Best of 2016 Pinstripe Bowl: Northwestern tops Pitt in back-and-forth affair

Best of 2016 Pinstripe Bowl: Northwestern tops Pitt in back-and-forth affair

Northwestern faced a tough draw in Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl. Not only did the Panthers beat the Big Ten champ (Penn State) and the ACC champ (Clemson), they boasted one the nation’s most explosive offenses.

No problem, the Wildcats were up to the challenge, claiming an exciting, back-and-forth 31-24 decision Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

BEST OF THE PINSTRIPE BOWL

Best play: This is a tough one. Is it the fourth-down goal line stop on James Conner, Justin Jackson’s acrobatic TD, or Kyle Queiro’s game-sealing interception? Let’s go with the Northwestern running back’s highlight TD. The guy has to have some gymnastics in his background, right?

Best player: Justin Jackson, Northwestern. Jackson ran all over the Panthers, to the tune of 226 yards and three touchdowns. Jackson held the Pinstripe Bowl record for rushing yards for a brief moment, before losing six yards on his next carry. Simply put, the guy is an absolute stud who doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

Best moment: When in New York …

Best stat: 3, the victory marked Northwestern’s third bowl game victory in program history, the last two coming under Pat Fitzgerald.

GRADES

Offense: B. As good as Justin Jackson was, and he was fantastic, the Wildcats were unable to take advantage of a Pitt pass defense that entered the game 115th in FBS in pass yards allowed. Clayton Thorson finished 23-of-36 for one touchdown and one interception, while Big Ten Receiver of the Year Austin Carr was limited to 51 yards

Defense: A-. Northwestern held Pitt to 18 points under its season average (42.3), no doubt aided by game-ending injuries to star running back James Conner and quarterback Nathan Peterman. The Wildcats also picked off three passes, the biggest coming via Kyle Queiro in the final minute to seal the victory, and stuffed James Conner on an early 4th-and-goal.

Special teams: B-. The good: Hunter Niswander booted four punts for 120 yards, and Jack Mitchell made his lone FG (37 yards). The bad: Northwestern had a punt blocked.

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