No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl, snapping a nine-game postseason skid.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The stuffed monkey spent the last year in storage, out of sight but still in everyone’s mind.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald dusted it off for the Gator Bowl and had it on the sideline Tuesday as a reminder of Northwestern’s decades-long losing streak in bowls — the ol’ monkey on their backs.
Now, the monkey is in pieces.
No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20. The Wildcats (10-3) hadn’t won a bowl game since 1949, a nine-game postseason skid that was tied with Notre Dame for the longest in NCAA history.
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As a reward for the victory, Fitzgerald let his players rip the monkey to shreds in the locker room.
“We’ve never been here before, but now we’re here and here to stay with a new streak you can talk about in a positive fashion,” Fitzgerald said after the program’s first bowl victory since a 20-14 decision over California in the 1949 Rose Bowl.
Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the Gator Bowl and Nick VanHoose set up another touchdown with a 39-yard interception return in the fourth for Northwestern. Those plays were important in a back-and-forth game that featured more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six).
“Every time I think about this, I start to tear up a little bit,” Williams said of the victory. “This is just a fantastic happening for our school.”
Quarterback Tyler Russell of the Bulldogs (8-5) was 12 of 28 for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and four passes that were picked off.
DALLAS — So much for the idea that Oklahoma State didn’t care about playing in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Clint Chelf threw three of his team’s five touchdown passes and the Cowboys shook off a tough Big 12 Conference finish by rolling up 524 yards and forcing five Purdue turnovers in a dominating 58-14 victory.
Oklahoma State (8-5) rebounded from an overtime loss to Oklahoma and a 41-34 setback at Baylor to end the regular season. The Cowboys won by their biggest margin in a bowl since their coach, Mike Gundy, was the quarterback in a 62-14 rout of Wyoming in the 1989 Holiday Bowl.
Purdue quarterback Robert Marve didn’t get to 100 yards passing until Oklahoma State led 45-0 as the Boilermakers (6-7) fell to 0-4 in games played on New Year’s Day.
“When you turn the ball over five times, you don’t take advantage of your opportunities, the game can turn out like this,” said interim Purdue coach Patrick Higgins, who welcomed fired coach Danny Hope into the locker room.