Thanksgiving comes early for Northwestern in 13-7 victory over Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. — The crowd was booing, snowballs were flying and the grateful visitors from Evanston slipped out of town under the cover of darkness Saturday with a 13-7 victory over Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium.

Northwestern (9-2, 5-2 Big Ten) forced five turnovers, registered five sacks and came out on the favorable end of a few close calls that sent the 75,276 frozen and frustrated fans into a frenzy.


The Badgers appeared poised to emerge with the victory in the final seconds before official reviews reversed initial touchdown rulings. Joel Stave passed 22 yards to Troy Fumagalli on a play that first was signaled a score before a review placed it on the 1.

Stave then passed to Jazz Peavy, who failed to complete the process of a catch in the end zone for an incompletion.


Then Deonte Gibson sacked Stave for a 10-yard loss and he had to leave the game after a spiked pass on third down in favor of Bart Houston, whose fourth-down pass was incomplete with two seconds remaining.

"I'm still kind of speechless," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "I don't know how that just unfolded, but it did. I've been on the other side of those games and I feel for those kids from Wisconsin because that's a tough way to end up on the short end. I'm incredibly happy for our guys, and we have a lot to be thankful for here on Thanksgiving week."

Wisconsin (8-3, 5-2) also had Alex Erickson's apparent punt return for a touchdown called back when it was ruled he inadvertently had signaled for a fair catch before the ball bounced into his arms.

"Everyone's used to the over-the-head fair catch signal," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "And now I understood what they were calling. When the ball bounces short and you try to warn everyone to get away from the ball … any signal at all, the returner can't advance."

Northwestern's Justin Jackson rushed 35 times for 140 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile the Wildcats defense stuffed Wisconsin's run game to the tune of minus-26 yards. Corey Clement had 24 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown, but Stave wound up with minus-58 yards.

In addition to the five sacks, Northwestern had 11 tackles for loss. Gibson had three sacks. Anthony Walker and Nate Hall each had eight tackles. Nick VanHoose and Walker each had an interception.

"It was questionable calls all game, but we can't go back and change it," Wisconsin tight end Austin Trayor said.

A representative from the Holiday Bowl was observing both Wisconsin and Northwestern as a candidate for the Dec. 30 contest in San Diego.


"For either Northwestern or Wisconsin, it would be their first trip ever to San Diego to play in a bowl game," Gary Rectenwald said before the game. And we would be delighted to host Northwestern University."

Twitter @kicker34

2-minute drill

Hit and miss: Wildcats kicker Jack Mitchell could have wound up the goat after missing field goal tries of 27 and 40 yards. But he connected from 35 yards just before the half and 37 in the fourth quarter, and coach Pat Fitzgerald said he maintains confidence in the junior.

Front men: Defensive end Dean Lowry continues to demonstrate how he could become a force in the NFL. He was credited with three tackles, a half sack, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. With Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, Deonte Gibson and C.J. Robbins up front, the Badgers had nowhere to run.


Easy does it: Clayton Thorson did not have eye-popping numbers (9 of 20 for 60 yards), but he showed poise and made wise decisions to keep the ball away from the Badgers.

Up next: Vs. Illinois at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Soldier Field.