EVANSTON, Ill. – Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one more, but Northwestern (5-4, 5-1 Big Ten) fell, 31-21, to No. 3 Notre Dame (9-0) in front of a sellout crowd under the lights at Ryan Field on Saturday.
Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson scored two one-yard touchdowns in the game, bringing his season total up to six and his career total to 24. Thorson rushed for two touchdowns in a game for the fifth time in his career and the second time in two weeks as he also had two rushing TD’s against Wisconsin last week. He completed a rushing and passing touchdown in the same game for the 14th time in his career.
First-year running back Isaiah Bowser led the Wildcats with 23 attempts for 93 yards and sophomore wide receiver Riley Lees caught his first touchdown of the season.
For the defense, sophomore defensive back Travis Whillock led the team with a career-high 10 tackles, including five solo, becoming the fifth Northwestern player this season to record a double-digit tackle performance.
On Notre Dame’s second possession of the game, Dexter Williams completed a 14-play, 79-yard scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Irish up 7-0 at 6:28 in the first quarter.
With just under 2:30 left in the first, senior cornerback Montre Hartage forced a pass breakup and senior linebacker Nate Hall recorded a tackle for loss on third down, forcing the Irish to kick a field goal. Justin Yoon missed the 44-yard kick wide left, keeping Northwestern within seven.
On Northwestern’s following possession, a 10-yard pass from Thorson to senior wide receiver Flynn Nagel gave the ‘Cats the ball on their own 41-yard line. Bowser carried the ball for a series of rushes and Thorson threw a nine-yard pass to senior superback James Prather to move Northwestern up to the Notre Dame 38-yard line. After handing the ball off to Bowser again, Northwestern elected to go for it on fourth-down-and-five. Junior wide receiver Bennett Skowronek made a one-handed seven-yard catch over his shoulder to get the first down for the ‘Cats. Four plays later, Thorson rushed for a one-yard touchdown up the middle to tie the score at seven with 8:04 in the second quarter.
On Notre Dame’s first possession of the second half, Ian Book completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Miles Boykin at 7:28 in the third quarter to cap off an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive and give the Irish a 14-7 advantage.
On the following possession for the Irish, Book completed a 47-yard touchdown pass to Michael Young with 2:33 left in the third quarter to finish off a six-play, 98-yard scoring drive and pull the Irish ahead, 21-7.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Yoon converted a 43-yard field goal at 13:05 to end a five-play, 29-yard scoring drive and give the Irish a 17-point lead.
Northwestern responded on its following possession as an 11-yard pass from Thorson to junior superback Cameron Green gave the Wildcats the ball on their own 44-yard line. A 20-yard run by Bowser followed by a nine-yard completion to junior wide receiver Charlie Fessler moved the ‘Cats up to the Notre Dame 27-yard line. Thorson threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Lees at 11:16 to pull Northwestern within 10.
After Notre Dame was unable to convert the third down on their following possession, redshirt first-year cornerback Cameron Ruiz blocked the punt, giving Northwestern the ball at the Notre Dame 17-yard line. On Northwestern’s first play of the drive, Thorson completed a 13-yard pass to Green, moving the ‘Cats up to the four-yard line. Bowser picked up a few yards for the Wildcats and then, on fourth-down-and-one, Thorson rushed for his second one-yard touchdown of the day with 7:05 left in the game, cutting the deficit to three.
Notre Dame extended its lead to 10 and on the next possession and led for the remainder of the game as Book rushed for a 23-yard touchdown at 2:45, completing a 10-play, 89-yard scoring drive for the Irish.
Chicago’s Big Ten team returns to action when it travels to Iowa City, Iowa, to take on the Hawkeyes on Saturday, November 10. The time of the game is still to be determined.
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