Stefan Demos kicked a 49-yard field goal in the closing seconds, and Northwestern escaped with a 27-24 victory over Eastern Michigan after blowing a 21-point lead Saturday.
Eastern Michigan had just tied it on a 3-yard run by Terrence Blevins with 2:40 remaining, but instead of an upset, the Wildcats (2-0) prevailed.
Northwestern took over on the 42 and drove to the Eastern Michigan 25 before being pushed back to the 50 on a pass-interference call. Mike Kafka then hit Andrew Brewer with an 8-yard pass and a 10-yarder before overthrowing him deep along the left side on third down.
Eastern (0-2) called time with 11 seconds left but couldn’t ice Demos, who drove the ball between the uprights and then got mobbed by teammates near the sideline.
Brian Peters then intercepted a deep pass at the Northwestern 33, and with that, the Wildcats could exhale.
Stephen Simmons rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns, while Jacob Schmidt ran for 61. Kafka completed 14 of 24 passes for 158 yards and had an interception, and that was just enough for the Wildcats to prevail.
Eastern’s Dwayne Priest ran for 127 yards and a touchdown, but the Eagles fell to 0-25 against the Big Ten.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hoped to see a more sustained effort after a 47-14 rout over Towson last week in which the Wildcats appeared to let up after jumping to a 30-0 lead.
This was not what he had in mind.
Northwestern led 21-0 early in the second quarter after two touchdown runs by Simmons and a 70-yard interception return by Ben Johnson, and it was 21-3 at the half.
But Eastern Michigan refused to go quietly, and the Eagles looked like they just might pull off their first win under new coach Ron English while breaking their skid against the Big Ten. As dramatic as the comeback was, the result was familiar.
Things got really interesting early in the fourth quarter, right after Demos kicked a 20-yard field goal that made it 24-10.
Eastern Michigan’s Marty Cardwell recovered a fumbled punt by Brendan Smith at the Northwestern 35, and Andy Schmitt found Jacory Stone for a 25-yard TD pass that made it a seven-point game.
Northwestern then drove to the Eagles’ 25 before Ryan Downard picked off Kafka.
Eastern took over on its 21, and Dwayne Priest immediately broke off a 35-yard run, sparking a drive that culminated with a 3-yard run by Blevins that tied it 24-24 with 2:40 remaining.