Ben Bryant threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Mangieri on Northwestern’s first play of overtime, and the Wildcats rallied for a thrilling 37-34 win over visiting Minnesota on Saturday night in Evanston, Ill.
Bryant completed 33 of 49 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns for Northwestern (2-2, 1-1 Big Ten), which erased a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Bryce Kirtz finished with 10 catches for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Athan Kaliakmanis completed 14 of 19 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns for Minnesota (2-2, 1-1). Darius Taylor finished with 31 carries for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
Minnesota’s first possession of overtime stalled inside the 5-yard line. The Golden Gophers settled for a 20-yard field goal by Dragan Kesich to make it 34-31 ahead of Northwestern’s first drive of overtime.
The Wildcats trailed 31-24 and had no timeouts with 2:07 remaining when they started their final drive of regulation. Bryant led them into the red zone for a last-ditch attempt to force overtime, and he made it happen by connecting with A.J. Henning with two seconds left on the clock.
Jack Olsen converted the point-after attempt to send the game into overtime at 31-all.
The final drive capped a furious second half by Northwestern, which outscored Minnesota 21-0 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats trailed 24-7 at the half and 31-10 when the fourth quarter began.
Northwestern chipped into the halftime deficit with a 37-yard field goal by Olsen that made it 24-10 halfway through the third.
The Golden Gophers did not take long to respond. Taylor scored on a 43-yard run — his longest gain of the freshman’s career thus far — to give Minnesota a 31-10 lead with 2:11 to go in the third quarter.
Again, the Wildcats clawed back. Cam Porter’s 1-yard touchdown made it 31-17 with 12:01 remaining.
Northwestern scored again, a 17-yard strike from Bryant to Kirtz pulling the Wildcats within 31-24 with 9:46 to go. It was the second score of the game for Kirtz, who sneaked behind the secondary and raced for an 80-yard receiving touchdown in the first half.
Kaliakmanis threw a pair of touchdowns before halftime for the Golden Gophers. He found Le’Meke Brockington for a 9-yard score in the first quarter, and he connected with Daniel Jackson for an 18-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Taylor added a 1-yard touchdown run between Kaliakmanis’ scoring passes.