Cats fall 24-23 in Music City Bowl

Cats fall 24-23 in Music City Bowl

And when the dust settled, Northwestern locked up its tenth win of the season, beating Kentucky 24-23. United Kingdom still needed a stop from its defense, however, which hadn't allowed Northwestern to score in the second half.

His defense had their coach's back.

In a drama filled game, #21 Northwestern held on to beat Kentucky 24-23 on Friday in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

"For (Alviti) to go out as a bowl champion, as our quarterback, in the toughest circumstances, having one of his brothers go down, what a storybook ending", coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

"He's a quarterback god to me", running back Benny Snell said of the senior leader who threw for 257 yards and ran in two touchdowns.

This is Northwestern's its fifth 10-win season in school history - and third under coach Pat Fitzgerald.

The Music City Bowl had it all: touchdowns, interceptions, controversial officiating and ejections, plus injuries, backup quarterbacks, failed fourth-down conversions and a two-point conversion with the game on the line. United Kingdom running back Benny Snell Jr., the SEC's leader this season in rushing touchdowns with 18, was ejected in the first quarter for "contact with an official".

Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. was ejected from the Music City Bowl after making contact with a referee after a 7-yard loss in the second quarter. "There's a lot of plays you can go back and look and there were opportunities, but I was very proud of how Stephen led us back". But you get to postseason play with a quarterback that's a little banged up who fought that hard ... "We went for the win right there". In the end Kentucky scored a touchdown with 37 seconds left and made a decision to go for a two-point conversion in order to win the game outright. That set up Kentucky's last-minute touchdown and allowed the outcome to be decided by a winner-take-all two-point conversion effort. Johnson's pass slipped through Tavin Richardson's hands, which sealed Kentucky's fate. Derrick Baity made a great play on a pass downfield and Josh Pascal sacked Clayton Thorson during Northwestern's second series.

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He doesn't get much attention on a national level, but Northwestern's Justin Jackson just finished one of the best careers ever for a college football running back.

Jackson moved into 10th on the NCAA's all-time rushing list with a school-record 5,440 yards. Despite playing just two seasons, he'll leave United Kingdom ranked ninth in school history with 4,342 passing yards. Barker entered the season as UK's starter before an early back injury sidelined him.

Both teams lost key players in a wild second quarter.

Snell put United Kingdom on the board first when he capped off a five-play, 67-yard opening drive with a three-yard run. The Wildcats also hit the 10-win mark for the second time in three years - and third in six.

"I was on top of the play", Coyte told a pool reporter. "The doctors wouldn't let him play if he was injured and I think Stephen knows the difference between pain and injury and believe me, he's pushed it to the limit as far as any player I've been around, in particular a quarterback". After handing off to Larkin, Thorson ran down the left sideline and was wide open for the catch before being tackled by Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones. The impact drove Thorson's right knee hard into the ground.

Matt Alviti brings the ball down.

Fitzgerald said Thorson will have an MRI exam when they return home.

Kentucky almost ended its bowl drought thanks to a quarterback who wouldn't quit.

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