No. 21 Northwestern ends drought in Gator Bowl

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No. 21 Northwestern ends drought in Gator Bowl

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Behind huge interceptions early and late, No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl and snapped college football's longest postseason losing streak Tuesday.

The Wildcats (10-3) earned their first bowl game win since 1949, ending a nine-game losing skid that was tied for the longest in NCAA history. They also celebrated double-digit victories for the first time since the 1995 Rose Bowl season.

Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game and Nick Vanhoose set up a late touchdown with a 39-yard interception return. Those plays were the difference in a back-and-forth game that featured more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six).

In between, Northwestern's two-quarterback system kept the Bulldogs (8-5) off balance most of the day.

Scrambler Kain Colter ran for 71 yards, making up for his two interceptions. Backup Trevor Siemian threw for 120 yards and an interception, and also ran for a score.

Even with the turnovers, they were more efficient than Mississippi State's Tyler Russell.

Russell completed 12 of 28 passes for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He had only thrown six picks in the first 11 games this season.

LaDarius Perkins ran 19 times for 84 yards for the Bulldogs, and freshman Josh Robinson added 91 yards on seven carries.

Venric Mark, Northwestern's all-everything back, finished with 56 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Mark and Colter were on the field for the final few snaps, watching from afar as the madness started to unfold on their sideline. The Wildcats spent the final 1:42 celebrating the program's first postseason victory since beating Cal in the 1949 Rose Bowl.

Senior defensive tackle Brian Arnfelt doused coach Pat Fitzgerald with a water bucket and then jumped into his arms. Players danced at midfield and then ran toward the stands to recognize friends, family and fans. Fitzgerald playfully directed the band as it played the alma mater.

The Wildcats donned Gator Bowl championship hats and posed for pictures long after the final seconds ticked off the clock.

The feeling had to be special, especially since players and coaches hadn't forgotten that they blew three double-digit leads in the second half of every loss this season. Northwestern surrendered big leads against Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan. That 'here-we-go-again' feeling surely had to come into play when Mississippi State tied the game at 13 in the third quarter.

But the Wildcats responded, with Siemian directing a 76-yard drive that put NU up for good.

Siemian's 4-yard TD run, set up by Colter's 31-yard scamper, made it 27-13 with 26 remaining in the third.

Mississippi State ended the season losing five of its final six games.

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

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AP

Preview: Eastern Illinois, Southern llinois in action today on CSN

College basketball is back on CSN on Saturday as two local teams will be featured in live conference matchups.

In the first matchup at 11 a.m., Eastern Illinois will host Austin Peay in an Ohio Valley Conference clash on CSN+ while the second matchup has Evansville hosting Southern Illinois in a Missouri Valley Conference game at 1 p.m. on CSN.

Eastern Illinois (9-8, 1-3) is coming off of a conference loss to Murray State. Junior guard Montell Goodwin leads the charge for the Panthers as he's averaging 14.8 points per game on the season. Austin Peay (5-13, 1-3) just earned a tight win over SIU-Edwardsville to help end an 11-game losing streak. Junior Josh Robinson is having a strong season despite the losing as he's averaging 21.2 points per game for the Governors.

The second game will be on the main CSN at 1 p.m. as Southern Illinois (10-8, 3-2) tries to bounce back from a loss to Bradley. The Salukis are led by sophomore guard Armon Fletcher as the Edwardsville product leads the team at 13.7 points per game.

Evansville (10-8, 1-4) is coming off of three consecutive losses as the Purple Aces are trying to figure things out at home. Senior Jaylon Brown has been one of the Valley's premier scorers this season as he's putting up 20.9 points per contest.

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

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USA TODAY

MVC basketball doubleheader on CSN

Missouri Valley Conference basketball is back on CSN on Wednesday as a doubleheader begins at 6 p.m.

In the first game, Loyola will travel to Wichita State to face the Shockers in a 6 p.m. tip while the second game features Northern Iowa traveling to Bradley in a game that tips at 8 p.m.

Loyola (12-5, 2-2) has won two straight games as Chicago products Milton Doyle (Marshall) and Donte Ingram (Simeon) are both playing well. Doyle barely missed a triple-double in a win over Northern Iowa and followed that up with a career-high 35 points in a win over Bradley. Ingram has returned from a knee injury to give the Ramblers a boost as he had 25 in the win over Northern Iowa.

Wichita State (14-3, 4-0) has won five straight as they once again look like one of the Valley's best teams. Junior forward Darral Willis Jr. leads the Shockers in scoring at 12.1 points per game while sophomore Markis McDuffie is putting up 11.8 points per game. 

[RELATED: Complete NCAA coverage]

The second game of the doubleheader features Northern Iowa taking on Bradley. The Panthers (5-10, 0-4) have dropped five straight games as they're struggling to find help for senior guard Jeremy Morgan.

Bradley (7-10, 2-2) is coming off of a home loss to Loyola but they've had a solid bounceback season in head coach Brian Wardle's second year. The Braves only won five games all of last season as the roster has been revamped for this season.

Freshman guard Darrell Brown paces the Bradley offense at 12.2 points per game while junior forward JoJo McGlaston is putting up 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.