PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Isaiah Bowser scored on a five-yard run with 8:12 to play and Northwestern avoided a major letdown by converting two fourth-downs plays on the game-winning drive to defeat struggling Rutgers 18-15 on Saturday.
Bowser also scored on a three-yard run and Drew Luckenbaugh kicked a 23-yard field goal as the Wildcats (4-3, 4-1 Big Ten) won their third straight game by rallying from an eight-point third-quarter deficit. Clayton Thorson hit Flynn Nagel on a two-point conversion pass after Bowser’s go-ahead run.
Isaih Pacheco scored on a 44-yard run for Rutgers (1-7, 0-5), which lost its seventh straight game. Justin Davidovicz kicked field goals of 42 and 26 yards, while Willington Previlon had a sack for a safety.
Northwestern rallied from a 15-8 deficit in winning its sixth straight road game. Luckenbaugh’s field goal got them within five points in the third quarter. Thorson and the offense drove 63 yards in 11 plays for the game winner. Thorson ran a quarterback sneak for four yards on a fourth-and-1 from his own 46 early in the drive and he hit Nagel on a 10-yard pass on a fourth-and four from the Rutgers 15. Bowser, who rushed for 108 yards, scored on the next play.
Rutgers, which had not led in the second quarter of a game since a season-opening win over Texas State, scored the final 12 points to take a 12-7 halftime lead.
Davidovicz got the Scarlet Knights on the board with a 42-yard field goal. Pacheco gave Rutgers a 10-7 lead with the Scarlet Knights’ longest play from scrimmage on offense with 5:09 left in the half. Previlon sacked Thorson for the safety 1:38 before halftime.
Northwestern, which was averaging 390.5 yards in total offense, was limited to 84 in the first half by a defense that was giving up an average of 40.5 points in its losing streak. It finished with 278 yards.
The Wildcats had taken advantage of a bad play by Pacheco on the opening kickoff. He called for a fair catch, muffed it and then took a knee. The Scarlet Knights got the ball at the one and had to punt. Northwestern needed eights play to go 43 yards, with Bowser running the final three yards.
Northwestern: With games coming up against No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 4 Notre Dame the next two weeks, Northwestern needed this one to stay in the bowl picture.
Rutgers: This was the game the Scarlet Knights needed if they were going to win again. They have Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State in the home stretch.
Northwestern: Plays host to Wisconsin on Saturday.
Rutgers: Bye week. Returns at Wisconsin on Nov. 3.
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