Played December 28, 2016
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
Northwestern's 2016 regular season record: 6-6 overall, 5-4
conference. Tied for fourth place, B1G West; tied for seventh place, Big Ten
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
Captains: Austin Carr, Matt Harris, Connor Mahoney, Anthony Walker
NU/Pitt series record (prior to bowl): series was tied, 3-3
'Cats Take Pinstripe Bowl, 31-24
|Pitt: Blewitt 46-yard FG, Q1 11:53
|NU 0, Pitt 3
|NU: Justin Jackson 8-yard run (Jack Mitchell kick), Q2 14:31
|NU 7, Pitt 3
|NU: Jackson 16-yard run (Mitchell kick), Q2 03:08
|NU 14, Pitt 3
|Pitt: Peterman 69-yard pass to Weah (Blewitt kick), Q2 02:51
|NU 14, Pitt 10
|Pitt: Peterman 5-yard run (Blewitt kick), Q3 13:13
|NU 14, Pitt 17
|NU: Jackson: 40-yard run (Mitchell kick), Q3 07:47
|NU 21, Pitt 17
|Pitt: DiNucci 6-yard pass to Aston (Blewitt kick), Q4 13:15
|NU 21, Pitt 24
|NU: Clayton Thorson 21-yard pass to Garrett Dickerson (Mitchell kick),
|NU 28, Pitt 24
|NU: Mitchell 37-yard FG, Q4 06:14
|NU 31, Pitt 24
Walker, in his final game in purple. [AP Image]
Northwestern's trip to New York was, apparently, a journey for vengeance.
Fans were mostly unaware of just how angry the Wildcats were, angry at
being underestimated, at the assumption that the team would repeat its
January bowl flop when it entered Yankee Stadium and faced #23 Pitt in
the Pinstripe Bowl. Northwestern took that desire for vengeance and transmuted it
into a sterling postseason performance, leading Pitt for much of the
game and winning, 31 to 24.
Leading NU's charge was The Ball Carrier, Justin Jackson, who
purple-fisted his way to 224 net yards (down from 226 yards in the
initial stats) rushing and three touchdowns. Jackson's effort was a
stunner: he slashed, juked, bullied, and seemingly flew past baffled Pitt
defenders to a Pinstripe Bowl rushing record.
Actually, maybe he did fly past Pitt. [Getty Image]
JJTBC came just 13 yards
from NU's bowl rushing record (set by Jason Wright in Detroit). Jackson
received the bowl MVP honors, and he set up-- one hopes-- the
groundwork for a 2017 Heisman campaign.
The Pinstripe Bowl was fought on the ground. Jackson's 32 rushing plays
tied another NU bowl record and equaled Pitt's rushing plays, spread
across nine players. However, the unsung Wildcat is Clayton Thorson,
whose touchdown pass to Garrett Dickerson gave Thorson the NU
single-season touchdown passing record, a surprising feat considering
how little hype Thorson received during 2016. If scores were to be
settled and cases were to be made during the Pinstripe bowl, consider
them settled and made. Thorson's offensive line, while shaky at times,
turned in a fantastic effort, a substantial improvement vs. the
beginning of the season. For NU's most maligned squad, the win over
Pitt must be particularly satisfying.
One singularly satisfying thing about the Wildcat offense was the play
calling. Coach McCall mixed it up, calling throws on first down,
misdirection, well-timed running plays, and a great use of Jackson,
John Moton, Austin Carr, and Garrett Dickerson. Coach Fitzgerald and
McCall put on an aggressive game, and the 'Cats delivered, going 4 for
4 on fourth downs, using a different mix of tactics for each.
The Wildcat defense also came out pissed off and fired up, and it
blasted the Panthers, holding them to their lowest point production for
all of 2016. The team that knocked off Penn State, upended Clemson, and
hung 76 points on Syracuse was befuddled for much of the game. Pitt
notched just 18 first downs, going 6 for 13 on third downs and--
crucially-- 0 for 2 on fourth downs. One of those fourth downs
concluded a first quarter, four-down goal line stand by Northwestern.
That drive rivals NU's 1962 goal line stand against #6 Ohio State as
the greatest-ever defensive effort by the team.
The NU defense followed up the phenomenal stand at Pitt's goal with
three interceptions during the game, each at a critical moment, each
helping to break Pitt's will. Godwin Igwebuike, Kyle Queiro, and Jared
McGee each picked Pitt and helped NU dominate time of possession. The
'Cats had over 35 minutes TOP, a stat they needed to hit if they were
to win the game.
Trae Williams led the defense with five solo tackles, and Anthony
Walker was not far behind, racking up four solo tackles. Walker had a
solid game, for what has turned out to be his final appearance in an NU
Next to the offensive line, Northwestern's kicker, Jack Mitchell, had
received perhaps the greatest amount of criticism during the season.
Mitchell, however, performed flawlessly at Yankee Stadium, provoking
memories of his performance at Notre Dame Stadium. Mitchell's four
extra points ties an NU bowl record, and his 37-yard field goal gave NU
the assurance of at least overtime, if not a regulation win.
The players and coaches are to be commended for defying expectations
and turning in a great win against a very skilled opponent. The win
comes at a key moment for the program, and it helps reset expectations
for fans and non-fans alike. Now, Northwestern fans are not just hoping
for success; they will once again expect victory.
Pinstripe Party Page
Online Video of NU's PInstripe Bowl Championship
The Empire State Building, lit Northwestern purple. [Pinstripe Bowl Image]
Thorson get ready to air it out. [AP Image]
Celebrate! [AP Image]
Northwestern Record Vs. Pitt
The 'Cats had not played Pitt since 1973. All-time, NU was 3-3 against the Panthers before 2016:
- 1949: Pitt 16, NU 7--
Northwestern's first game against Pitt was a disappointment, a sign of
things to come for a disappointing year after NU's Rose Bowl season.
This was the second game played at Dyche Stadium after the introduction
of the south end zone enclosure in the stadium, which held 41,000 for
the loss to Pitt. "We played lousy football," was Coach Voigts'
NU and Pitt in 1949. #15 is Ed Tunnicliff, on of NU's stars in the '49 Rose Bowl
- 1950: NU 28, Pitt 23--
The following year, Pitt returned to Dyche, and NU had its revenge. The
'Cats won their fourth straight game of 1950 by launching a passing
attack. 35,000 fans watched NU throw four TD passes.
- 1953: NU 27, Pitt 21--
This game was also played at Dyche, and it was one of only three wins
for NU in '53. "We played our most aggressive game, both offensively
and defensively," said Coach Voigts afterward.
- 1954: Pitt 14, NU 7--
NU's first game at Pitt was a close loss during a meager two-win
season. However, the 'Cats suffered numerous injuries at Pittsburgh,
including losing co-captain John Damore, which doomed the season.
- 1972: NU 27, Pitt 22--
After playing four games with Pitt in six years, the series went
dormant for 18 years, until the teams agreed to a home and home series
in the '70s. The first game was at Pitt, and NU trailed the Panthers,
22-21 in the fourth quarter. However, a 43-yard run by Greg Boykin gave
the 'Cats the winning score.
- 1973: Pitt 21, NU 14--
The final game in the series was played at Dyche Stadium. Pitt freshman
(and later NFL star) Tony Dorsett went wild with 265 rushing yards,
breaking Pitt's record at the time.
NU's offense stalls against Pitt at Dyche Stadium, 1973
Random Northwestern Records Tied to the Pinstripe Game
Parks: NU has had a rough time of it when it has played football in
baseball parks. The 'Cats have a record of 1 win, 4 losses, and 4 ties
in baseball stadiums:
Park-- NU played one game in this stadium (two venues before the
current Cubs home in Wrigley Field), a tie vs. Lake Forest in 1891. It
was a home game for NU.
Side Park-- An old baseball park in Chicago, NU played as the road team
to the University of Chicago, which hosted NU and notched a 0-0 tie
with the Purple in 1892.
25th Street Baseball Field-- The site of NU's only win at a site
primarily tied to baseball, it was here that NU hosted Michigan in
1892, for the first game ever between the teams. NU won, 10-8, in one
of the biggest victories for the school to that date. The Purple,
rather than use its typical approach of running around the line,
punched through Michigan's gut to get the win.
Park-- The White Sox's park prior to Comiskey, NU hosted three games
here toward the end of the 1903 season. NU tied both Notre Dame and
Wisconsin, but lost the final game to Carlisle.
Stadium-- While Cleveland Stadium was used for NFL football games, its
primary use was for baseball. NU hosted and lost an infamous game here
to Ohio State in 1991.
Field-- So far, NU has hosted two games here, both with Illinois, and
has lost both. NU (at the time, using the unlikely nickname the Bears)
lost to the Illini here in 1923 and were defeated by Illinois in 2010.
NU will host another team at Wrigley at some point in the next couple
- Wednesday Games:
NU has actually played a lot of games on Wednesday, and the team has a
great record on that particular day, with 19 wins, only 3 losses, and
two ties. All but one of NU's Wednesday games were played from 1890
through 1904, and the Wednesday games included matches with the
University of Chicago, Illinois, IIT, and Lake Forest College. After
1904, NU's only other Wednesday game occured on January 1, 1997, when
Tennessee beat NU in the Citrus Bowl. This year's Pinstripe game will
be held on Wednesday, December 28.
- December Games:
Northwestern has an all-time record of 2-6 in December games. Of these
games, three were regular-season games played in 1888 - 1893, and five
were recent bowl games (the 2000 Alamo, 2003 Motor City, 2005 Sun, 2008
Alamo, and 2011 Texas Bowls).
- Games in New York State:
NU has, until now, played seven games in New York, including losses
against Army at West Point (in 1988 and 2011) and five games at
Syracuse (NU is 2-3 at Syracuse, and last played there in 2012). NU has
played one other
team from New York-- Colgate-- but only at Dyche Stadium.