2011 Northwestern Wildcats Football
Northwestern Wildcats vs Rice Owls Football Recap
Northwestern 28, Rice 6
Out of the depths of despair and humiliation, the Northwestern Wildcats have managed to revive and rescue their season. Precisely when it seemed that a run of consecutive bowl appearances dating back to 2008 was going to come to an end, this historically impoverished program has returned to the breakfast table: A bowl is now very much in sight for the 2011 Northwestern football team.
Quarterback Dan Persa completed 25 of 32 passes for a career-high 372 yards and four touchdowns, and Jeremy Ebert had a career-high 208 yards receiving, as the Wildcats clawed back to .500 with a win over the Rice Owls (3-7) at Ryan Field in Evanston. Northwestern (5-5) has now won three games in a row and can become bowl eligible with one more victory. The Wildcats face Minnesota and Michigan State at Ryan Field in their final two games. Naturally, this means that Northwestern needs to seal the deal against Minnesota, a pressure situation for the Cats; however, that’s a piece of pressure they’re more than happy to deal with, because the odds of making a bowl game were extremely slim at the end of October, when Northwestern carried a 2-5 record into its game against Indiana.
Yes, Northwestern was expected to beat Indiana, just as it was expected to beat Rice this past weekend. However, the game that was supposed to end NU’s dreams of a bowl bid was the road trip to Nebraska. When the Wildcats somehow managed to upset the Huskers in Lincoln, what looked like a 5-7 season suddenly turned into a path to a 6-6 mark and the continuation of the program’s cherished three-year bowl streak. As long as Northwestern can deliver the goods against Minnesota, the program can take a considerable measure of satisfaction from this season.
Let’s say a little more about the performance of Ebert, who had 147 yards receiving in last week's shocking upset at Nebraska. The crafty receiver set a new career high for the second straight week, thanks in large part to a 90-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, the second-longest pass play in school history, which gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. Persa, who leads the nation in completion percentage, hit Ebert and Demetrius Fields for second-quarter touchdowns to give the Wildcats a 21-0 halftime lead. (Rice's Chris Boswell hit the crossbar on a 60-yard field goal attempt just before halftime.)
Persa's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a three-yard toss to part-time-receiver, part-time-quarterback Kain Colter, gave the Wildcats a 28-0 lead with 13:12 left in the fourth quarter. Rice avoided the shutout thanks to a nine-yard touchdown run by Tyler Smith with 4:16 left.
Northwestern outgained Rice 533-254. The Wildcats held Rice quarterback Nick Fanuzzi to 92 yards passing, a week after Fanuzzi had thrown for 405 yards in a 41-37 win over UTEP.
The Wildcats easily avoided becoming the second Big Ten team to lose to Rice in 2011. Earlier this season, the Owls defeated Purdue at home.
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