Rapid Reaction: Northwestern turns over Wisconsin, turns into West favorite
Northwestern doesn’t quite have the final word in the Big Ten West Division race yet, but somebody is going to have to do a lot to catch the Wildcats now.
Pat Fitzgerald’s team continued its remarkable turnaround season, beating Wisconsin 17-7 in Evanston on Saturday to improve to 5-0 and take essentially a 2-game division lead with 3 games to play.
After Ohio State’s win over Indiana earlier Saturday, it seems that a rematch of the 2018 B1G Championship Game in Indianapolis between the Buckeyes and Wildcats is in the cards.
Peyton Ramsey passed for 2 touchdowns for the Wildcats and Charlie Kuhbander hit a 32-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for a two-score lead. Then defensive back Greg Newsome cut in front of Wisconsin receiver Chimere Dike for an interception with 8:49 left in the fourth quarter, the fifth turnover that NU forced on the day.
The game wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t supposed to be in a matchup of the two top scoring defenses, top two rushing defenses and top two overall defenses in the B1G coming in. The Wildcats kept denying scoring opportunities, kept the ball away from the Badgers in key situations despite losing the overall time of possession edge, and played typical disciplined football with just one penalty for 5 yards. Wisconsin had 8 penalties including a couple of critical ones to keep NU’s first touchdown drive going.
No. 10 Wisconsin (2-1) punted on its first four drives in the second half, then failed on a fourth-down conversion deep in Wildcats territory when NU sacked Graham Mertz early in the fourth quarter.
No. 19 Northwestern forced four turnovers in the first half but the offense could not take advantage until the final minute of the first half. After Wildcats defensive back Brandon Joseph picked off Mertz, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman caught a 25-yard score from Ramsey with 56 seconds left in the second quarter to give NU a 14-7 halftime lead.
Wisconsin coughed up the ball for the second time in the first half when Wildcats linebacker Blake Gallagher knocked the ball out of Mertz’s hands and defensive end Trevor Kent recovered. That set up a field goal try which Kuhbander missed.
Ramsey’s 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Charlie Mangieri capped a 6-play, 48-yard opening drive for Northwestern, on which the Wildcats took advantage of two penalties against Wisconsin.
On the next Badgers drive, Northwestern forced Groshek to fumble and the Wildcats recovered. On the next play, receiver Riley Lees threw downfield on a double reverse and hit Chiaokhiao-Bowman on a 36-yard pass to the Wisconsin 1-yard line. But that turned into one of the times when NU could not take advantage. Isaiah Bowser fumbled on the goal line and Badgers linebacker Spencer Lytle recovered for a touchback.
The Badgers turned that opportunity into 7 points, converting a fourth down inside their own territory to set up Mertz’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Dike to tie the score.