DETROIT (AP) -- It took Northwestern three quarters to resemble the team that scored 97 points in its last two games.
C.J. Bacher ran and threw for fourth-quarter touchdowns, helping the Wildcats hold off Eastern Michigan 26-14 in a nonconference game at Ford Field.
Bacher finished 25-of-42 for 361 yards and a touchdown, and Omar Conteh added 122 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
"We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "Luckily, we made some big plays when we needed them."
The Wildcats (5-3) were coming off two wild overtime wins -- 48-41 over Michigan State and 49-48 over Minnesota -- but it was their defense that saved them against the Eagles. Northwestern forced three turnovers inside its own 10, and also stopped Eastern Michigan on downs at the 4.
"That's the defense we have seen glimpses of all season," Fitzgerald said. "People forget that, even with the number of points we've allowed, our defense has made plays at the end of these last two games to win them. Today, they made them all night."
Still, Northwestern didn't put the game away until Bacher hit Kim Thompson for a 71-yard touchdown pass with 2:44 left.
"We needed to make that play," Eastern coach Jeff Genyk said. "We had a third down in a one-possession game, and Bacher hits that throw. Even then, we've got two of our best tacklers in position to make the tackle at midfield, and Thompson bounces off them like he's Superman. That's just execution."
Kyle McMahon was 28-of-48 for 282 yards with three interceptions for the Eagles (2-6). A freshman making his first start, he also carried 13 times for 44 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"The turnovers in the red zone really hurt us," Genyk said. "I think Kyle was so good in spots that he almost felt invincible, and that led him fall into a couple of Northwestern traps at the wrong time. They changed a couple coverages and he didn't see it."
Eastern Michigan, which has lost four straight, scored first on McMahon's 5-yard run late in the first quarter, but didn't score again until there was less than 5 minutes left in the game.
After Amando Villarreal kicked a 25-yard field goal late in the first quarter, the Eagles' Dontayo Gage ran the ensuing kickoff back to the Northwestern 24. Three plays later, freshman tailback Dwayne Priest fumbled on second down inside the 5 and the Wildcats recovered.
Northwestern answered with a 96-yard drive that took just 3:13, capped by Conteh's 12-yard run.
Eastern Michigan was moving again when Brad Phillips intercepted McMahon's pass at the Northwestern 32. This time the Wildcats stalled at the Eastern Michigan 10 and Villarreal kicked the field goal to make it 13-7.
Northwestern wasted an early scoring chance in the third quarter when Conteh fumbled at the 2, but Eastern couldn't take advantage, as Zach Johnson missed a 47-yard field goal.
Eastern Michigan made another key mistake midway through the fourth, when a facemask penalty gave Northwestern first-and-goal at the 1. Bacher's sneak made it 19-7 with 7 1/2 minutes to go.
McMahon's 19-yard run pulled the Eagles within 19-14 with 4:54 left, but Bacher found Thompson across the middle on third-and-6, and he bounced off a tackler before outrunning the secondary to the end zone.
Thompson, a Detroit native, finished with five catches for 133 yards.
"That's a big game and, obviously, a huge play from Kim in his hometown," Fitzgerald said.