Northwestern blew an 18-point lead Saturday on its way to a 38-35 loss to Illinois. But losing a lead in the second half is nothing new to Wildcats fans, who have experienced a number of similar losses over the past few years. Here’s a look at a few of the leads the ‘Cats have squandered throughout the past few seasons against more prominent teams, other than Saturday’s loss to Illinois.
Michigan State 41, Northwestern 38 (Oct. 21, 2006): This was the ultimate college football comeback, quite literally. Northwestern held a 38-3 lead midway through the third quarter – and lost. Michigan State pulled off the greatest comeback in college football history when they scored 38 unanswered points, including the winning field goal with only 13 seconds remaining in the game, giving the Spartans a 41-38 victory. The ‘Cats finished the season 4-8.
Michigan 28, Northwestern 16 (Sept. 29, 2007): Northwestern came out strong in the first half against traditional Big Ten powerhouse Michigan. The ‘Cats even led the Wolverines 16-7 at the half. But Northwestern was only able to score one touchdown that half, and had to settle for three field goals. Michigan was able to take advantage and scored 21 unanswered second-half points, giving them a 28-16 victory and leaving the Wildcats with their third straight loss. Northwestern will take on the Wolverines this Saturday at Ryan Field.
Michigan State 35, Northwestern 27 (Oct. 23, 2010): The undefeated Spartans came into Ryan Field ranked No. 7 in the country, while the Wildcats were 5-1 but coming off a loss to Purdue. Northwestern came out strong and took a 17-0 lead late into the first half. But Michigan State struck back with a Kirk Cousins touchdown pass to Mark Dell with only 2:49 remaining in the first half, and used that momentum to draw within three points early in the third quarter. Although Northwestern took a 24-14 lead after Dan Persa’s third rushing touchdown of the game, Michigan State fought back and won the game 35-27, scoring two touchdowns in the final two minutes.
Penn State 35, Northwestern 21 (Nov. 6, 2010): The final score may have been a bit lopsided, but this game was a tale of two halves. Northwestern jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium, and held that 21-point lead until Penn State scored its first touchdown with only three seconds left in the first half. The Lions were able to use that momentum to gain the lead before the third quarter ended, scoring a total of 35 unanswered points to give Penn State coach Joe Paterno his 400th victory, a 35-21 win over the 'Cats.