Friday, December 13, 2002
No. 23 Northwestern 54, No. 12 Michigan 51
EVANSTON, Ill. -- When Northwestern's Damien Anderson dropped the ball at the
goal line with about 90 seconds left, Michigan receiver David Terrell thought for sure the
game was over.
Oh, no. Not even close.
Sam Simmons caught an 11-yard crossing pass with 20 seconds left as No. 23 Northwestern outlasted No. 12 Michigan 54-51 on Saturday in
a frenzied game that was destined to come right 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 drilled
a 52-yarder in the third quarter, found Evan Coleman on a desperation pass, but he 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, 5-1 Big Ten) a share of the Big Ten lead with
Purdue, which was off Saturday. But the Boilermakers have the edge for the Rose Bowl
tiebreaker, having beaten 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
"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 on 171
plays. The 105 points set a Northwestern record, topping the 102 scored in a 1968 game
Anderson rushed for 268 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. His two scores give
him 18 for the season and tied Darnell Autry's single-season record.
Zak Kustok was 27-of-40 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
was 23-of-35 for 312 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those 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.
"I thought the A-Train was gone," Wieber said. "He came through the hole and no one
else was there. I think he saw 80 yards in front of him and started swinging his arms a
little too much."
That's exactly what happened, Thomas admitted.
"All I had in my mind was the first down, and I tried to get a little bit too much," he said.
Covington jumped on the ball at the Michigan 30 with 46 seconds left, giving the
Wildcats new life.
"When I saw it, I said they were not going to get that ball back from me," Covington said.
"They're going to have to rip my arms off to get it from me. That ball was mine."
Kustok connected with Anderson and Johnson on quick hitches, moving Northwestern to
the Michigan 12. He then hit Simmons on a perfect crossing pass. Simmons leaped
high in the air after he caught the pass, and the first sellout crowd at Ryan Field since
1998 went into a frenzy.
Trailing 35-23 after Henson's 11-yard TD pass to open the third quarter, Northwestern got
a couple of key gifts from Michigan in the second half.
Backed up on a third-and-23 from his own 34, Kustok managed only 6 yards before he
went out of bounds. But Michigan linebacker Eric Brackins hit him late, giving the
Wildcats an automatic first down and 15 yards.
Two plays later, Kustok hit Kunle Patrick for a 30-yard gain to move Northwestern to the
Michigan 11. That set up Kustok's 1-yard scoring pass to David Farman, which cut
Michigan's lead to 35-29.
The Wolverines tried to eat up some of the clock with a 65-yard, four-minute drive that
was capped by Thomas' 1-yard scoring run. But Northwestern, which rallied from 21
points down last week, came right back.
Louis Ayeni ripped off a 54-yard kick return from the end zone, and Anderson scored on
a 45-yard run to make it 42-36 with 3:40 left in the third.
Thomas' third scoring run, a 1-yarder, gave Michigan a 51-46 lead with 8:34 left. But it
wouldn't be enough.
"It looked like there were two very good offensive football teams out there and two very
poor defensive teams," Carr said. "We just ran out of time."
|Damien Anderson had his fourth 200-yard rushing day of the season.|