12:00 PM ET, November 8, 2003
Ryan Field, Evanston, IL
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Brett Basanez threw a 41-yard touchdown pass that was batted into the air by two defenders and caught by Brandon Horn for the go-ahead score in Northwestern's 17-7 win over Penn State on Saturday.
The loss was the sixth in a row for Penn State (2-8, 0-6 Big Ten), its longest losing skid under coach Joe Paterno. The last time the Nittany Lions lost six straight was in 1931.
With the game tied at 7, Basanez dropped back and threw a deep pass over the middle -- a yard or two short of his receiver.
Yaacov Yisrael had a play on the ball and nearly intercepted it when teammate Rich Gardner leaped up and knocked it out of his grasp. The ball bounced up in the air and into the hands of Horn.
It was the second of two bizarre plays that helped Northwestern (5-5, 3-3) take over the game in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats trailed 7-0 and faced fourth-and-7 at the 19 when they ran a trick play similar to the one that helped them beat Wisconsin two weeks ago. Northwestern brought its field goal unit onto the field, with holder Eric Batis running under center and taking the snap. He faked a handoff and sprinted around the left end for a first down. Jason Wright then ran it in from 6 yards.
Noah Herron had 180 yards rushing on 35 carries for the Wildcats, who added a late 27-yard field by Brian Huffman.
Penn State was in control most of the game before falling apart late -- just as it did last week in a loss to Ohio State.
Penn State led 7-0 and came up with a huge stop early in the third quarter, stuffing Northwestern on fourth down from the 1 when freshman linebacker Paul Posluszny fought off a blocker and wrapped up Herron short of the end zone.
The Wildcats got the ball back at their own 30 and reeled four straight first downs -- only to have Herron fumble at the Penn State 9 after tripping over a teammate.
The Penn State defense, which forced three turnovers, appeared to tire late in the fourth quarter when it gave up all 17 Northwestern points.
Playing in a light snow, Penn State also missed field goal attempts of 27 and 34 yards in the first half but still lead 7-0 at halftime.
The Nittany Lions took the lead on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Zack Mills in the first half. Northwestern had Penn State stopped at the 8, but the Wildcats were called for pass interference in the end zone on third down to give Penn State another chance at the 2.
Mills dove over the top two plays later for the TD -- although replays showed the ball was well short of crossing the goal line.
Michael Robinson, who didn't play last week against Ohio State, made several key plays during the Penn State scoring drive. He had a catch for 12 yards and a first down, rushed for a 7-yard gain and then caught a 15-yard pass to get Penn State to the 8.
Sean McHugh led Penn State with 79 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Penn State lost one of its top defenders early in the game. Senior linebacker Gino Capone, tied for first in the Big Ten in tackles, was helped off the field in the first quarter with a right leg injury. He didn't return.