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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 10

. . . and They're Winging It in the Big Ten

Northwestern: Desperation pass on game's final play results in a touchdown as the Wildcats rally from 21 points down and beat Minnesota, 41-35.

October 29, 2000|From Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Northwestern not only practices the desperation pass that would beat Minnesota, 41-35, on the final play Saturday. The Wildcats complete most of them.

When Sam Simmons caught the long pass that was batted to him by a teammate for a 45-yard touchdown play, the Wildcats were less amazed than anyone who watched them pull it off.

"We hit that thing in practice more than anywhere I've ever been," Wildcat Coach Randy Walker said. "I'll bet you we hit it 80% of the time. I'll bet we've hit it five of the last six weeks in practice."

The Wildcats, 6-2 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten, scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to remain in Rose Bowl contention and become eligible for their first bowl game since 1996. The Gophers (5-4, 3-3) lost a second-half lead for the second week in a row.

"You feel like your guts have been ripped out," Minnesota Coach Glen Mason said. "We got beat in the fourth quarter. That's the bottom line."

Damien Anderson, the nation's fourth-leading rusher, became the first back in Northwestern history to run for more than 200 yards three times in a season. He gained 230 yards and scored two touchdowns in 34 carries.

The Wildcats converted on five fourth-down plays to rally from a 35-14 deficit, including the winning touchdown pass. They scored touchdowns on four of the conversions and set up a touchdown on the other.

"Someone who invented this game gave us four downs," Walker said, "so you might as well use them."

The Wildcats scored their third touchdown on a fourth-down play when quarterback Zak Kustok ran for three yards to make it 35-28 with 12:35 remaining. Kustok completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Simmons on fourth down in the third quarter, and Anderson ran one yard for a touchdown on fourth down in the second quarter.

Facing fourth and two on the game's final play, Kustok threw deep to the right corner of the end zone, where Kunle Patrick tipped the ball to an open Simmons. Just like in practice. The play is appropriately named "victory right."

"We practice that every week," Kustok said. "Not just like that, but pretty close."

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