"It's tough to win on the road, special against a program like BC that knows how to win," said NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald "To come in here and find a way to get it done, I'm proud of our young men."
The Wildcats were hoping to seal the win by going for it on fourth down, but Boston College's defense came through with the stop. With 1:11 remaining, BC quarterback Chase Rettig was hoping to lead his team to the endzone.
Once again, Northwestern was fighting to finish the game and secure a win.
"I feel like this was just déjà vu," said senior tackle Alex Netter. "I feel like we've been in this position so many times and there's a lot of leadership, a lot of guys with playing experience on the defense, so we trusted in them."
Rettig came through with a key third-down conversion which led the Golden Eagles into Northwestern territory. Two plays later, they were inside the red zone after a 22-yard completion to Bobby Swigert. That's when the unthinkable happened for Boston College.
The clock began to run when the ball was set on the ground. With 14 seconds left, a false start penalty was called. A new NCAA rule instructs for a 10-second run-off on the clock. Suddenly, Boston College had just one more play.
Rettig rolled out to his right and looked for an open receiver, but was blindsided by NU defensive end Vincent Browne.
In the end, the new rule gave Northwestern a big break.
"I'm the biggest fan of the new time run-off rule, it's absolutely awesome, it's pretty sweet," Fitzgerald joked after the game.
As expected through much of the week, Dan Persa did not start. In fact, he did not play, or even put on his uniform. Quarterback "1B" Kain Colter was in charge of the Wildcats' offense and had an impressive debut as a starter.
Colter finished the game completing 17 of 24 passes for 197 yards, while adding 90 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
"I'm just really proud of him," said Jeremy Ebert of Colter. "He battled it out and played his heart out. You can't ask for anything more than that."
With the mobile Colter at quarterback, Northwestern's offense had great success on the ground. The Wildcats rushed for 227 yards on the ground—the most yards allowed by Boston College's defense since 2009.
Boston College took the momentum of the game right from the start. On the first play from scrimmage, Andre Williams busted a 69-yard run down the sidelines, but Jordan Mabin caught him just shy of the endzone. The Golden Eagles had to settle for a field goal.
Colter's biggest mistake of the day came on an errant pass which was intercepted by Luke Kuechly, who returned it to the six yard line. A few plays later, Andre Williams found the endzone. The Golden Eagles had regained control.
With three minutes remaining in the first half, Northwestern was still looking for an answer on offense. That's when Colter took control. He would architect an 80-yard drive down the field, capped off by a three-yard touchdown run.
The Wildcats kept the offense moving in the second half. Once again, Colter led the team down the field for another 80-yard drive. Mike Trumpy finished it off with a five-yard touchdown run.
The second half was dominated by the defense, who held the Golden Eagles to just seven points in the half. Jordan Mabin was pleased with the effort.
"It feels good, it feels really good," said Mabin. "We prided ourselves on finishing. It was fourth quarter, a close one-score game, and we knew either time could win it. We had to finish the game and if we finished the way we knew how we could come away with the win. The defense took that personally and we played as a unit. We played as a solid unit this game and in the fourth quarter and we got the win."
With the first win under their belts, the Wildcats look ahead to their week two matchup with Eastern Illinois. Pat Fitzgerald sees that as an opportunity to make improvements.
"That's what our focus will be," Fitzgerald said. "Most teams make their biggest improvements from week one to week two and that will be our challenge here as we go back to work."