Northwestern sure is getting used to this overtime thing.
For the second straight game, the Wildcats needed more than 60 minutes to determine a winner, and for the second straight game, the Cats scored a win in extra time. This time, it was Northwestern taking down the 16th-ranked team in the country, Michigan State, in a 39-31 thriller in Evanston.
The Cats nearly won it in regulation, breaking a 10-all tie with a fourth-quarter, trick-play touchdown pass from Justin Jackson and holding a seven-point edge into the game's final minute. But Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke led the Spartans on a last-minute scoring drive, tying the game with a touchdown with 25 seconds left and forcing overtime.
Clayton Thorson pitched a touchdown pass in the first overtime, a feat matched by Lewerke. Lewerke put the Spartans in front in the second overtime, only for Jackson to tie the game with a scoring rush. Thorson tossed a 22-yard pass to Flynn Nagel on the third play of the third overtime and tacked on a two-point conversion to make it an eight-point game before Michigan State got its shot.
But on the Spartans' second play, Lewerke dropped the ball, picked it back up and heaved a throw to the end zone, where Nate Hall intercepted the pass and ended the game.
It was a thrilling finish to an uncharacteristically offense-heavy game for both teams. Northwestern finished with 432 total yards, Thorson passing for 356 of those. Lewerke racked up an astonishing 445 passing yards and threw four touchdown passes, the bulk of Michigan State's 540 total yards.
It was the Spartans' first loss in conference play and just their second loss on the season. The Cats moved to 5-3 and 3-2 in the Big Ten with their third straight win.
Northwestern will try to make it four straight when it travels to take on Nebraska.