Going into Monday night's Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, the Northwestern Wildcats were considered the biggest underdog of any team in a bowl game this year. So what if they had a better record at 9-3 than the 9-4 Missouri Tigers they were facing? Not many people thought that the Wildcats would be able to contain the high octane offense of the Tigers.
Well, the good news in Chicago is that Northwestern covered the 14-point spread, holding the Missouri offense that averaged 497.5 yards to only 311 yards. The bad news is that they still lost the game 30-23 in overtime.
The turning point was Northwestern punting the ball to All-world returner Jeremy Maclin right before the end of the first half. The punt was supposed to go out of bounds, but Wildcats punter Stefan Demos left the ball over the middle of the field and Maclin took it back 75 yards for a touchdown before anybody could blink. (You can see SportsCenter video of the return here at the 1:20 mark) This tied the score at 10 going into the half and shifted momentum.
Even after Northwestern started the second half by driving downfield for a touchdown, Amado Villareal missed the extra point: that loomed large when Missouri missed a field goal as time expired in regulation, sending the game to overtime tied at 23.
Mizzou would score on their lone possession of the overtime and they intercepted C.J. Bacher's Hail Mary pass on fourth down of Northwestern's possession to end the game.
Still, Northwestern has to be happy with the evidence that coach Pat Fitzgerald has already turned the program around. Sure, it's now been 60 years since the Wildcats have won a bowl game, but it won't be too many more before they win their next one.