for this game

Northwestern edges Minnesota on late interception return

Nov 1, 2008 - 9:36 PM MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- For the second straight year, Northwestern pulled off a wild win over Minnesota. This time, the Wildcats spoiled Minnesota's homecoming and likely ended the Gophers' hope of a playing in a New Year's Day bowl.

Brendan Smith scored on a 48-yard interception return with 12 seconds remaining Saturday, lifting the Wildcats to a 24-17 upset of 21st-ranked Minnesota.

"At the end of the day, we finally got the big one that mattered," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Gophers (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten), who entered one-half game behind Ohio State and Michigan State for second place in the conference.

With a home game against the Buckeyes looming next weekend, the Gophers had an outside chance to land a berth to a major bowl game.

But that possibility ended in heartbreaking fashion for Minnesota, which dropped a 49-48 double-overtime decision to the Wildcats last season.

Less than 13 months later, Northwestern (7-2, 3-2) stunned the Gophers again despite squandering an early 10-point lead.

"We came in and played well enough to play but not win," said Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who surprisingly has guided the Gophers into bowl contention following last year's 1-10 campaign. "The last play isn't what beat us, it was the entire game."

"My hat's off to Tim Brewster and his staff and their program," Fitzgerald added. "Minnesota has obviously improved from a year ago. It took everything we had today to fight and scratch to win."

With the score tied at 17-17, Minnesota regained possession at its own 14-yard line with 47 seconds remaining. Rather than run out the clock to force overtime, Brewster attempted to win the game in regulation by letting Adam Weber throw downfield.

The decision proved costly, as Weber's second-down pass to Eric Decker was deflected by David Oredagba before landing in the arms of Smith, who followed a host of blockers down the left sideline before diving into the end zone.

"It was the end of the game, and I made a big play," Smith said. "The defense did a good job blocking, which allowed me to get into the end zone and get the win."

"It was a great tip by David Oredagba and a tremendous interception and a great run," Fitzgerald added. "It was a great job for our entire defense having an awareness to stay up and block in front of the ball carrier and it was just a great run."

Weber did not regret making the pass, which initially went off the hands of Decker - the Big Ten's leading receiver.

"I thought it was a pretty safe play, and Eric probably makes that catch 99 out of 100 times," Weber said. "It's not like we were trying to run out the clock, but we just have to go out there and execute better."

Northwestern received an outstanding performance from backup quarterback Mike Kafka, who replaced the injured C.J. Bacher.

Making his first start since the 2006 season, Kafka ran for a career-high 215 yards on 28 carries. The junior helped offset the absence of Northwestern's leading rusher, Tyrell Sutton, who will miss the remainder of the season with a wrist injury.

"Our offensive line played great," Kafka said. "They gave us the opportunity for the playmakers to go out there and score some points."

Kafka also completed 12-of-16 passes for 143 yards, two TDs and two interceptions.

Weber finished 31-of-51 for 327 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Ben Kuznia had seven catches for 98 yards while Decker hauled in seven receptions for 62 yards, including a 7-yard TD catch, for the Gophers, who managed just 68 yards on the ground.

After Kafka found Josh Rooks for a 2-yard scoring strike to give Northwestern a three-point lead, Minnesota forged a 17-17 halftime tie on Joel Monroe's 21-yard field goal.

The Gophers missed a golden opportunity to take the lead late in the third quarter when Monroe missed a 20-yard chip shot.

"It was not a good ball strike on my part," Monroe said. "It was an opportunity for us to score points that we didn't convert, and it was one of a handful of opportunities that could have changed the outcome of the game."

"There wasn't a lot of consistency in anything we did today," Brewster said. "I'm still optimistic and coaching a 7-2 football team with a lot to play for and some big games ahead."








  • NCAAF FINAL
    1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    NORTHWESTERN 10 7 0 7 24
    MINNESOTA (20) 0 17 0 0 17 FINAL
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NORTHWESTERN - TD, JEREMY EBERT 36 YD PASS FROM
    MIKE KAFKA (AMADO VILLARREAL
    KICK), 3:11. NORTHWESTERN 7-0
    NORTHWESTERN - FG, AMADO VILLARREAL 34 YD, 8:05.
    NORTHWESTERN 10-0
    2ND QUARTER: MINNESOTA - TD,

    Nov 1 3:17 PM
  • jllanclos If you missed this one, you missed a classic finish! What a suprising ending!!!

    Northwestern 24, Minnesota 17  4th - 0:12Nov 1 3:15 PM
  • 108
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    jllanclos Added 5 roots

    Northwestern 24, Minnesota 17  4th - 0:12Nov 1 3:13 PM


  • NCAAF
    TD NORTHWESTERN
    BRENDAN SMITH 50 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN
    (AMADO VILLARREAL KICK)
    NORTHWESTERN 24
    MINNESOTA (20) 17 0:12 LEFT, 4TH QTR

    Northwestern 24, Minnesota 17  4th - 0:12Nov 1 3:12 PM
  • 103
    roots
    RUWTbot Took away 41 roots (Close Finish)

    Northwestern 24, Minnesota 17  4th - 0:12Nov 1 3:12 PM
  • 144
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    senorpepr Added 5 roots

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 17  4th - 1:01Nov 1 3:06 PM
  • 139
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 61 roots (Close Finish)

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 17  4th - 1:01Nov 1 3:05 PM
  • 78
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    cabhorn Added 5 roots

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 17  4th - 4:31Nov 1 2:51 PM
  • 73
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    RUWTbot Added 58 roots (Close Finish)

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 17  4th - 4:31Nov 1 2:49 PM
  • 15
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    bouch Added 5 roots

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 17  4th - 9:14Nov 1 2:47 PM
  • 10
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    oliveoil5872 Added 5 roots

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 17  4th - 9:14Nov 1 2:43 PM


  • NCAAF END, 3RD QTR
    1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    NORTHWESTERN 10 7 0 17
    MINNESOTA (20) 0 17 0 17 END, 3RD QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NORTHWESTERN - TD, JEREMY EBERT 36 YD PASS FROM
    MIKE KAFKA (AMADO VILLARREAL
    KICK), 3:11. NORTHWESTERN 7-0
    NORTHWESTERN - FG, AMADO VILLARREAL 34 YD, 8:05.
    NORTHWESTERN 10-0
    2ND QUARTER: MIN

    Nov 1 2:26 PM


  • NCAAF HALFTIME
    1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    NORTHWESTERN 10 7 17
    MINNESOTA (20) 0 17 17 HALFTIME
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NORTHWESTERN - TD, JEREMY EBERT 36 YD PASS FROM
    MIKE KAFKA (AMADO VILLARREAL
    KICK), 3:11. NORTHWESTERN 7-0
    NORTHWESTERN - FG, AMADO VILLARREAL 34 YD, 8:05.
    NORTHWESTERN 10-0
    2ND QUARTER: MINNESOTA

    Nov 1 1:29 PM


  • NCAAF
    FG MINNESOTA
    JOEL MONROE 21 YD
    NORTHWESTERN 17
    MINNESOTA (20) 17 0:36 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 17  2nd - 0:36Nov 1 1:26 PM


  • NCAAF
    TD NORTHWESTERN
    JOSH ROOKS 2 YD PASS FROM MIKE KAFKA
    (AMADO VILLARREAL KICK)
    NORTHWESTERN 17
    MINNESOTA (20) 14 5:33 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Northwestern 17, Minnesota 14  2nd - 5:33Nov 1 1:13 PM


  • NCAAF
    TD MINNESOTA
    TRAYE SIMMONS 22 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN
    (JOEL MONROE KICK)
    NORTHWESTERN 10
    MINNESOTA (20) 14 10:07 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Northwestern 10, Minnesota 14  2nd - 10:07Nov 1 1:02 PM


  • NCAAF
    TD MINNESOTA
    ERIC DECKER 7 YD PASS FROM ADAM WEBER
    (JOEL MONROE KICK)
    NORTHWESTERN 10
    MINNESOTA (20) 7 14:54 LEFT, 2ND QTR

    Northwestern 10, Minnesota 7  2nd - 14:54Nov 1 12:45 PM


  • NCAAF END, 1ST QTR
    1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
    --- --- --- --- -----
    NORTHWESTERN 10 10
    MINNESOTA (20) 0 0 END, 1ST QTR
    SCORING SUMMARY
    1ST QUARTER: NORTHWESTERN - TD, JEREMY EBERT 36 YD PASS FROM
    MIKE KAFKA (AMADO VILLARREAL
    KICK), 3:11. NORTHWESTERN 7-0
    NORTHWESTERN - FG, AMADO VILLARREAL 34 YD, 8:05.
    NORTHWESTERN 10-0

    Nov 1 12:41 PM


  • NCAAF
    FG NORTHWESTERN
    AMADO VILLARREAL 34 YD
    NORTHWESTERN 10
    MINNESOTA (20) 0 6:55 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Northwestern 10, Minnesota 0  1st - 6:55Nov 1 12:25 PM


  • NCAAF
    TD NORTHWESTERN
    JEREMY EBERT 36 YD PASS FROM MIKE KAFKA
    (AMADO VILLARREAL KICK)
    NORTHWESTERN 7
    MINNESOTA (20) 0 11:49 LEFT, 1ST QTR

    Northwestern 7, Minnesota 0  1st - 11:49Nov 1 12:11 PM
  • 5
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    mrman226 Added 5 roots

    Northwestern vs. MinnesotaNov 1 7:48 AM