JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Streak is over: Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 on Tuesday in the Gator Bowl, a victory that ends the school’s nine-game bowl losing streak.

The Wildcats' streak had been tied for longest in NCAA history. It spanned 64 seasons.

It gives Northwestern its third 10-win season, just its second bowl victory (with the 1949 Rose) and lets Pat Fitzgerald stand alone among NU coaches. He is Northwestern's winningest coach (50-39).
Fitzgerald, his voice in tatters, said on the Gator Bowl podium after the game: "We tell our guys: Act like you’ve been there before. Well, we haven’t been there before. As (linebacker) David Nwabuisi just said: 'We’re here now.’ And we’re here to stay!'"

And then he insisted on another singing of the fight song, screaming: "Let ‘em hear you all the way back in Chicago!"
Given that it’s Northwestern, it can never be easy. After Trevor Siemian (12-of-21, 120 yards) revived a stagnant offense to guide the Wildcats to a pair of third-quarter touchdown drives, the Wildcats led 27-13 heading into the final frame.

That was an “Uh-oh” for NU fans, stung by defeats to Penn State and Nebraska in which the Wildcats blew double-digit fourth-quarter leads.

The Bulldogs came out firing in the fourth quarter, scoring when Tyler Russell hit Malcolm Johnson on a 14-yard strike.

The teams entered a combined plus-30 in turnover margin, but the game featured seven interceptions, four thrown by Russell.

Facing pressure on a 3rd-and-5 from the 15, Russell chucked one up and cornerback Nick VanHoose snagged it and returned the ball the 39 yards to the 5.

Venric Mark took it home from the 3 to put Northwestern up 34-20 with 8:10 to play.

The third quarter started poorly, with Kain Colter (9-of-15, 76 passing yards, 75 rushing yards) throwing his second interception. He did not put enough zip on a sideline pass to Kyle Prater, and free safety Nickoe Whitley streaked across the field to pick it off.
But Tyris Jones scored on a three-yard run and Siemian scored from four yards out to put Northwestern ahead 27-13.
At halftime, Northwestern was up 13-10 on the scoreboard, but it felt as if the Wildcats are losing.
Why? Because Mississippi State had scored 10 straight points. And the Bulldogs had the only touchdown drive of the first half, a six-play, 62-yarder that ended with Russell’s perfect 18-yard toss to Arceto Clark in the back of the end zone.
That touchdown came with 66 seconds left, and Northwestern had a three-and-out to essentially end the half.
NU’s last four drives ended this way: interception, punt, punt, punt.
Colter completed 7 of 10 passes for just 65 yards. And either because of pressure or just giving up too quickly on routes, he scrambled on several third downs. Siemian was 3-for-6.
Venric Mark had a 22-yard rush. His other eight carries had netted a total of eight yards.
The Wildcats had to be very disappointed with a three-point lead given that Russell, Mississippi State’s normally reliable quarterback, has thrown three interceptions.
The first was a gift – a short throw that defensive lineman Quentin Williams caught while dropping off in coverage. Williams returned in 29 yards to get Northwestern on the board just 47 seconds into the game.
Ibraheim Campbell made a great play on the second, baiting Russell to throw and then breaking toward the sideline to make the grab.
On the third, David Nwabuisi pressure Russell, whose pass was tipped by Williams and caught by Chi Chi Ariguzo.
NU’s offense produced just two scores – field goals of 34 and 37 yards by Jeff Budzien.
NU’s first drive could have resulted in a touchdown had Dan Vitale avoided a shoestring tackle at the 14 or Colter had not missed an open Mark in the end zone.
On NU’s next drive, Siemian underthrew an open Christian Jones for a potential score.
Twitter @TeddyGreenstein