Football: Northwestern Stuns Utah in San Diego’s Holiday Bowl 31-20

The Wildcats Explode for 28 Unanswered Points in the Third Quarter to Pull Out the Victory

As a cold, hard rain fell in San Diego yesterday as Northwestern University exploded for 28 unanswered points in the third quarter of the Holiday Bowl. The rain and a deluge of Ute turnovers helped the Wildcats pulled out a come from behind victory over a stunned Utah team. Utah had four turnovers in the third quarter and five in the second half as the Utes blew a 20-3 halftime lead and struggled on both sides of the ball in the second half.

“Did I think we were going to be able to create that amount of turnovers?” said coach Wildcat Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald. “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.”

Utah jumped out to a 20-3 halftime lead behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Shelley. It was all Clayton Thorson and Northwestern in the second half. Thorson connected with Terry Clock and Riley Lees for touchdown passes. Lees also ran for a score.

Utah failed to move the ball in the second half. Shelly finished the game completing 27 of 45 passes for 302 yards. He was also the Utes leading rusher with 39 yards. Jaylen Dixon and Jake Jackson hauled in pass TDs for Utah. Marquis Blair came up with a pick for the Utes.

Thorson passed for 241 yards, completing 21 of 30 passes for Northwestern. JR Pace and Blake Gallagher came up with 2 third quarter interceptions. Isaiah Bowser gained 70 yards on 21 carries for the Wildcats.

“We really talked at halftime just about going out and playing Wildcat football, fix our mistakes” said Coach Fitzgerald. “We’ve been here before, let’s go out and get a stop, get a score, get momentum. Did I think we were going to get the momentum we were able to get in the third quarter? Probably not”.

Utah lost it’s second bowl game in its last 16 bowl appearances dating to 1999. Head Coach Kyle Whittingham 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.

To Coach Whit, his staff, players, congratulations on an amazing year” said Coach Fitzgerald. “We tip our hat to you guys. What a great season for them”.

Photos by Scott Padgett