2016 Pinstripe
Bowl Page


Played December 28, 2016

Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
Attendance: 37,918

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

Opponent: Pittsburgh

NU/Pitt series record (prior to bowl): series was tied, 3-3

  1 2 3 4 F
NU 0 14 7
Pitt 3 7 7 7 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),
       Q4 08:23
NU 28, Pitt 24
NU: Mitchell 37-yard FG, Q4 06:14
NU 31, Pitt 24

'Cats Take Pinstripe Bowl, 31-24

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 uniform.

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

As it did when NU won the 2013 Gator Bowl, HTP put up a special party front page the day that the Wildcats took the Pinstrip Bowl championship.

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' assessment.

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

  • Baseball 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:
    • Cubs 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.
    • South 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.
    • Chicago 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.
    • Sox 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.
    • Cleveland 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.
    • Wrigley 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 of years.
  • 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.