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Northwestern Wins a Wild Fight to Finish

Big Ten: No. 21 Wildcats keep Rose Bowl hopes alive with a 54-51 victory over No. 12 Wolverines.

November 05, 2000|From Associated Press

EVANSTON, Ill. — When Northwestern's Damien Anderson dropped the ball at the goal line with about 90 seconds to play, Michigan receiver David Terrell thought the Wolverines had secured a victory.

Oh, no. Not even close.

Sam Simmons caught an 11-yard crossing pass with 20 seconds left as No. 21 Northwestern outlasted No. 12 Michigan, 54-51, on Saturday in a frenzied game that was destined to come down to the end.

The Wolverines had a chance at the last second as Hayden Epstein attempted a 57-yard field goal, but the ball went through the hands of the holder. Epstein, who made a 52-yard field goal in the third quarter, found Evan Coleman on a desperation pass, but Coleman was tackled at the Northwestern 33.

"I've been doing this for 25 years," Northwestern Coach Randy Walker said. "You used to think 10-7 was a big-time game. What was the score? 54-51? You win 54-51, it's the same for me."

The victory gives Northwestern, 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, a share of the conference lead with Purdue, which was idle Saturday. But the Boilermakers have the edge for the Rose Bowl tiebreaker, having defeated Northwestern.

Fans flooded the field as the Northwestern players flocked to the north end zone. A group of students climbed on the goal post, rocking it to bring it down, but it held firm.

"I could not control myself," Northwestern cornerback Raheem Covington said. "I was bouncing all over this place. You don't want it to come down to that, you'd like it to be easier.

"But when it came down to it you can't control yourself. I can't, anyway."

Michigan (6-3, 4-2) and Northwestern combined for an unbelievable 1,189 yards in 171 plays. The 105 points set a Northwestern record, topping the 102 scored in a 1968 game against Iowa.

Anderson rushed for 268 yards and two touchdowns in 31 carries. His two scores give him 18 and tied Darnell Autry's single-season record.

Zak Kustok completed 27 of 40 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 55 yards and two scores.

Michigan's Anthony Thomas rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns. Drew Henson completed 23 of 35 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Three scoring passes were to David Terrell, who caught nine passes for 117 yards.

Marquise Walker caught nine passes for 134 yards.

"I thought they would score coming into the game, but I saw them almost scoring at will," Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr said. "To play that well offensively and not win is disappointing, especially with the championship on the line."

Northwestern wouldn't have needed the last-second heroics if Anderson could have held onto that ball at the end zone. With the Wildcats at the Michigan 12 and the pressure coming hard, Kustok lofted a soft pass up and toward the end zone.

The ball glanced off Anderson's hands, dropping to the ground with 1:38 left.

"I felt the game was won," Terrell said.

But the Wolverines, so cautious with the ball all day, gave the ball back on only their second fumble. As Thomas pounded through the hole, Sean Wieber got his hand on the ball and popped it loose.

Covington jumped on the ball at the Michigan 30 with 46 seconds left, giving the Wildcats new life.

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