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Northwestern Wins First Bowl Game Since ’49

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald celebrates with Northwestern offensive linesman Brian Mulroe (72) in the final seconds during the second half of the Gator Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 in Jacksonville, Fla. Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20.  (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald celebrates with Northwestern offensive linesman Brian Mulroe (72) in the final seconds during the second half of the Gator Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 in Jacksonville, Fla. Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

Jacksonville, Fla. — Behind huge interceptions early and late, No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl and snapped college football’s longest postseason losing streak yesterday.

The Wildcats (10-3) earned their first bowl game win since 1949, ending a nine-game losing skid that was tied for the longest in NCAA history. They also celebrated double-digit victories for the first time since the 1995 Rose Bowl season.

Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game and Nick Vanhoose set up a late touchdown with a 39-yard interception return. Those plays were the difference in a back-and-forth game that featured more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six).

In between, Northwestern’s two-quarterback system kept the Bulldogs (8-5) off balance most of the day.

Scrambler Kain Colter ran for 71 yards, making up for his two interceptions. Backup Trevor Siemian threw for 120 yards and an interception, and also ran for a score.

Even with the turnovers, they were more efficient than Mississippi State’s Tyler Russell.

Russell completed 12 of 28 passes for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He had only thrown six picks in the first 11 games this season.

LaDarius Perkins ran 19 times for 84 yards for the Bulldogs, and freshman Josh Robinson added 91 yards on seven carries.

Venric Mark, Northwestern’s all-everything back, finished with 56 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Mark and Colter were on the field for the final few snaps, watching from afar as the madness started to unfold on their sideline. The Wildcats spent the final 1:42 celebrating the program’s first postseason victory since beating Cal in the 1949 Rose Bowl.

Capital One Bowl

Georgia 45, Nebraska 31

Orlando, Fla. — Aaron Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs beat Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

Murray shook off a pair of first-half interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and passed for 427 yards — also a Bulldogs bowl record — against the nation’s top-ranked passing defense. He was named the game’s most valuable player.

Georgia (12-2) reached 12 wins for the third time in school history.

Nebraska (10-4) lost its third consecutive bowl game, and finished the season with two straight woeful defensive performances. The Cornhuskers lost the Big Ten championship game 70-31.

The Cornhuskers led 24-23 at the half, but committed two of their three turnovers in the final 30 minutes. Taylor Martinez had two interceptions and two touchdown passes for Nebraska and Rex Burkhead rushed for 140 yards in his final college game.

Outback Bowl

South Carolina 33
Michigan 28

Tampa, Fla. — Connor Shaw led South Carolina to the brink of victory and Dylan Thompson carried the Gamecocks over the hump in the Outback Bowl.

Thompson came off the bench to throw a 32-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left Tuesday, enabling South Carolina to tie a school record for victories.

Thompson replaced Shaw during the winning drive, covering the final 43 yards after Shaw began the march from his own 30. Devin Gardner’s third TD pass of the game had given Michigan a 28-27 lead.

Heart Of Dallas Bowl

Oklahoma State 58, Purdue 14

Dallas — Clint Chelf threw three of Oklahoma State’s five touchdown passes and the Cowboys shook off a disappointing Big 12 finish by dominating Purdue 58-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

The Cowboys, a year removed from a Fiesta Bowl win that capped the best season in school history, forced five turnovers and had another short TD drive after a 64-yard punt return from Josh Stewart.

It was the biggest bowl win for Oklahoma State since coach Mike Gundy was the quarterback in a 62-14 rout of Wyoming in the 1988 Holiday Bowl. The Cowboys (8-5) missed out on upper-tier bowls after narrow losses in their last two Big 12 games.

With former Purdue quarterbacks Drew Brees and Kyle Orton watching, Robert Marve didn’t get to 100 yards passing until Oklahoma State led 45-0 as Purdue (6-7) fell to 0-4 on New Year’s Day.

Leading 28-0 at halftime, Oklahoma State erased any lingering doubt three plays into the second half when Justin Gilbert stripped Purdue receiver O.J. Ross on a short completion. The loose ball shot straight to Daytawion Lowe, who ran 37 yards down the sideline in front of the Purdue bench for a 35-0 lead.

Oklahoma State’s 58 points were the most in a bowl game at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium, topping the 55 scored by Keyshawn Johnson and Southern California against Texas Tech in 1995.