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No. 20 Northwestern edges Kentucky 24-23 in Music City Bowl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Go ahead and question Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald's decisions to go for it over and over on fourth down, even late in a move that nearly cost the Wildcats dearly.

His defense had their coach's back.

The Wildcats broke up Kentucky's 2-point conversion, and No. 20 Northwestern held off Kentucky 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 as Northwestern (10-3) finished off back-to-back bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time in program history. The Wildcats notched their second 10-win season in three years and third in six under Fitzgerald. The senior class also won its 27th game for the best stretch in more than a decade.

Both starting quarterbacks left in the first half with injuries, though Kentucky's Stephen Johnson returned early in the third quarter. 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.

''Go for the win,'' Fitzgerald said of his decision. ''We got it did you see the replay? I did. It is what it is, and somebody had to make a play. We went for the win right there.''

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. That cost Kentucky a chance at its best season since 2007 and a second straight bowl loss.

''We just lost a heartbreaker by inches,'' Stoops said.

With quarterback Clayton Thorson knocked out early in the second with an injured right knee , Northwestern outran Kentucky 333-65. Safety Kyle Quiero provided the winning margin taking Northwestern's second interception 26 yards for a TD with 7:49 left.

TAKEAWAYS

Northwestern: Losing Jackson won't be easy. He finished his career 10th among the NCAA's leading rushers with 5,440 yards. But Jeremy Larkin is a redshirt freshman who ran for 112 yards, and he will be back in 2018. Thorson already planned to return for his senior season too. Fitzgerald said he told Jackson he'd better get a lot of yards.

''He's coming for you, you know he's coming for you,'' Fitzgerald said.

Kentucky: Snell, who came in leading the SEC in rushing TDs, capped the opening drive of the game with a 3-yard TD that was his 19th this season and 32nd of his career. Both are school records, and he'll be back for his junior season.

QUESTIONABLE EJECTIONS

Both teams lost key players in a wild second quarter. The Wildcats lost Snell when he was ejected with 13:01 left in for contact with referee Chris Coyte. Snell had just lost 7 yards on a run, and Coyte appeared to be trying to give Snell a hand up. Replays showed Snell perhaps pushing Coyte's hands away as he got up. The referee then threw the flag immediately. Kentucky trailed 10-7 at the time.

''I was on top of the play,'' Coyte told a pool reporter. ''And the player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me. That's a foul.''

UGLY INJURY

Thorson hurt his right knee as he was tackled after making a 24-yard catch early in the second quarter. After handing off to Larkin, Thorson ran down the left sideline and was wide open for the catch before being tackled by Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones. But Thorson, in his 38th career start, immediately grabbed at his right knee. He was carted off the field and replaced by senior Matt Alviti.

Fitzgerald said Thorson will have an MRI exam when they return home.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: The Wildcats have to replace Jackson.

Kentucky: Replacing Johnson at quarterback will be Stoops' challenge.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Copyright 2017 by AP. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of AP is strictly prohibited.

Scoring Summary
4th Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Missed Two Point Conversion 0:37
15-S.Johnson incomplete. Intended for 11-T.Richardson.
plays
yds
pos
23
24
Touchdown 0:37
15-S.Johnson scrambles runs 9 yards for a touchdown.
5
plays
49
yds
01:54
pos
23
24
Field Goal 4:30
99-A.MacGinnis 48 yards Field Goal is Good.
11
plays
61
yds
03:12
pos
17
24
Point After TD 7:49
14-C.Kuhbander extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
14
24
Touchdown 7:58
15-S.Johnson incomplete. Intended for 85-G.Hart INTERCEPTED by 21-K.Queiro at KEN 26. 21-K.Queiro runs 26 yards for a touchdown.
2
plays
96
yds
00:26
pos
14
23
3rd Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Point After TD 7:11
99-A.MacGinnis extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
14
17
Touchdown 7:11
15-S.Johnson runs 3 yards for a touchdown.
6
plays
74
yds
02:30
pos
13
17
2nd Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Point After TD 5:12
14-C.Kuhbander extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
7
17
Touchdown 5:12
21-J.Jackson runs 2 yards for a touchdown.
5
plays
52
yds
02:05
pos
7
16
Point After TD 14:07
14-C.Kuhbander extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
7
10
Touchdown 14:07
21-J.Jackson runs 5 yards for a touchdown.
8
plays
65
yds
01:09
pos
7
9
1st Quarter
No scoring this quarter
Field Goal 3:19
14-C.Kuhbander 33 yards Field Goal is Good.
10
plays
55
yds
03:55
pos
7
3
Point After TD 12:42
99-A.MacGinnis extra point is good.
plays
yds
pos
7
0
Touchdown 12:42
26-B.Snell runs 3 yards for a touchdown.
5
plays
67
yds
02:11
pos
6
0
Team Stats
1st Downs 17 20
Rushing 3 13
Passing 12 5
Penalty 2 2
3rd Down Conv 1-10 6-18
4th Down Conv 1-1 1-5
Total Net Yards 336 431
Total Plays 61 77
Avg Gain 5.5 5.6
Net Yards Rushing 65 333
Rush Attempts 22 56
Avg Rush Yards 3.0 5.9
Net Yards Passing 271 98
Comp. - Att. 21-39 9-21
Yards Per Pass 6.9 4.7
Sacked - Yards Lost 1-2 2-11
Penalties - Yards 5-65 7-70
Touchdowns 3 3
Rushing TDs 3 2
Passing TDs 0 0
Other 0 1
Turnovers 2 0
Fumbles - Lost 0-0 0-0
Int. Thrown 2 0
Punts - Avg 7-39.3 4-45.8
Return Yards 118 101
Punts - Returns 2-8 1-2
Kickoffs - Returns 5-110 3-73
Int. - Returns 0-0 2-26
Kicking 3/3 4/5
Extra Points 2/2 3/3
Field Goals 1/1 1/2
Safeties 0 0
1234T
Kentucky 7-6 707923
21 Northwestern 10-3 3140724
271 PASS YDS 98
65 RUSH YDS 333
336 TOTAL YDS 431
Passing CP/ATT YDS TD INT
S. Johnson 15 QB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
52.8% 257 0 2 101.6
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
59.8% 2305 10 6 127.7
S. Johnson 19/36 257 0 2
D. Barker 7 QB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
66.7% 16 0 0 111.5
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
57.1% 49 0 0 115.9
D. Barker 2/3 16 0 0
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
S. King 22 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
7 30 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
79 364 2
S. King 7 30 0 12
S. Johnson 15 QB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
6 17 2
SEASON ATT YDS TD
103 375 5
S. Johnson 6 17 2 9
B. Snell Jr. 26 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
6 15 1
SEASON ATT YDS TD
262 1333 19
B. Snell Jr. 6 15 1 18
A. Rose 10 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
2 5 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
15 37 0
A. Rose 2 5 0 0
D. Barker 7 QB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
1 -2 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
5 -15 0
D. Barker 1 -2 0 -2
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
T. Richardson 11 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
5 89 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
27 371 1
T. Richardson 5 89 0 37
K. Ross 19 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
3 67 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
19 286 0
K. Ross 3 67 0 37
G. Johnson 9 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
2 39 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
48 539 2
G. Johnson 2 39 0 25
J. Rigg 83 TE
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
2 34 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
3 40 0
J. Rigg 2 34 0 18
C. Walker 88 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
2 27 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
15 180 0
C. Walker 2 27 0 23
S. King 22 RB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
3 11 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
15 86 0
S. King 3 11 0 8
J. Ali 82 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 5 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
3 25 0
J. Ali 1 5 0 5
A. Rose 10 RB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 1 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
1 1 0
A. Rose 1 1 0 0
G. Hart 85 TE
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
3 25 1
G. Hart 0 0 0 0
I. Epps 81 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
4 55 0
I. Epps 0 0 0 0
L. Bowden 1 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
2 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
17 210 0
L. Bowden 2 0 0 2
Defense T-A SACK INT
D. West 25 S
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
9-1 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
9-1 1 0.0
D. West 9-1 0.0 0
J. Jones 34 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
9-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
9-0 0 0.0
J. Jones 9-0 0.0 0
M. Edwards 7 S
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
7-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
7-0 4 0.0
M. Edwards 7-0 0.0 0
C. Love 51 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
7-3 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
7-3 0 0.0
C. Love 7-3 0.0 0
J. Allen 41 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
7-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
7-0 1 0.0
J. Allen 7-0 0.0 0
Q. Bohanna 95 DL
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
3-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
3-0 0 0.0
Q. Bohanna 3-0 0.0 0
C. Taylor Jr. 91 DE
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
3-0 0 1.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
3-0 0 1.0
C. Taylor Jr. 3-0 1.0 0
T. Dubose 98 DT
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-1 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-1 0 0.0
T. Dubose 2-1 0.0 0
A. Middleton 99 DT
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
A. Middleton 2-0 0.0 0
D. Baity 8 CB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 2 0.0
D. Baity 2-0 0.0 0
L. Johnson 6 CB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
L. Johnson 2-0 0.0 0
N. Pringle 77 DT
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
N. Pringle 2-0 0.0 0
T. Carter 90 DE
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 0 0.0
T. Carter 2-0 0.0 0
J. Watson 31 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
J. Watson 1-0 0.0 0
J. Paschal 4 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-2 0 1.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-2 0 1.0
J. Paschal 1-2 1.0 0
K. Randolph 5 CB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-1 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-1 1 0.0
K. Randolph 1-1 0.0 0
E. Brown 32 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
0-1 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
0-1 0 0.0
E. Brown 0-1 0.0 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
A. MacGinnis 99 K
IN-GAME FG XP
1/1 2/2
SEASON FG XP
22/28 36/36
A. MacGinnis 1/1 48 2/2 5
Punting NO AVG IN20 LG
M. Panton 93 K
IN-GAME NO AVG IN20
7 39.3 3
SEASON NO AVG IN20
64 42.3 3
M. Panton 7 39.3 3 46
Kickoff Returns NO AVG LG TD
L. Bowden 1 WR
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
2 31.0 37 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
37 23.5 37 0
L. Bowden 2 31.0 37 0
Ka. Daniel 56 LB
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
2 14.0 21 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
2 14.0 21 0
Ka. Daniel 2 14.0 21 0
Z. Johnson 28 RB
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
1 20.0 20 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
2 17.5 20 0
Z. Johnson 1 20.0 20 0
Punt Returns NO AVG LG TD
C. Walker 88 WR
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
2 4.0 5 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
7 13.4 5 0
C. Walker 2 4.0 5 0
Passing CP/ATT YDS TD INT
M. Alviti 7 QB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
36.4% 50 0 0 74.5
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
50% 155 1 0 124.2
M. Alviti 4/11 50 0 0
C. Thorson 18 QB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
50% 35 0 0 86.8
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
60.4% 2844 15 12 121.3
C. Thorson 4/8 35 0 0
J. Larkin 28 RB
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
100% 24 0 0 301.6
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
100% 24 0 0 301.6
J. Larkin 1/1 24 0 0
R. Lees 19 WR
IN-GAME COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
0% 0 0 0 0.0
SEASON COMP% YDS TD INT RTG
0% 0 0 0 0.0
R. Lees 0/1 0 0 0
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
J. Jackson 21 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
32 157 2
SEASON ATT YDS TD
287 1311 11
J. Jackson 32 157 2 18
J. Larkin 28 RB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
9 112 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
84 503 5
J. Larkin 9 112 0 64
M. Alviti 7 QB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
9 54 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
13 142 1
M. Alviti 9 54 0 16
J. Roberts 6 WR
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
2 13 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
10 98 2
J. Roberts 2 13 0 12
F. Nagel 2 WR
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
1 4 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
1 4 0
F. Nagel 1 4 0 4
C. Thorson 18 QB
IN-GAME ATT YDS TD
2 -6 0
SEASON ATT YDS TD
87 23 8
C. Thorson 2 -6 0 3
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
C. Fessler 5 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 28 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
3 66 0
C. Fessler 1 28 0 28
B. Skowronek 88 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
3 25 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
45 644 5
B. Skowronek 3 25 0 10
C. Thorson 18 QB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 24 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
1 24 0
C. Thorson 1 24 0 24
J. James 82 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
2 16 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
3 41 0
J. James 2 16 0 11
J. Jackson 21 RB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 10 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
44 276 0
J. Jackson 1 10 0 10
F. Nagel 2 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
1 6 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
48 489 2
F. Nagel 1 6 0 6
G. Dickerson 9 RB
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
37 401 4
G. Dickerson 0 0 0 0
R. Chiaokhiao-Bowman 81 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
4 35 1
R. Chiaokhiao-Bowman 0 0 0 0
R. Lees 19 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
18 235 2
R. Lees 0 0 0 0
M. Wilson 15 WR
IN-GAME REC YDS TD
0 0 0
SEASON REC YDS TD
32 446 1
M. Wilson 0 0 0 0
Defense T-A SACK INT
B. Walsh 10 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
5-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
5-0 0 0.0
B. Walsh 5-0 0.0 0
M. Hartage 24 CB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
5-0 1 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
5-0 3 0.0
M. Hartage 5-0 0.0 1
G. Igwebuike 16 S
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
5-1 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
5-1 2 0.0
G. Igwebuike 5-1 0.0 0
J. Gaziano 97 DL
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
5-0 0 1.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
5-0 0 1.0
J. Gaziano 5-0 1.0 0
P. Fisher 42 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
4-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
4-0 1 0.0
P. Fisher 4-0 0.0 0
M. McShepard 7 DB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
3-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
3-0 1 0.0
M. McShepard 3-0 0.0 0
W. Long 13 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
3-0 0 1.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
3-0 0 1.0
W. Long 3-0 1.0 0
K. Queiro 21 S
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
2-0 1 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
2-0 5 0.0
K. Queiro 2-0 0.0 1
B. Oxley 75 DL
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
B. Oxley 1-0 0.0 0
N. Fox 45 LB
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-1 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-1 0 0.0
N. Fox 1-1 0.0 0
F. Wyatt 92 DL
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
F. Wyatt 1-0 0.0 0
J. McGee 41 S
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
J. McGee 1-0 0.0 0
A. Miller 95 DL
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
1-0 0 0.0
A. Miller 1-0 0.0 0
T. Lancaster 1 DL
IN-GAME T-A INT SACK
0-2 0 0.0
SEASON T-A INT SACK
0-2 0 0.0
T. Lancaster 0-2 0.0 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
C. Kuhbander 14 K
IN-GAME FG XP
1/2 3/3
SEASON FG XP
13/16 43/44
C. Kuhbander 1/2 33 3/3 6
Punting NO AVG IN20 LG
H. Niswander 96 P
IN-GAME NO AVG IN20
4 45.8 0
SEASON NO AVG IN20
67 43.0 0
H. Niswander 4 45.8 0 49
Kickoff Returns NO AVG LG TD
J. Larkin 28 RB
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
3 24.3 31 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
4 22.3 31 0
J. Larkin 3 24.3 31 0
Punt Returns NO AVG LG TD
F. Nagel 2 WR
IN-GAME NO AVG LG TD
1 2.0 2 0
SEASON NO AVG LG TD
5 3.2 2 0
F. Nagel 1 2.0 2 0
1st POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
14:53 UK 33 2:11 5 67 TD
10:55 UK 22 0:46 3 0 Punt
8:38 UK 25 1:15 3 3 Punt
3:07 UK 35 1:43 5 14 Punt
2nd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
13:58 UK 40 1:50 7 4 Punt
7:55 UK 42 0:32 2 6 INT
5:05 UK 36 3:04 7 6 Punt
0:31 UK 38 0:24 4 14 Halftime
3rd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
9:41 UK 26 2:30 6 74 TD
4th POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
0:53 UK 26 0:25 4 19 Punt
11:59 UK 29 1:08 5 12 Punt
8:24 UK 2 0:26 2 96 INT
7:42 UK 27 3:12 11 30 FG
2:31 NWEST 39 1:54 5 39 TD
1st POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
12:42 NWEST 25 1:39 4 7 Punt
9:59 NWEST 32 1:13 3 -6 Punt
7:14 NWEST 30 3:55 10 55 FG
2nd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
1:16 NWEST 20 1:09 8 80 TD
12:00 NWEST 18 4:00 8 40 Downs
7:17 NWEST 48 2:05 5 52 TD
1:48 NWEST 17 1:09 3 9 Punt
3rd POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
14:52 NWEST 28 5:03 12 46 Downs
7:02 NWEST 34 6:03 13 40 FG Miss
4th POSS PLAYS YDS RESULT
14:43 NWEST 14 2:33 5 13 Punt
10:41 NWEST 25 2:06 5 73 Downs
4:24 NWEST 17 1:48 5 22 Downs