Northwestern broke up Kentucky’s 2-point conversion, and No. 20 Wildcats held off the Wildcats from the SEC 24-23 on Friday in a Music City Bowl that might be remembered more for injuries, ejections and a wild finish.
“I’m not sure words can describe that game,” Fitzgerald said. “Wow. What a great job by our young men. We had to persevere through so much.”
Justin Jackson ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns for Northwestern (10-3).
Kentucky lost running back Benny Snell Jr. to an ejection for contact with an official early in the second quarter, and Northwestern lost leading tackler and linebacker Paddy Fisher before halftime when he was ejected for targeting.
Kentucky (7-6) still had a chance to win after Fitzgerald tried to convert his fifth fourth down of the game only to turn it over for the fourth time on downs – this time at his own 39 with 2:31 left.
Johnson ran for his second TD of the second half with 37 seconds left. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops went for the 2-point conversion rather than play for overtime. Johnson couldn’t connect with Tavin Richardson on the pass.
“We just lost a heartbreaker by inches,” Stoops said.
Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson knocked out early in the second an injured right knee. Safety Kyle Quiero provided the winning margin, taking Northwestern’s second interception 26 yards for a TD with 7:49 left.
Ohio State 24, USC 7: Playoff-snubbed Ohio State got a bit defensive, even without one of its best defenders in the Cotton Bowl.
Damon Webb returned an interception for a touchdown after recovering a fumble to set up an early score and the No. 5 Buckeyes beat No. 8 Southern California in a matchup that traditionally has been in the Rose Bowl instead of Arlington, Texas.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 champions would usually play New Year’s Day in Pasadena, but the Rose Bowl is a College Football Playoff semifinal game this season.
Ohio State (12-2) instead quickly settled in at the NFL stadium where 3 years ago it won the first national championship in the four-team CFP format. The Buckeyes – with that bad loss at Iowa after an early setback to playoff team Oklahoma – were the first team left out this season.
USC (11-3), the Rose Bowl champion last season, lost for only the third time in its last 23 games.
The Trojans had four turnovers that led to 21 Ohio State points in what could have been third-year sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold’s final game.