EditorsNote: Edit 1: Corrects name in sixth graf and other edits throughout.
No. 22 Northwestern scored four touchdowns in the third quarter — taking advantage of three turnovers — to rally from a 17-point halftime deficit and beat No. 17 Utah 31-20 on Monday night in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
Wildcats quarterback Clayton Thorson threw two touchdown passes in the game-turning scoring barrage and finished 21 of 30 for 241 yards with the two touchdown passes and an interception. Isaiah Browser picked up 69 of his 70 rushing yards in the second half for the Wildcats (9-5).
Utah (9-5) is now 11-2 in bowl games under 15-year coach Kyle Whittingham.
The Utes played without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley (collarbone) and senior linebacker Chase Hansen (hip). Both players were a game-time decision. Huntley has not played since Nov. 3, when he suffered his injury in a loss at Arizona State. Hansen had his injury in the Pac-12 championship game against Washington.
Jason Shelley, a redshirt freshman, entered the bowl game with a 3-1 record after taking over for Huntley. He was effective in the first half against Northwestern, but had trouble in the second half.
Shelley capped scoring drives in two of Utah’s first three possessions with touchdown passes to put the Utes up 14-0 in the first quarter. He completed a 27-yard scoring strike to Jaylen Dixon to cap a 62-yard drive 9:12 into the game, then hit Jake Jackson with a 4-yard touchdown pass that completed a 45-yard drive after Utah’s defense stuffed Northwestern on a fourth-and-1 attempt.
The teams scored field goals in the second quarter, starting with a 21-yarder by Northwestern’s Charlie Kuhbander with 8:42 left to cut the lead to 14-3.
Matt Gay then made field goals from 32 and 20 yards on Utah’s last two possessions of the half. His second field goal, with five seconds remaining, gave the Utes a 20-3 lead at halftime.
Three turnovers, including an interception and fumble lost by Shelley, helped Northwestern rally to take a 24-20 lead with 4:39 left in the third quarter.
After Shelley threw his first interception, picked off by Blake Gallagher, Thorson threw a 52-yard pass to Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman on the next play then followed that with a 4-yard scoring strike to Riley Lees with 13:13 left in the quarter to cut the lead to 20-10.
Two possessions later, Shelley fumbled on a sack by Joe Gaziano and Jared McGee returned it 82 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-17 with 6:40 left in the quarter.
The Utes coughed up the ball again on the next possession, with Dixon fumbling on a hit by Trae Williams. Northwestern scored two plays later on a 20-yard pass from Thorson to Trey Klock. That gave Northwestern a 24-20 lead with 4:39 left in the quarter.
Northwestern closed the scoring in the third quarter on a six-play, 67-yard drive capped by an 8-yard run by Lees.
—Field Level Media