By Jess Viti
The Northwestern Wildcats prevailed after a close contest with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday morning, trailing for much of the game but coming away with an 18-15 victory in Piscataway.
The Knights were just 1-6 going into the game and looking for their first conference win of the season in front of a homecoming crowd. Rutgers fought hard and assumed control of the game with a dominant performance in the second quarter that included forcing a safety and scoring 15 unanswered points.
Northwestern started the game strong, pinning Rutgers at their own one-yard line on the opening drive, getting a defensive stop, and immediately scoring a touchdown. After that commanding start, the Wildcats struggled on offense as Rutgers slowly took over the game.
Northwestern started to turn things around in the second half after turning the ball over early on in the third quarter. The defense stepped up and forced Rutgers to punt 4 times, allowing no points in the late third or fourth quarters.
As the Wildcats looked to make a comeback down the stretch, first year running back Isaiah Bowser stepped up, giving the offense the kick-start it needed to pull ahead of the Scarlet Knights. The breakout runner finished the game with 108 yards on 24 carries, including two big touchdowns.
Senior wide receiver Flynn Nagel, one of quarterback Clayton Thorson’s favorite targets, also came up big late in the game. Facing fourth-and-four at the Rutgers 15-yard line, Nagel came up with a huge catch to the move the chains. Moments later, the Wildcats put six on the board. The pass to Nagel for a two-point conversion helped solidify Northwestern’s lead, which they ultimately held for the rest of the game.
With the victory, Northwestern improves to 4-3 (4-1 Big Ten) and remains a half-game ahead of Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. The Wildcats now enter a make-or-break stretch of the season, with No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 18 Iowa due in the next three weeks.