Played December 29, 2008.
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX. Attendance: 55,986.
Northwestern's 2008 regular season record: 9-3 overall, 5-3
conference (4th place).
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald.
Co-captains: C.J. Bacher, Prince Kwateng, Eric Peterman, Brendan Smith.
NU/Missouri series record (prior to bowl): tied, 4-4.
NU: TD pass from CJ Bacher to Eric Peterman, 35 yards (Villarreal kick)
Mizzou: FG, Jeff Wolfert, 31 yards
NU: FG, Villarreal, 21 yards
Mizzou: TD, Jeremy Maclin punt return, 75 yards (Wolfert kick)
NU: TD pass from Bacher to Rasheed Ward, 46 yards (Villareal kick failed)
Mizzou: TD pass from Chase Daniel to Dana Alexander (Wolfert kick)
Mizzou: FG, Wolfert, 43 yards
NU: TD pass from Bacher to Ross Lane, 23 yards (Villarreal kick)
Mizzou: FG, Wolfert, 37 yards
Mizzou: TD pass from Daniel to Maclin, 7 yards (Wolfert kick)
CJ Bacher's three TDs were a new Alamo Bowl record.
a night draped with gritty performances, wild plays, a flicker of
Highest Hopes and moments of outright anguish, Northwestern gave the
Missouri Tigers all they could handle before falling in overtime in the
2008 Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats turned in outstanding performances
on both offense and defense, and they were boosted by astonishing
coaching jobs by both Coach Fitzgerald and by Defensive Coordinator
Mike Hankwitz, who had prepared the team beyond the expectations of
However, the thrilling game that the 'Cats delivered was marred late in
the fourth quarter when Wildcat MVP Corey Wootton, shaking off an
uncalled hold, raced toward Mizzou quarterback Chase Daniel and came
down awkwardly on his right leg, collapsing to the turf. As of
Tuesday morning, the extent of Wootton's injury was not known.
Wootton had been integral in NU's efforts to stop Daniel throughout the
game, having intercepted Daniel in the first half and also notched the
'Cats' lone sack.
Joining Wootton in the pick club were Brad Phillips and Brian Peters,
who each caught an interception. Daniel, in addition to the three
interceptions, was limited to two touchdowns and 200 yards. His
family, however, were the stars in San Antonio on Monday night: ESPN
decided to focus on his parents and family in the stands for much of
its coverage, rather than focusing on the ho-hum action on the field as
it led to a wild, roiling finish in overtime.
Despite CJ Bacher's family not getting so much as a mention during the
Daniel Family Showcase, the Wildcat quarterback caught fire, throwing
just one interception amidst three touchdowns (to the Wildcat Touchdown
Trinity of Peterman, Ward, and Lane) and 304 yards. Bacher's
three TDs tie NU's bowl record for individual scoring (shared with
Darnell Autry in the 1996 Rose Bowl) and they break NU's bowl record
for TD passes (previously held by Brett Basanez in the 2005 Sun Bowl
and Steve Schnur in the 1997 Citrus Bowl, who had each thrown two
touchdowns). The 46-yard TD strike to Ward also set a Wildcat
bowl record for the longest touchdown pass. Bacher was a leader
on the field in San Antonio, and he nearly led his team to glory.
Northwestern had its hands around that glory for nearly the entire
evening. The team began with a sterling defensive effort,
snuffing Missouri's opening drive with an interception near
midfield. This set up the Wildcat offense and the return of
starting runningback Tyrell Sutton. On the first snap, Sutton
took the ball with his free right hand, cradling his hand with the cast
that still envelops his recovering left wrist, and took off for seven
yards. Sutton would finish the game with 116 yards, more than
double any other rusher in the game.
The Peterman touchdown strike finished off NU's opening drive, and the
'Cats would keep a lead until one minute to go in the first half.
Content with a 10-10 tie, the 'Cats-- on their own 23 yard line and
with all of their time outs-- burned out the clock.
NU would regain the lead on the very first drive in the second half, as
Lane, Peterman and Ward all caught big passes to take the 'Cats across
the field and to a 16-10 lead. Unfortunately, Daniel followed
this with his most impressive drive of the night, slicing through the
'Cats on a 12-play campaign that put the Tigers up by one. Later,
Bacher's one interception and a field goal by Mizzou put the momentum
squarely with the Tigers.
However, Northwestern had come to win, and the team would not let this
glory slip through its fingers without clawing the hell out of it
first. The Wildcat defense stepped up again, intercepting Daniel
and putting the offense in position for the Ross Lane TD that gave NU
its final lead of the game, 23 to 20.
NU's lead held until less than three minutes to go in the game. A
Tiger 37-yard field goal sent the Alamo Bowl into a tie, and a 44-yard
attempt with just three seconds to go would have won it for Mizzou, but
the Tigers' terrifyingly accurate kicker suffered a rare miss to send
the game into overtime, which sent Wildcat fans into hysterics.
For NU, 60 years of bowl futility were possibly going to close with
glory in an overtime game, and NU was 8-1 in overtime games coming into
the Alamo Bowl. The 'Cats' only previous overtime loss: in Texas,
And, indeed, The Wildcats again fell in overtime in the Lone Star
State, as Chase Daniel orchestrated a touchdown drive in the first
overtime set. NU found itself, after a recovered fumble on third
down, looking at a fourth down and goal from the 31-yard line.
The Hail Mary, hanging in space for a flicker of time, carried six
decades of hopes, hopes higher than any sane fan would have dreamt in
the summer of 2008, hopes that woke up during that flicker of time and
then began their slumber anew, as the ball hit the Alamo turf.