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Northwestern wins 10 games for the fifth time in school history after beating Kentucky in the Music City Bowl

The battle of the Wildcats is a good one.

NCAA Football: Music Bowl-Kentucky vs Northwestern Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Final score

Northwestern 24, Kentucky 23.

Back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in history for Northwestern. They certainly didn’t make it easy, but it hasn’t been easy all season for NW. A few overtime wins and this great bowl win lead the Wildcats to the fifth 10-win season in school history.

Running back Justin Jackson finishes his illustrious career as a Wildcat as the 10th leading rusher in college football history. He paced the Wildcats all day 147 yards on 32 carries.

Fourth quarter

:37, Northwestern 24, Kentucky 23.

Kentucky does the fun gutsy thing where they score late then go for two. But the conversion fails and the bluegrass Wildcats fall short to the purple Wildcats.

2:11, Northwestern 24, Kentucky 17.

I appreciate an aggressive head coach as much as the next guy, but Northwestern opting to go for it on fourth down from its own 39-yard line was curious. It was even more curious when it didn’t work.

NW is doing its part to keep Kentucky in this game.

4:24, Northwestern 24, Kentucky 17.

Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis now has a career high 22 field goals after nailing this 48-yarder. MacGinnis is a really talented kicking prospect and he hit this one dead center with room to spare.

7:11, Northwestern 24, Kentucky 14.

Ok, this one’s now a 10-point game after this silky smooth interception return.

Kyle Queiro returns this for a 26-yard TD, and it’s not the best interception return he’s had this season.

7:49, Northwestern 17, Kentucky 14.

This update should be Northwestern 24, Kentucky 14. Because NW should have just punched this fourth down play on the goal line in for a score. They did not do that. Instead they did whatever this is.

Third quarter

:53, Northwestern 17, Kentucky 14.

Northwestern only had one penalty prior to this drive. Then the purple Wildcats ripped off three in the span of 11 plays. Impressive.

7:11, Northwestern 17, Kentucky 14.

Previously injured UK QB Stephen Johnson takes it in himself to score and bring the Cats within one score. Kentucky’s offense had been largely stagnant after losing running back Benny Snell to an ejection.

The Music City Bowl was certainly something through the first half. Northwestern went to the intermission with a 17-3 lead. About the only thing we can say about the first half is that the referees have left the most notable mark on the game.

It started with this exchange between RB Benny Snell and a referee.

That is technically contact with a ref, and Snell was ejected but it’s a real tough call to kick out UK’s best player for that. A different sideline play saw Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson get tackled out of bounds on what could have been ruled as a late hit.

There was no call for a late hit, but there was a penalty called on Kentucky’s bench for arguing the call.

Stoops said in his halftime interview that he was prepared to go for it on the ensuing fourth down, and that opportunity was taken away from him.

Thankfully, Johnson would return to the game.

But Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson would not return after getting hurt on this trick play.

He came out of the locker room on crutches and in street clothes.

There was also a targeting play that got people up in arms on social media.

But when you read the rule, there are two clear reasons why it was called and upheld after review.

No player shall target and make forcible contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting (See Note 1 below). When in question, it is a foul.

At one point four of the five best players in this game were out for one reason or another. It’s been a wild one.