NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Justin Jackson ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 20 Northwestern held off Kentucky 24-23 on Friday in a Music City Bowl that might be remembered more for injuries, ejections and a wild finish.
Both starting quarterbacks left in the first half with injuries, though Kentucky's Stephen Johnson returned early in the third quarter. Kentucky lost running back Benny Snell Jr. to an ejection for contact with an official early in the second quarter, and Northwestern lost leading tackler and linebacker Paddy Fisher before halftime when he was ejected for targeting.
Northwestern (10-4) still finished off back-to-back bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time in program history, and the Wildcats notched their second 10-win season in three years under coach Pat Fitzgerald. The senior class also won its 27th game for the best stretch in more than a decade.
Kentucky (7-6) had a chance to win after Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald tried to convert his fifth fourth down of the game only to turn it over for the fourth time on downs — this time at his own 39 with 2:31 left. Johnson ran for his second touchdown of the second half with 37 seconds left. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops went for the 2-point conversion rather than play for overtime, but Johnson couldn't connect with Tavin Richardson on the pass.
With quarterback Clayton Thorson knocked out early in the second with a right knee injury, Northwestern outran Kentucky 333-65. Safety Kyle Quiero provided the winning margin taking Northwestern's second interception 26 yards for a TD with 7:49 left.