Stephen Morton/Associated Press
Stephen Morton/Associated Press
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The stuffed monkey spent the last year in storage, out of sight but still in everyone’s mind.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald dusted it off for the Gator Bowl and even had it on the sideline Tuesday as a reminder of Northwestern’s decades-long, bowl losing streak – the ol’ monkey on their backs.
Now, it’s in pieces.
Behind huge interceptions early and late, No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 and snapped college football’s longest postseason losing streak. The Wildcats (10-3) hadn’t won a bowl game since 1949, a nine-game skid that was tied with Notre Dame for the longest in NCAA history.
It’s history now. And as a reward, Fitzgerald let his players rip the monkey to shreds in the locker room.
Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game, and Nick VanHoose set up another touchdown with a 39-yard interception return in the fourth.
In between, Northwestern’s two-quarterback system kept the Bulldogs (8-5) off balance most of the day.
Scrambler Kain Colter ran for 71 yards, making up for his two interceptions. Backup Trevor Siemian threw for 120 yards and an interception and also ran for a score.
Mississippi State’s Tyler Russell completed 12 of 28 passes for 106 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He only had thrown six picks in the first 11 games this season.
No. 11 South Carolina 33, No. 19 Michigan 28
TAMPA, Fla. – Connor Shaw led No. 11 South Carolina to the brink of victory, and Dylan Thompson carried the Gamecocks over the hump in the Outback Bowl.
Thompson came off the bench to throw a 32-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining Tuesday, enabling South Carolina to match a school record for victories in a season with a win over No. 19 Michigan.
Thompson replaced Shaw during the winning drive, covering the final 43 yards after Shaw began the march from his own 30. Devin Gardner’s third touchdown pass of the game had given Michigan a 28-27 lead.
Shaw threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns after missing South Carolina’s regular season finale with a left foot sprain. Thompson led the Gamecocks (11-2) to a victory over their archrival and threw for 117 yards and two touchdown as a backup Tuesday.
No. 6 Georgia 45, No. 23 Nebraska 31
ORLANDO, Fla. – Aaron Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, as the sixth-ranked Bulldogs beat No. 23 Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl on Tuesday.
Murray shook off a pair of first-half interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and passed for 427 yards – also a Bulldogs’ bowl record – against the nation’s top-ranked passing defense. He was named the game’s most valuable player.
Georgia (12-2) reached 12 wins for the third time in school history.
Nebraska (10-4) lost its third consecutive bowl game and finished the season with two woeful defensive performances in a row. The Cornhuskers lost the Big Ten championship game 70-31 to Wisconsin.
The Cornhuskers led 24-23 at the half but committed two of their three turnovers in the final 30 minutes.
Taylor Martinez had two interceptions and two touchdown passes for Nebraska, and Rex Burkhead rushed 140 yards in his final college game.
Nebraska’s offense finished with 443 total yards, but the Bulldogs defense was stingy when it needed to be.
They sacked Martinez five times, with All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones notching two. Damian Swann had both Georgia interceptions.
Oklahoma State 58, Purdue 14
DALLAS – Patrick Higgins made a big decision right away in his only chance to be in charge of Purdue.
The interim coach called for a fake punt just 13 yards from his end zone on the Boilermakers’ first possession, and it worked. He just never got another chance to influence the outcome.
Clint Chelf threw three of Oklahoma State’s five touchdown passes, and the Cowboys shook off a tough Big 12 finish by rolling up 524 yards and forcing five Purdue turnovers in a dominating victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday.
Higgins unintentionally might have awakened the Cowboys soon after the late-morning kickoff on a cold, overcast day when he called for the fake, and punter Cody Webster easily picked up the first down on a 16-yard run.
Webster ended up punting anyway five plays later, and Josh Stewart returned it 64 yards to the Purdue 19 to set up Oklahoma State’s first score on a 4-yard pass from Chelf to Charlie Moore. Robert Marve threw his first interception on the next possession, and a 26-yard drive ended with Chelf’s 7-yard pass to Blake Jackson.
The Cowboys (8-5), a year removed from finishing the best season in school history with a win in the Fiesta Bowl, sure didn’t seem to lack motivation. They put together the biggest bowl win for Oklahoma State since Gundy was the quarterback in a 62-14 rout of Wyoming in the 1988 Holiday Bowl.
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