Auburn hangs tough
• Photo gallery: Outback Bowl
TAMPA, Fla. — Pat Fitzgerald reached into Northwestern's bag of tricks one more time, hoping to pull out the perfect play to give his team a dramatic victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
"I've had it in my back pocket for four years, and people tell me I'm too conservative. So I said, 'What the heck. We're here to win, so let's go,' " Fitzgerald said after a version of the old fumblerooskie failed in overtime, leaving the Wildcats with a 38-35 loss yesterday.
"And I'd do it again," the 35-year-old coach said. "Next time I'd score, though, and we'd be celebrating."
Wes Byrum kicked a 21-yard field goal in overtime, and Auburn (8-5) overcame several mistakes, including a costly pair of penalties, that gave Northwestern chances for their first bowl victory in 61 years.
On the game's final play, the Wildcats sent backup kicker Steve Flaherty onto the field seemingly to try to force a second overtime.
But with regular kicker Stefan Demos on the sideline after being injured earlier in the overtime, Fitzgerald wasn't playing for the tie.
"I just kind of felt like the stars were aligned there when we lost Stef," Fitzgerald said, adding the "modern-day fumblerooskie" was one of coach Randy Walker's favorite plays at Northwestern.
Walker died of an apparent heart attack in 2006, and Fitzgerald was promoted as his replacement.
"We played for the win," Fitzgerald said. "Unfortunately we ended up a little bit short."
Receiver Zeke Markshausen took a handoff between the legs from holder Dan Persa and circled right end to try to win the game. Auburn's Neiko Thorpe stopped him after a 3-yard gain to the 2.
"When I saw where everyone was lined up I knew something was up," Thorpe said. "It was just so quick and I was afraid I was the only person who saw it. But on the replay you could see there were a lot of people pursuing the play."
NORTHWESTERN 7 0 14 14 0—35
AUBURN 14 7 0 14 3—38
Aub—Burns 1 run (Byrum kick), 12:25.
Aub—McFadden 100 interception return (Byrum kick), 4:37.
NU—Brewer 39 pass from Kafka (Demos kick), 2:04.
Aub—Carr 46 pass from Todd (Byrum kick), 8:54.
NU—Brewer 35 pass from Kafka (Demos kick), 2:42.
NU—Dunsmore 66 pass from Kafka (Demos kick), :27.
Aub—Tate 5 run (Byrum kick), 10:10.
Aub—Tate 7 run (Byrum kick), 7:32.
NU—Kafka 2 run (kick blocked), 3:20.
NU—Stewart 18 pass from Kafka (B.Mitchell pass from Brewer), 1:15.
Aub—FG Byrum 21.
First downs 33 18
Rushes-yards 37-93 39-190
Passing 532 235
Comp-Att-Int 47-78-5 20-33-2
Return Yards 1 103
Punts-Avg. 5-31.6 6-42.2
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 3-25 12-140
Time of Possession 34:11 25:49
RUSHING—Northwestern, Schmidt 8-36, Kafka 20-34, A.Fields 3-8, Markshausen 2-7, Simmons 3-7, Concannon 1-1. Auburn, Tate 20-108, Zachery 1-50, McCalebb 6-18, Burns 5-16, Fannin 2-14, Team 1-(minus 1), Todd 4-(minus 15).
PASSING—Northwestern, Kafka 47-78-5-532. Auburn, Todd 20-31-0-235, Burns 0-2-2-0.
RECEIVING—Northwestern, Markshausen 12-84, Stewart 10-97, Dunsmore 9-120, Brewer 8-133, Ebert 6-64, D.Fields 1-26, A.Fields 1-8. Auburn, D.Adams 12-142, Fannin 3-10, Zachery 2-11, Carr 1-46, Burns 1-23, Blake 1-3.