By: Ari Levin
The Cats offense was sputtering. They scored just 10 points in regulation. And now, leading off in overtime they faced third-and-nine from the 24-yard line, a tough situation for any team. Enter Justin Jackson.
Jackson would take a short pass, break three tackles, cross the first down marker, and bring the ball all the way down to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, the Wildcats would punch in a QB sneak for a go-ahead touchdown, and ultimately win the game.
Let’s break it down. (All video courtesy of ESPN)
Here, Northwestern Quarterback Clayton Thorson goes through his progressions, sees his three receivers covered, and hits Justin Jackson in the flat, a yard and a half past scrimmage, more than seven yards behind the first down marker.
Jackson turns and gets to the 19 when he meets his first would-be tackler. It’s Ben Niemann, filling in at middle linebacker for the injured Josey Jewell. In the second quarter, Niemann laid out Jackson with a crushing hit on a similar play over the middle. Now Jackson would get his revenge. He cuts back to the middle of the field, and Niemann whiffs, barely catching Jackson’s left knee, and it only costs the running back a single stutter step on his march downfield.
The next suitor, as Jackson nears the first-down marker, is safety Jake Gervase. Gervase had six tackles in this game. He would not have seven. Because as he dives at Jackson, our ball carrier takes a quick step inside and Gervase only gets a finger on Jackson’s right shoe, and doesn’t come close to holding on.
Finally, Jackson comes across Amani Hooker, Iowa’s other safety. The result is simply embarrassing. Hooker reaches out while Jackson stops on a dime and tosses him to the side. Hooker falls to the ground grasping nothing but air, as #21 is off the the races.
With a trio of Hawkeyes on the ground behind him, Jackson is eventually taken down from behind by a combination of Garret Jansen and Bo Bower. But not before he gets down to the 2-yard line (and a generous spot gives him an extra yard).
Putting it all together, it looked something like this.
We needed nine yards.
Justin Jackson made three Hawkeyes miss and got us 23.
— #B1GCats Football (@NUFBFamily) October 23, 2017
In eight beautiful seconds, Justin Jackson showed off why he’s Northwestern’s all-time yards from scrimmage leader, and could realistically finish his career second in Big Ten history (he’s currently sixth, and is 573 yards behind Anthony Thompson) and put the Wildcats ahead for good. An electric player, Jackson is a complete and total game-changer for Northwestern. He’s simply been a pleasure to watch for four years.