For the first time in four tries this season, Northwestern has taken down a ranked foe.
The Wildcats beat No. 23 Pitt 31-24 in the Pinstripe Bowl in the Bronx on Wednesday, finishing the season with a winning record in the process. The Wildcats (7-6) knocked off a Panthers team (8-5) that beat two currently ranked in the top-5 this season: Penn State and Clemson.
In Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, the Panthers had no answer for Northwestern RB Justin Jackson and the Wildcats’ clutch fourth-down plays.
What we learned from the Pinstripe Bowl
- Jackson is one of the best running backs — and not just in the Big Ten. Jackson reached 100 yards with most of the second quarter still to play. He finished with 224 yards and 3 TDs on 32 carries as he dominated in the final game of the season. The junior has eclipsed 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons — a first in Wildcats history — and fell just 3 yards short of the Pinstripe Bowl rushing record.
- Northwestern had answers in the most critical spots. The Wildcats went 4 for 4 on fourth-down plays as they demoralized a Pitt defense hoping for stops.
- Pitt can blame itself. The Panthers had 7 red-zone trips … and scored only 17 points. That’s not going to win a ton of games, especially bowl games.
- Don’t ever count out coach Pat Fitzgerald’s bunch. Remember when Northwestern was 0-2 with losses to Western Michigan and Illinois State? Well, now Western Michigan is getting ready for the Cotton Bowl and the Wildcats closed out the season on a 6-3 run — and one of those losses was to Ohio State by just 4 points.
- Yet again, winning the turnover battle proves key. Northwestern picked off Pitt three times, including Kyle Queiro’s game-clinching interception late, and finished plus-2 in turnovers.
— #B1GCats (@NU_Sports) December 28, 2016
What it means
Northwestern is now 3-10 all time in bowl games, but 2-1 in the last three. The Wildcats defeated Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl to cap the 2012 season. The win Wednesday also gives Northwestern something it lacked last season despite a 10-3 record — a win to finish the season. Last season, the Wildcats were blown out by Tennessee 45-6 in the Outback Bowl.
Austin Carr is also standing along in the record books. With his 51 yards against Pitt, the star receiver broke Northwestern’s single-season record for receiving yards, set by D’Wayne Bates in 1998. Bates had 1,245 yards that season. Carr has 1,247.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 28, 2016