2005 Sun
Bowl Page


Played December 30, 2005.

Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX. 
Attendance: 50,426 (capacity).

Northwestern's 2005 regular season record: 7-4 overall, 5-3 conference.  Third place, Big Ten. 

Coach: Randy Walker. 

Opponent: UCLA.

NU/UCLA series record (prior to bowl): NU led 3-2.

Team 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q Final
Northwestern 22 0 3 13 38
7 22 7 14 50


1st Quarter
NU: FG Joel Howells 33 Yd, 7:53. Drive: 13 plays, 7 yards in 06:13.
NU: TD Kevin Mims, 30 Yd interception return (Joel Howells kick Failed), 6:27. Drive: 0 play, 81 yards in 0:55.
NU:  TD Mark Philmore, 19 Yd run (Joel Howells kick Failed), 5:36. Drive: 4 plays, 36 yards in 00:39.
NU: TD Nick Roach, 35 Yd interception return (Joel Howells kick is good), 4:21.
UCLA: TD Kahlil Bell, 5 Yd run ( kick is good), 0:14. Drive: 11 plays, 80 yards in 04:07.

2nd Quarter

UCLA: TD Ryan Moya, 58 Yd pass from Drew Olson ( kick is good), 13:57. Drive: 1 play, 58 yards in 00:10.
UCLA: TD Kahlil Bell, 6 Yd run (Drew Olson pass to Marcedes Lewis for 2 Pt. Conversion), 8:26. Drive: 5 plays, 90 yards in 1:47.
UCLA: TD Marcus Everett, 8 Yd pass from Drew Olson ( kick is good), 0:29. Drive: 10 plays, 65 yards in 02:27.

3rd Quarter

UCLA: TD Michael Pitre, 5 Yd pass from Drew Olson ( kick is good), 9:04. Drive: 5 plays, 18 yards in 02:06.
NU: FG Amado Villarreal 31 Yd, 4:40. Drive: 11 plays, 21 yards in 04:24.

4th Quarter

NU: TD Mark Philmore, 8 Yd pass from Brett Basanez (2 Pt. Conversion Failed), 2:29. Drive: 9 plays, 71 yards in 01:11.
UCLA: TD Brandon Breazell, 42 Yd kick return ( kick is good), 2:26.
NU: TD Shaun Herbert, 5 Yd pass from Brett Basanez (Amado Villarreal kick is good), 0:23. Drive: 16 plays, 84 yards in 1:50.
UCLA: TD Brandon Breazell, 45 Yd kick return ( kick is good), 0:17.

AP Photo.

Twenty-two points?

That was the lead Northwestern found itself owning, and then wasting, as the 'Cats went on to fall to UCLA in the Sun Bowl, 50-38.  The game was Northwestern's fifth straight bowl loss.

To put NU's 22-0 start, and eventual loss, in perspective: no Northwestern football team, in the program's illustrious 129-year history, has ever come back from a deficit of 22 or more points to win a game.  Never-- not in 1996, and not in 2000.  But the Bruins did just that, thanks in part to a stunning turnaround for UCLA quarterback Drew Olson, a dramatic performance by Bruin running back Chris Markey, and disturbing breakdowns by the Wildcat ground offense and special teams.

The Wildcat defense, however, began the game looking like the Chicago Bears' defense.  NU forced UCLA to go three and out to start the match, with Barry Cofield and Kevin Mims providing key stops.  After a Joel Howells field goal, UCLA tried to answer, but Mims intercepted the usually-perfect Olson and ran the ball back for a touchdown.  The Sun Bowl crowd, just a couple hundred short of a sellout and overwhelmingly composed of Wildcat fans, went berserk, and Northwestern enjoyed a 9-0 lead.  However, the Great NU Special Teams Disaster of 2005 began in earnest on the point after try, which was blocked.

Before the Wildcat faithful could retake their seats, Olson threw another interception, this time to Bryan Heinz.  Heinz, who had just returned to the team from an injury that forced him to sit out the regular season, packed an entire season into one catch, coming up with the critical pick on the UCLA 36-yard line.  With a short field, NU quarterback Brett Basanez had little trouble carving up the Bruins, and Mark Philmore punched in the 'Cats' third score with just over six minutes to go in the first quarter.

Once again, Howell's extra point attempt failed, and the 'Cats' Special Teams Disaster had left two points on the field.  However, the 'Cats did have a 15-0 lead, their largest lead in a bowl game ever.

NU would add to that lead less than two minutes later.  Unbelievably, Olson threw his third interception, equaling his picks for the entire season.  This time Nick Roach grabbed the ball, and this time Roach streaked to the endzone and gave NU a 21-0 lead.  Howell's extra point was good, and NU had a seemingly commanding 22-0 lead and was clearly eyeing its first bowl win since 1949.

And then the Bruins turned off the lights.

On its next drive, UCLA methodically drove 80 yards in over four minutes-- all of its yards on the ground.  It took UCLA Coach Dorrel nearly the entire first quarter to figure it out, but when he did, the game was over: NU cannot stop the Bruins' rushers.  And so Chris Markey and Kahlil began vivisecting the Wildcats with abandon.  With the NU defense now panicking to try to stop the newly-launched Bruin ground game, Olson was free to regroup, collect himself, and start over.

Olson responded by throwing a 58-yard touchdown bomb, and NU's lead was slashed to eight.  The wheels were coming off.  Basanez and company drove down the field, but Basanez and his receivers never quite found the synch they had established and enjoyed for much of the season.  On the drive's ninth play, from the UCLA 14-yard line, Basanez was intercepted, and the Bruins resumed their deadly rushing game.

It took UCLA just five plays-- again, all of them on the ground-- to race 90 yards and erase Northwestern's lead for good.  Markey and Bell simply tore through the Wildcat defense, and NU had no answer, no means, no way to stop the bleeding.

NU's Special Teams Disaster continued on the following drive.  Gerald Hamlett muffed the UCLA kickoff and recovered on the Wildcat eight-yard line.  But Basanez, with help from Tyrell Sutton and wide receiver Ross Lane (who had a fantastic game), rallied the 'Cats and drove to the UCLA 20.  Predictably, Howell's kick for the lead was blocked.  The S.T.D. unit had now left five points on the field.

UCLA, however, was leaving nothing on the field.  The Bruins took the lead for the first time, and took it for good, on the next drive.  NU linebacker Tim McGarigle was impressive, flying around the field to make stops, but one player simply can't contain 11, and UCLA began to balance its attack, throwing and rushing effectively.  Northwestern had a shot at a field goal at the end of the first half, but with confidence in the S.T.D. unit scraping zero, the 'Cats were forced to take a shot at the endzone and came up with nothing.

A Sutton fumble in the third quarter set up the kill shot for UCLA, as the Bruins quickly scored and went up 36-22.  With NU's offense not firing on all cylinders, and NU's defense and S.T.D. unit reeling, the UCLA lead was, indeed, safe.

Basanez and the Wildcat offense then drove 72 yards but could not reach the goal.  Forced into another kicking situation, NU offered up redshirt freshman Amado Villarreal, who successfully booted a 31-yarder.  It looked like momentum might actually shift toward NU, and the Wildcat defense held UCLA to midfield on the next drive.  Faced with a fourth down and one from midfield, UCLA decided to go for the first down, but McGarigle stuffed Markey at the line of scrimmage for a huge turnover on downs.  Unfortunately, dropped balls to Jonathan Fields and T.J. Jones doomed the drive, and NU punted.

The 'Cats got another opportunity in the fourth quarter, when Adam Kadela forced Markey to fumble near midfield, but again the Wildcat offense stalled.  After swapping punts, the 'Cats were able to drive for a score with under three minutes left.  Basanez, Sutton and Philmore got into gear and moved the ball to the Bruin eight-yard line, where Basanez found Philmore for the touchdown.  However, Basanez was intercepted on the two-point conversion, and NU remained five points down.

That's when the Special Teams Disaster Unit took center stage.  NU's onside kick went straight to UCLA's Brandon Breazell, who returned it for a touchdown, and delivered what appeared to be a knife in the Wildcats' last shot at a bowl win.  The Wildcats, however, responded as they did so often this season, tearing up the field wildly on offense.  Basanez completed passes to Lane, Philmore and Shaun Herbert, and NU scored again to come within five points of UCLA.

However, this time NU had only 24 seconds left to perform a successful onside kick and throw a Hail Mary.  The S.T.D. made its last appearance, kicking the exact same onside kick that it executed just two minutes earlier.  And, just like two minutes earlier, Brandon Breazell caught the ball and returned it for a UCLA touchdown.  With the extra point, UCLA posted 50 points and the win.  For Northwestern, the end provided and unfortunate finish to a remarkable season.

NU had put together a season with six or more wins for the third time in a row, the first such series of seasons since 1931.  It enjoyed wins over ranked teams, and-- for the first time since 2001-- it was itself ranked in the A.P. Poll, for two weeks.  It cracked the BCS rankings, stayed in them for four weeks and appeared in the final BCS rankings for the first time ever.  It offered up Zach Strief, the team's first All-American in five years.  It made it to the school's sixth-ever bowl game.  But then, it...

Twenty-two points.  A big number.  But not nearly as big as 57 years.