I wouldn’t be overstating anything if I said Northwestern’s first half against Utah in the Holiday Bowl was one of the worst halves NU played all season. Then, in true San Diego fashion, everything changed.
First, Utah QB Jason Shelley stepped up and threw a terrible pass right into the arms of Blake Gallagher to gift the Wildcats a turnover. On the very next play, Clayton Thorson extended the play with his legs before finding Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman for a 52-yard completion. Riley Lees aided his teammate with an awesome crackback block:
Thorson then found Lees in the end zone to close the gap to 20-10.
The teams traded punts before Utah responded with an excellent drive into the NU redzone. On 1st and goal from the 6, Joe Gaziano chased down Shelley and stripped the ball from behind. Jared McGee, moonlighting as a linebacker, scooped up the ball and scampered 82 yards for an NU score. 20-17, Utah.
The Utes’ turnover woes continued. Utah appeared to have converted a 3rd and 6 when Shelley found Jaylen Dixon downfield, but Trae Williams stripped the ball. JR Pace bounced on the pigskin and returned the ball 34 yards to the Ute 31.
Clearly enjoying the madness, Mick McCall dialed up an absurd playcall. J.B. Butler and Trey Klock lined up as eligible receivers, and Thorson looked for Klock up the seam. Klock, a grad transfer who played offensive line at Georgia Tech, was a natural at receiver, hauling in the pass for a 20-yard score. 24-20, NU. On a touchdown catch by a 285-pound behemoth of a man.
Trey Klock with the last-minute @piesmantrophy bid. Some qualifications:— Davis Rich (@DavisRich1) January 1, 2019
1) Klock listed at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds. Piesman ✅
2 He's grad transfer who appeared in 22 games along the offensive line for Georgia Tech. Piesman ✅.
3) 1ST CAREER CATCH! FOR A TD! Piesman ✅ pic.twitter.com/1nMw1P046Z
NU’s defense forced a three-and-out, before the offense marched 67 yards down the field on six plays. The Wildcats capped things off with a 6-yard TD run by Riley Lees out of the Wildcat formation. It was Lees’ first career rushing touchdown and his second score of the quarter. In five minutes of game time, NU scored 21 points.
It didn’t stop there. On Utah’s next possession, a Shelley pass bounced off the hands of his receiver and into the waiting arms of Pace for another interception. NU ran one more play before the quarter expired.
A reminder: It was 20-3, Utah, at the beginning of the quarter. At the end, it was 31-20, Northwestern.
biggest momentum change for the state of Utah since the Mormons arrived in 1847— Inside NU (@insidenu) January 1, 2019
I can’t think of a better way for this 2018 Northwestern season to end. They still have to play the fourth quarter, though.