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Saturday, November 12, 2011
Final: Northwestern 28, Rice 6

By Adam Rittenberg


One win away.

Northwestern needs one more victory to secure bowl eligibility after a miserable 2-5 start. The Wildcats won their third consecutive game Saturday thanks to a defense that is showing up in force after struggling mightily during the first two months of the season.

Pat Fitzgerald's crew nearly recorded its first shutout since 2007 before a trick play led to Rice's touchdown with 4:16 left in the game. Fitzgerald continue to say his defense was a few plays away from taking steps, and he has to be pleased with his crew in the past two games. Linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo had a nice day with two tackles for loss.

Northwestern's offense received a career performance from senior receiver Jeremy Ebert, who finished with seven catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Dan Persa threw four touchdown passes and two interceptions, completing 25 of 32 attempts for 372 yards. Despite dealing with injuries all season, Persa has been impressive. Northwestern found its run game late and finished with 533 total yards.

The Wildcats remain at home next week against Minnesota and the following week against Michigan State, likely needing just one more win to reach a bowl for the fourth consecutive season.