LINCOLN, Neb. — Northwestern has no problem working overtime. None at all, it seems.
The Wildcats’ 31-24 victory over Nebraska on Saturday made them the first Football Bowl Subdivision program in history to play three consecutive games that have gone to overtime and win them all.
“I definitely think it’s our mentality going in,” linebacker Paddy Fisher said. “You get to play some more football. There’s nothing better than that. You just take it up another notch.”
Northwestern had the ball first in overtime for the third straight game, and Thorson sneaked into the end zone on fourth-and-1 for the go-ahead touchdown. The Wildcats’ defense came up with a big sack and pass breakup to give them their fourth straight win after an 0-2 start in Big Ten play.
Northwestern (6-3, 4-2), which became bowl eligible for a third straight year, came to Lincoln off a 39-31 triple-overtime win at Michigan State. The week before the Wildcats beat Iowa 17-10 in overtime at home.
“I think our guys have some confidence in tight games,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “To see the look in their eye in overtime — we’re going to win the game.”
Northwestern scored the tying touchdown with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter, and Thorson’s pass to the end zone was broken up on the final play of regulation.
In overtime, the Cornhuskers (4-5, 3-3) kept Thorson out of the end zone on third-and-goal from the 1. Northwestern chose to go for the touchdown rather than kick a field goal, and Thorson got into the end zone on the next play with a push from Trey Pugh.
On Nebraska’s possession, freshman defensive tackle Samdup Miller sacked Tanner Lee on second down for a 10-yard loss. After Lee hit Tyler Hoppes for 8 yards to set up a fourth-and-12, Kyle Queiro broke up a pass intended for JD Spielman to end the game.
“We’re obviously disappointed in our finish,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “It felt like there had been some good football and then it felt deflated right through and into the overtime. The defense did their best after giving up some yardage early in the overtime to keep them out. It went to fourth down and we didn’t quite get it done.”
Northwestern: The Wildcats, who have won three of four meetings in Lincoln since the Huskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, took sole possession of second place in the Big Ten West.
Nebraska: Lee had shaken off the interception bug the last month, but his three picks against Northwestern gives him 13 for the season.
Northwestern’s Justin Jackson scored on a 17-yard run in the first quarter, his school-record 39th career touchdown. He ran 31 times for 154 yards and has 798 yards in nine games. He has three games and a bowl to get the 202 yards he needs to hit 1,000 for a fourth straight year.
“The line was working,” he said. “I think they did a great job. Credit goes to them, man. They’ve been working the last month, month and a half, getting better every single day. You’re seeing that on the field.”
QUITE A DAY, QUEIRO
Northwestern’s Queiro intercepted two passes, broke up three and finished with six tackles. Queiro tipped away a deep ball intended for JD Spielman that probably would have gone for a touchdown, and he had the breakup on the game’s final play.
“Not to be corny, but I thought I left some plays on the field,” Queiro said. “On the same note, I was fortunate to make those plays. The coaches put me in the right position.”
BROWN PASSES BROTHER
Nebraska’s Drew Brown kicked a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter for the 58th of his career. He passed his brother, Kris (1995-98), for second place on the school field-goal chart.
Northwestern hosts Purdue on Saturday.
Nebraska visits Minnesota on Saturday.