Sun, Dec 31, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Buckeyes nab bowl as NU win in battle of Wildcats

CAMPUS HEROES:New Mexico State won their first bowl game in 57 years, while Northwestern weathered injuries and a failed fourth down to win their second in a row

AP, ARLINGTON, Texas

J.T. Barrett of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after winning the Goodyear Cotton Bowl against the University of Southern California Trojans on Friday in Arlington, Texas.

Photo: AFP

Playoff-snubbed Ohio State got a bit defensive even without one of their best defenders in the Cotton Bowl.

Damon Webb on Friday returned an interception for a touchdown after recovering a fumble to set up an early score and lead the No. 5 Buckeyes to beat the No. 8 University of Southern California (USC) 24-7.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 champions would usually play on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California, but the Rose Bowl is a College Football Playoff (CFP) semi-final game this season.

Ohio State (12-2) instead quickly settled in at the NFL stadium where three years ago they 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.

Last season’s Rose Bowl champions USC (11-3) lost for only the third time in their past 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.

The Buckeyes’ All-America junior cornerback Denzel Ward has already decided to go into the NFL draft and did not play after practicing with the team this week.

NORTHWESTERN 24, KENTUCKY 23

Justin Jackson ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns as the No. 20 Northwestern University (NU) Wildcats held off the Kentucky Wildcats in a Music City Bowl that might be remembered for injuries, ejections and a wild finish.

Both starting quarterbacks left in the first half with injuries, although Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson returned early in the third quarter in Nashville, Tennessee.

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.

Northwestern (10-4) still finished off back-to-back bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time in program history and notched their second 10-win season in three years under coach Pat Fitzgerald. The senior class also won their 27th game for the best stretch in more than a decade.

Kentucky (7-6) 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 minutes and 31 seconds left, allowing Johnson to run for his second touchdown of the second half with 37 seconds left.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops went for the two-point conversion rather than play for overtime, but Johnson could not connect with Tavin Richardson on the pass.

With quarterback Clayton Thorson knocked out early in the second with a right knee injury, Northwestern outran Kentucky 333-65.

NEW MEXICO STATE 26, UTAH STATE 20

Larry Rose III scored on a 21-yard run in overtime and New Mexico State won in their first bowl game in 57 years, beating Utah State in the Arizona Bowl in Tuscon, Arizona.

Utah State (6-7) had the ball first in overtime and Dominik Eberle hit the right upright on a 29-yard field goal, sending a groan through the Utah State crowd.

Eberle made 16-18 field goals during the regular season, but missed three in the Arizona Bowl.

New Mexico (7-6) ran two plays in overtime, with Jones bursting through a hole on the left side of the line to send the Aggies and their fans rushing onto the Arizona Stadium field.

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