The 22nd-ranked Northwestern Wildcats used a furious third quarter rally to overtake the 17th-ranked Utah Utes, 31-20. Led by a defense that forced timely turnovers and 2018 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP Clayton Thorson, the Wildcats scored 28 unanswered points in the third stanza. DraftNasty’s Corey Chavous takes us inside the game with this photo collage.
Utah’s Army representative flies into the stadium on parachute
The Frog-X parachute team came into the stadium with a focus on entertaining the crowd.
Northwestern’s military representation flying into the field lands on the field 4
This member of the Frog-X parachute team represented the Northwestern Wildcats and landed on the field effortlessly to the delight of the crowd.
Navy holding up the American Flag during the National Anthem Center of the Field
The Navy held up the American flag to give the fans in the stands a full-sized view.
Utah shows respect to each other in the pregame
The Utes' team unity was evident during the pregame.
22 Hansen working pass rush counter with 30 Barton in the pregame
Utah All-Pac-12 linebacker Chase Hansen, pictured, would have been huge for the Utes in this game but did not play due to an undisclosed injury. The player he's doing drills with -Utes captain and LB Cody Barton- finished his 2018 campaign with 116 tackles, four quarterback sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses and six pass break-ups.
18 Thorson just gets rid of the ball as 30 Barton arrives on the blitz 2
Despite Barton's presence most of the night (8 tackles, 1/2 sack, 1/2 TFL), Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson was still able to get this pass off early in the game versus the blitz.
15 Shelley takes a shot from the EZ, 6 Shyne in PP, 7 Whillock blitzing
Utah freshman quarterback Jason Shelley once again started for an injured Tyler Huntley. Shelley passed for 302 yards (60%), 2 TDs and 2 INTs.
4 Green dives to the ball with 41 McGee closing in for the cover
Utah running back TJ Green couldn't quite get to this pass on the sidelines in the first quarter of Monday's action.
97 Gay kicks the FG as 94 Oxley nearly blocks it
Utah placekicker Matt Gay (No. 97 pictured) -the 2017 Lou Groza Award winner- nearly had this kick blocked by Northwestern DL Ben Oxley (No. 94 pictured). Gay had three kicks blocked in 2018.
6 Anae final copy of forced fumble
Utah's Bradlee Anae (No. 6 pictured) forces a fumble versus Northwestern running back Isaiah Bowser (No. 25 picutred) in the fourth quarter. He finished 2018 with 51 tackles, eight quarterback sacks, 15.5 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and three pass break-ups.
6 Shyne in the Wildcat as 50 Umana about to snap, 42 Fisher focused
The Utes tried to put Armand Shyne in the Wildcat near the goal line, but Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher was on his game most of the night.
42 Fisher with form tackle of 22 Brumfield in the fourth quarter
Fisher (No. 42 pictured tackling Devin Brumfield in the fourth quarter) finished second on the Wildcats in tackles this year (117). In the Holiday Bowl, he had 13 tackles, 1/2 tackle for loss and one forced fumble.
18 Thorson releases for this third quarter TD
The Wildcats were down 20-3 at halftime before a furious third quarter rally featured 28 unanswered points. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson (No. 18 pictured) threw this third quarter pass to offensive lineman Trey Klock (No. 39 pictured) to put the Wildcats up 24-20.
Everyone happy for 39 Klock III after he scores a TD in the Holiday Bowl
What a moment for the senior Klock, who battled injuries as a former offensive lineman for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Northwestern WR Riley Lees scores the TD
Northwestern's Riley Lees (No. 19 pictured) is sort of a jack of all trades for the Wildcats. The team's starting punt returner also lines up in the Wildcat and scored on an eight-yard touchdown late in the third quarter to put the team up 31-20.
18 Thorson injured late in the game after big hit by 13 Blair
Despite getting banged up late in the fourth quarter after a huge hit on the sidelines by Utah safety Marquise Blair, the game was a redemption for Thorson (No. 18 pictured). He was injured (torn ACL) in last year's 2017 Music City Bowl.
Fitzgerald’s fourth quarter Gatorade bath
Pat Fitzgerald enjoyed the Gatorade bath late in the fourth quarter.
Pace and Thorson MVPs
Sophomore safety JR Pace was named the 2018 Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP (7 tackles, 1/2 TFL, 34-yard fumble return, one interception and one pass break-up). Thorson was named the 2018 Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP after completing 21-of-30 passes for 241 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Fitzgerald and Clayton Thorson celebrate the 2018 Holiday Bowl Trophy
Pat Fitzgerald held up the Holiday Bowl trophy in style as his senior quarterback Clayton Thorson approved.
Pat Fitzgerald kisses the Holiday Bowl Trophy in the rain
Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald kissed the Holiday Bowl trophy after the game.
Scott Frost will attempt to complete his second redemption story in as many seasons. Last year, Frost led UCF to a 13-0 record and a bowl game victory against Auburn following a 6-7 season in 2016. The former Cornhuskers quarterback will guide a Nebraska squad which finished 4-8 in 2017. The Cornhuskers aren’t as talented as they were in the eighties, but they do have a few skill position players to rely on in Frost’s spread offense. Junior running back Tre Bryant (5’11, 201) and senior wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. (6’1, 201) will be counted on to serve as gamechangers. Bryant returns to the Cornhuskers after missing 10 games last season with a knee injury. However, in just two games of action, Bryant totaled 299 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Oregon and Arkansas State. Defensively, sophomore defensive lineman Ben Stille(6’5, 290) will be counted on to stuff the run and rush the passer after making an impact in his freshman season. Stille finished with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in 2017. Frost doesn’t have the talent that he had last year at UCF and the Cornhuskers face a tough schedule, but the new head coach does have enough pieces to lay the foundation for the future.
Troy’s player to watch
8 Stanley Morgan, Jr. 6’1 200 WR-Senior
Morgan, Jr. enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, posting 986 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. The senior wide receiver recorded 259 yards against Penn State and Iowa, two of the best pass defenses in the Big Ten, to end the season. Morgan, Jr. is able to make catches in traffic, reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr., another New Orleans native. He has the size and speed that will make him a candidate to go in the first three rounds of the draft after the season.
Game of the season
September 15 against Troy
The Troy Trojans are coming off an 11-2 season and a 7-1 conference record in the Sun Belt. Scott Frost will have to navigate an early non-conference slip-up against the Trojans, who will be prepared for FBS competition. In Week 1, Troy will play Boise State. Don’t expect the Trojans to come into Lincoln wide-eyed, and this Week 3 matchup should provide a close contest for the Cornhuskers.
DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch
24 Aaron Williams 5’11 195 DB-Senior
Williams has shown an ability to come under control to make inside-out sideline tackles. He has also shown requisite skill when it comes
to filling on as an eighth man in the box. His overall thump as a tackler is just adequate and some of this has to do with average size. For him to get looks from NFL scouts next spring, he has to improve in coverage. Quicker wide receivers have given him problems in man-to-man coverage.
Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is projecting a tough season for Scott Frost in Year 1. The Cornhuskers may be improved on the field from last year but the schedule doesn’t do Nebraska any favors. Jefferson is predicting losses against Troy, Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa.