JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Behind huge interceptions early and late, No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl and snapped college football's longest postseason losing streak Tuesday.

The Wildcats (10-3) earned their first bowl game win since 1949, ending a nine-game losing skid that was tied for the longest in NCAA history. They also celebrated double-digit victories for the first time since the 1995 Rose Bowl season.

Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game and Nick Vanhoose set up a late touchdown with a 39-yard interception return. Those plays were the difference in a back-and-forth game that featured more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six).

In between, Northwestern's two-quarterback system kept the Bulldogs (8-5) off balance most of the day.

Scrambler Kain Colter ran for 71 yards, making up for his two interceptions. Backup Trevor Siemian threw for 120 yards and an interception, and also ran for a score.

Even with the turnovers, they were more efficient than Mississippi State's Tyler Russell.

Russell completed 12 of 28 passes for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He had only thrown six picks in the first 11 games this season.

LaDarius Perkins ran 19 times for 84 yards for the Bulldogs, and freshman Josh Robinson added 91 yards on seven carries.

Venric Mark, Northwestern's all-everything back, finished with 56 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.


Mark and Colter were on the field for the final few snaps, watching from afar as the madness started to unfold on their sideline. The Wildcats spent the final 1:42 celebrating the program's first postseason victory since beating Cal in the 1949 Rose Bowl.

"I feel like a big burden has been lifted off our shoulders," Colter said.

Senior defensive tackle Brian Arnfelt doused coach Pat Fitzgerald with a water bucket and then jumped into his arms. Players danced at midfield and then ran toward the stands to recognize friends, family and fans.

"This one goes to all the Wildcats that have been here before us," Fitzgerald said. "They've paved the way for us. ... The sky is the limit for where our program can go. ... We might not be putting the Big Ten championship trophy in our case, but we took a big step forward in accomplishing that mission today."

Mississippi State ended the season losing five of its final six games.

No. 21 Northwestern 34,

Mississippi St. 20

Mississippi St. 0 10 3 7--20

Northwestern 10 3 14 7--34

First Quarter

NU -- Q.Williams 29 interception return (Budzien kick), 14:13.

NU -- FG Budzien 34, 4:49.

Second Quarter

NU -- FG Budzien 37, 14:48.

MSSt -- FG Bell 27, 4:48.

MSSt -- Clark 18 pass from Russell (Bell kick), 1:06.

Third Quarter

MSSt -- FG Bell 47, 10:37.

NU -- Ty.Jones 3 run (Budzien kick), 9:25.

NU -- Siemian 4 run (Budzien kick), :26.

Fourth Quarter

MSSt -- M.Johnson 14 pass from Russell (Bell kick), 11:42.

NU -- Mark 3 run (Budzien kick), 8:10.

A -- 0.


First downs 18 19

Rushes-yards 33-186 40-161

Passing 106 196

Comp-Att-Int 12-29-4 21-36-3

Return Yards (-22) 78

Punts-Avg. 5-43.2 5-43.4

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0

Penalties-Yards 6-47 2-20

Time of Possession 26:12 33:48


RUSHING -- Mississippi St., J.Robinson 7-91, Perkins 19-84, Prescott 2-20, Bumphis 1-3, Russell 4-(minus 12). Northwestern, Colter 11-71, Mark 13-56, Siemian 2-14, Ty.Jones 6-14, Trumpy 3-7, Riley 2-5, Team 3-(minus 6).

PASSING -- Mississippi St., Russell 12-28-4-106, Prescott 0-1-0-0. Northwestern, Siemian 12-20-1-120, Colter 9-16-2-76.

RECEIVING -- Mississippi St., Clark 3-36, Bumphis 3-18, M.Johnson 2-24, C.Smith 2-24, Marcus 1-7, J.Robinson 1-(minus 3). Northwestern, Vitale 7-82, C.Jones 5-39, Fields 2-41, Lawrence 2-18, K.Prater 2-7, Mark 2-3, Riley 1-6.