COLLEGE FOOTBALL : Dream Goes On at Northwestern : Big Ten: Autry gains 110 yards and scores go-ahead touchdown in 31-20 victory over Iowa.
The icy winds were not nearly as numbing to Northwestern as the possibility of losing Saturday. The Wildcats couldn’t let it happen.
Not with the Rose Bowl still beckoning in this improbable season that has been the most surprising in college football.
“We’ve been down before and have faced pressure before. This was no different. We buckled down,” said tailback Darnell Autry, who helped the fifth-ranked Wildcats rally for a 31-20 victory over Iowa, keeping them in the running for a trip to Pasadena.
“They did what they’ve been doing all year, they found a way to win,” said Iowa Coach Hayden Fry, whose team led at the half. “It was a typical game for them, they took advantage of opportunities.”
Northwestern, 9-1 overall and 7-0 in the Big Ten and matching its only other nine-victory season in 1903, did not allow the Hawkeyes to score in the second half, scoring the clinching touchdown on Hudhaifa Ismaeli’s 31-yard fumble return with 2:56 left.
And Autry gained at least 100 yards for the 11th consecutive game and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter.
The Wildcats’ victory, however, was marred by the loss of linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, the top tackler in the Big Ten, who suffered a broken leg in the third quarter and is out for the season finale at Purdue next week and probably for the Wildcats’ first bowl trip since 1949.
Northwestern, winning its school-record eighth game in a row, also ended a 21-game stretch of futility against Iowa, beating the Hawkeyes for the first time since 1973.
Northwestern’s last nine-victory season 92 years ago came against a schedule that included North Division High School, Chicago Dental and Notre Dame.
Northwestern, trailing, 20-17, at the half, regained the lead with a quick 69-yard drive to begin the third quarter. In the fourth, Ismaeli scooped up a fumble by Iowa tight end Derek Price, after a hit by Rodney Ray, and ran it in.
Autry’s three-yard touchdown run capped the drive opening the second half. Autry finished with 110 yards in 32 carries.
Iowa (5-4, 2-4) then ate up the rest of the quarter with an 18-play drive that netted no points.