Trailing by 21 through three quarters, Northwestern appeared headed toward yet another loss. The Wildcats had other ideas.
Ben Bryant threw a 25-yard touchdown to Charlie Mangieri in overtime, Bryce Kirtz set a career high with 215 yards receiving and caught two TDs, and Northwestern rallied to beat Minnesota 37-34 on Saturday night.
Bryant rolled to his right and found Mangieri on the left side near the goal line for the winning score on the first play after Minnesota’s Dragan Kesich kicked a 20-yard field goal. Fans in the student section poured onto the field, celebrating a rare win for a program that has also been engulfed in a hazing and abuse scandal.
“It's a lot of emotions,” Bryant said. “As a team, we've been through so much. It's so nice to get that victory in the (Big Ten) West and to do it the way we did.”
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Bryant threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns. A.J. Henning caught a tying TD in the closing seconds of regulation. The Wildcats overcame another dazzling performance by Minnesota’s Darius Taylor, who ran for 198 yards and two scores, and pulled out the win after they looked like they were headed toward a lopsided loss.
Northwestern (2-2, 1-1 Big Ten) scored two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter to pull within seven. The Wildcats tied it in the closing seconds of regulation when Henning caught an 11-yard TD, and came away with their second win in three games after losing 12 in a row.
“For the students and the Northwestern community as a whole, what a great rallying moment for us,” interim coach David Braun said.
Bryant, a Cincinnati transfer, completed 33 of 49 passes. He missed on a few deep throws in the first half. But overall, it was just the sort of outing he needed after struggling through the first three games.
“I was really happy with just everyone,” Bryant said. “A ton of people got the ball today, we spread it out. Everyone contributed today. As a whole offense, there's a lot of positives to take away today. And then there's also stuff that we need to improve on.”
Kirtz caught 10 passes, including an 80-yard TD late in the first half. Cam Porter ran for a score, and the Wildcats bounced back from a loss at Duke. They also won their second straight game at Ryan Field — something they hadn’t done since 2021 — after beating UTEP two weeks ago.
“It's just a never-give-up mentality,” defensive back Coco Azema said. “Especially when you're down 31-10, being able to hone in to what we've been doing all summer. We'd gone through hell all summer — workouts, everything that's going on right now — and just being able to fall back on that. We've got a lot to look forward to.”
Taylor was at it again for Minnesota (2-2, 1-1) after capturing back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors.
He scored from the 1 early in the second quarter and set up a field goal near the end of the half with a 41-yard run. He wasn’t finished, breaking off a 43-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 late in the third to bump the lead to 31-10.
Athan Kaliakmanis threw for 191 yards and two scores. But after losing at North Carolina last week, the Gophers let this one slip away.
Minnesota: Taylor continues to emerge as one of the nation's most electrifying players. But this one is sure to sting for the Gophers.
Northwestern: Bryant looked like a different quarterback in this one and helped lead the Wildcats to a win that seemed out of reach.
Minnesota: The Gophers host Louisiana next Saturday, with a home game against No. 2 Michigan the following week looming.
Northwestern: The schedule doesn't get any easier, with No. 7 Penn State visiting next Saturday.