EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) Quarterback Clayton Thorson scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes and Northwestern beat Nevada 31-20 in Saturday’s opener for both teams.
Trailing 20-17 in the fourth quarter, Thorson directed a 75-yard drive that culminated in his following the block of right guard Tommy Doles to crash the end zone for a 24-20 lead. Thorson scored on another 1-yard plunge with 52 seconds to play, ending Nevada’s upset hopes in Jay Norvell’s first game as Wolf Pack coach.
”To get to the locker room down two (scores) and go back in two shows a lot of resiliency,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ”But we’ve got a ton of work to do.”
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Nevada led 17-7 after a pair of Ty Gangi touchdown passes and Spencer Pettit’s 31-yard field goal late in the first half, but squandered the advantage in the third quarter. Following Charlie Kuhbander’s 23-yard field goal, Northwestern tied the game at 17 on Thorson’s 19-yard TD pass to Riley Lee.
”I had some throws I wish I could have taken back; decisions I wish I could have taken back,” said Gangi, whose one interception stopped a drive on the Northwestern 20. ”We came to win. We just didn’t come out on top.”
Spencer Pettit’s 33-yard field goal with 10:13 to play moved Nevada ahead, 20-17. But Thorson, 6 of 7 pass completions on the subsequent drive and 28 of 38 for 352 yards overall, moved Northwestern to the 1-yard line, then ran it in for the score that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack showed plenty in Norvell’s first game as head coach, for three quarters.
Northwestern: Thorson’s 163.6 quarterback rating may not hold up all year, but it signified why coach Pat Fitzgerald has faith in the junior.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack return home to host MAC foe Toledo next week.
Northwestern: The Wildcats travel to Duke for a rematch of last year’s 24-13 Northwestern win.