem
30
F
Fla
41
Mich
15
F
IASt
26
WaSt
28
F
WVU
18
Syr
34
F
NW
31
Utah
20
F
NCSt
13
TxAM
52
F
BC
Boise
Canc
Mizzu
33
OkSt
38
F
Minn
34
GATec
10
F
Cal
7
TCU
10
F OT
Temp
27
Duke
56
F
MiaFL
3
Wisc
35
F
Bayl
45
Vand
38
F
Purd
14
Aub
63
F
SCar
0
UVA
28
F
ArkSt
13
Nev
16
F OT
Cin
35
VaTec
31
F
Stan
14
Pitt
13
F
MSU
6
Oreg
7
F

Dec 31, 2018, 7:00 PM EST

Final

1

2

3

4

T

Northwestern (9-5)

0

3

28

0

31

(20) Utah (9-5)

14

6

0

0

20

Northwestern defense stuns No. 20 Utah 31-20 in Holiday Bowl
Tue Jan 1, 2019 12:24 AM

SAN DIEGO (AP) A cold, hard rain in normally warm, dry San Diego made the Northwestern Wildcats feel right at home, especially as they enjoyed a downpour of Utah turnovers in the Holiday Bowl.

In a dizzying nine-minute stretch of the third quarter, the Wildcats turned three turnovers into 21 points to stun the No. 20 Utes 31-20 Monday night.

The highlight was Jared McGee's 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown, the middle turnover in the nightmarish stretch for Utah.

"Did I think we were going to be able to create that amount of turnovers?" coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I love San Diego but man I love it when it rains on game day. That was sweet because I think it played a really big factor. It was raining a little bit harder coming out of halftime than it was before the half and I think that played a role in the game."

The Wildcats (9-5) scored 28 points total in the third quarter to win their third straight bowl game under Fitzgerald. The Green Bay Packers reportedly want to interview Fitzgerald for their head coaching job.

Fitzgerald credited the seniors for winning 36 games in four seasons and gushed about the program's future.

"They have set the bar now at a whole new level for our program and we couldn't be more excited about our future," he said.

Asked about his own future, he said: "Hashtag GoCats, man. I'm not going anywhere. This is home forever. Listen, these are my guys. ... I'm a Wildcat for life. I'm so thankful for these guys. ... We're just getting started."

Senior Clayton Thorson became the all-time leading passer for Northwestern, going 21 of 30 for 241 yards for 10,731 career yards. He broke Brett Basanez's school record of 10,580. Thorson threw for two touchdowns and was intercepted once in making his 53rd straight start for the Wildcats, the most by a quarterback in Big Ten history. He is the program's all-time winningest quarterback at 36-17. He was replaced after taking a hard shot midway through the fourth quarter, but came back in.

Utah (9-5) cruised to a 20-3 halftime lead behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Shelley before it all fell apart in the third quarter. Shelley had two interceptions and a fumble. Utah had four turnovers in the third quarter and five in the second half.

On the opening drive of the second half, Shelley threw the ball right to Northwestern's Blake Gallagher. Thorson's 52-yard pass to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman set up his 4-yard scoring toss to Riley Lees.

"We talked at halftime about, get a stop, get a score, seize momentum," Fitzgerald said. "The credit goes to our guys. They were resilient all year. Today was indicative of our team."

The Utes had the ball first-and-goal at the 6 when Shelley rolled right, was hit from behind by Joe Gaziano and fumbled. McGee picked it up on the third bounce and ran down the sideline untouched for an 82-yard return that pulled the Wildcats to 20-17.

"I definitely can't take credit for anything that happened on that play other than running with the ball," McGee said.

The Utes advanced to the 30 and looked like they had enough for a first down on a catch by Jaylen Dixon, but he was stripped by Trae Williams. JR Pace recovered and returned it 34 yards. Two plays later, Northwestern took a 24-20 lead when Thorson threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior offensive lineman Trey Klock, a key player in goal line and short-yardage situations.

Northwestern added another touchdown in the third quarter when Lees scored from 8 yards out for a 31-20 lead.

Pace had a second interception in the third quarter, on a deflected pass.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the second half was a nightmare.

"I've been coaching a long time and I don't think I've ever been a part of third quarter like that," he said. "We had complete control of the game at halftime and we came out in second half and proceded to turn the ball over five times. ... You turn the ball over like that and you win almost never."

Shelley was making his fourth start in place of Tyler Huntley, who broke his collarbone against Arizona State on Nov. 3. Also out were leading rusher Zack Moss, leading receiver Britain Covey and leading tackler Chase Hansen, a senior.

Shelley threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Dixon and a 4-yarder to tight end Jake Jackson, both in the first quarter.

Utah lost for the just the second time in its last 16 bowls dating to 1999. Whittingham's bowl record dropped to 11-2. He was trying to become the first to win the Holiday Bowl as a player and coach. He played in the first four Holiday Bowls with BYU, going 2-2. He was inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame in 2009.

THE TAKEAWAY

Northwestern: The Wildcats had minus-6 yards rushing at halftime and didn't get into positive until late in the third quarter.

Utah: Shelley was impressive with his passing and his scrambling until running into trouble in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: The Wildcats will have to replace Thorson, who leaves with a legacy as the most productive quarterback in program history. The Wildcats will be back on the West Coast to open the 2019 season at Stanford on Aug. 31.

Utah: After winning their first Pac-12 South title, the Utes will look for more in 2019, if they can stay healthy. They'll get Moss and Covey back, and there could be a spirited QB competition between Huntley and Shelley. The Utes open the 2019 season with their rivalry game against BYU, at Provo on Aug. 29.

---

More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Passing

NW Att Cmp % TD-Pa Yds-Pa LgPa Int Rat
C. Thorson 30 21 70.0 2 241 52 1 102.2
Utah Att Cmp % TD-Pa Yds-Pa LgPa Int Rat
J. Shelley 45 27 60.0 2 302 31 2 76.3

Rushing

NW Att Yds-Ru Avg LgRu TD-Ru
I. Bowser 23 70 3.0 23 0
J. Roberts 1 7 7.0 7 0
Utah Att Yds-Ru Avg LgRu TD-Ru
J. Shelley 12 39 3.3 17 0
A. Shyne 14 33 2.4 7 0

Receiving

NW Rec Yds-Rc Avg LgRc TD-Rc
R. Chiaokhiao-Bowman 2 64 32.0 52 0
C. Green 7 46 6.6 12 0
Utah Rec Yds-Rc Avg LgRc TD-Rc
J. Dixon 9 114 12.7 27 1
S. Mariner 4 38 9.5 16 0

Fumbles

NW F FL
I. Bowser 1 0
Utah F FL
J. Dixon 2 2

Returning

NW KR Avg KRTD LgKR PR Avg TD LgPR
S. Vault 1 13.0 0 13 0 - 0 0
Utah KR Avg KRTD LgKR PR Avg TD LgPR
D. Vickers 4 19.5 0 22 0 - 0 0
D. Simpkins 1 19.0 0 19 3 0.0 0 6

Punting

NW Punt Yds Avg LgPu
J. Collins 7 268 38.3 47
Utah Punt Yds Avg LgPu
M. Wishnowsky 5 231 46.2 63

Takeaways

NW Int Yds InTD
J. McGee 0 0 0
J. Pace 1 0 0
Utah Int Yds InTD
M. Blair 1 5 0

Team Stats Comparison

NW Utah
Points For 31 20
Total Yards 322 393
Rushing Yards 81 91
Passing Yards 241 302
Passing Completions / Attempts 21/30 27/45
Turnovers 1 6
Interceptions Thrown 1 2
Fumbles - Lost 1/0 4/4
First Downs 17 19
Penalties - Yards 3/28 4/35
Time Of Possession 51:51 9:09
Third Down Conversions/Attempts 3/14 5/14
Fourth Down Conversions/Attempts 0/3 0/1
Punts - Average Yards 7/38 5/46

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter NW Utah
Utah 9:12 TD Jaylen Dixon 27 yd pass from Jason Shelley (Matt Gay kick) 0 7
Utah 13:20 TD Jake Jackson 4 yd pass from Jason Shelley (Matt Gay kick) 0 14
2nd Quarter NW Utah
NW 6:18 FG Charlie Kuhbander 21 yd FG 3 14
Utah 11:03 FG Matt Gay 32 yd FG 3 17
Utah 14:55 FG Matt Gay 20 yd FG 3 20
3rd Quarter NW Utah
NW 1:47 TD Riley Lees 4 yd pass from Clayton Thorson (Charlie Kuhbander kick) 10 20
NW 8:20 TD Jared McGee 82 yd fumble return (Charlie Kuhbander kick) 17 20
NW 10:21 TD Trey Klock 20 yd pass from Clayton Thorson (Charlie Kuhbander kick) 24 20
NW 13:20 TD Riley Lees 8 yd run (Charlie Kuhbander kick) 31 20
4th Quarter NW Utah
No scores this quarter

Game Information

Stadium: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, California
Attendance: 47,007
Game Time:
Weather: