LAS VEGAS (AP) Ben Bryant passed for 222 yards and found Bryce Kirtz in the corner of the end zone midway through the fourth quarter, helping Northwestern beat Utah 14-7 Saturday night in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Bryant went 22 for 34 with two touchdowns as Northwestern (8-5) closed out its season with a fourth straight win. The Wildcats limited Utah (8-5) to 221 yards and had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

“Ben being a transfer, he embodies what it looks like to be a transfer to Northwestern," coach David Braun said. "It’s about the right person. Not the right athlete, but the right person.”

The victory closed out a tumultuous season for Northwestern. Braun was hired in January as the defensive coordinator. He took over as head coach when coach Pat Fitzgerald was fired July 10 as a result of an investigation into a hazing scandal.

Bryson Barnes was 8 for 13 for 55 yards with two interceptions, and Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed for 55 yards on eight carries to lead Utah, which lost three of its last four games.

The game-winning drive started at the Northwestern 47 yard line after the defense held Utah on a fourth-and-two with 7:10 left to play. The first play was an incomplete pass before Bryant connected with A.J. Henning for 34 yards to the Utah 19.

On the touchdown pass, Bryant lofted a pass into the right corner of the end zone that was hauled in by Kirtz.

“We had a little slant-go there,” Bryant said. “It didn’t look like he was going to be there, but I trusted him through that collision. I threw it up to him and he made the play.”

The Utes trailed 7-0 early in the fourth quarter and tied the game with 12:38 left when Micah Bernard scored on a 6-yard run. The touchdown capped an eight-play, 60-yard drive that took 3:59. Bernard was playing for the first time since injuring a knee in the season-opener against Florida.

“Tough to win a football game scoring seven points,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Our defense was pretty good, kept us in the game. This is not the players’ fault. We as coaches have to get them better prepared.”

Northwestern scored the first points of the game with 1:20 left in the first half when Bryant connected with Cam Johnson from 12 yards out for a score. The touchdown capped an eight-play drive that covered 75 yards, including a 25-yard completion to Marshall Lang to set up a first down at the 12 yard line.

The Wildcats had a chance at a field goal on the last play of the half, but Jack Olson missed a 40-yard attempt. It was his second miss of the half after failing to convert from 51 yards in the first quarter.

Northwestern threatened earlier in the second quarter after Jaheem Joseph intercepted Barnes and returned it 45 yards to the Utah 7. But Northwestern was stopped on a third-and-goal play from the 1, and Barnes then threw incomplete on fourth down, turning the ball over.

Joseph also intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a Utah drive in the first quarter.


Utah: The Utes will hope to rebound from a disappointing season with quarterback Cam Rising, who missed the whole season with a knee injury, returning for 2024. It will be his seventh season of college football.

Northwestern: Coach David Braun inherited a team that went 1-11 in 2022 and improved to 8-5 with a bowl victory in his first year as Wildcats’ coach.


Utah: The Utes, who will move from the Pac 12 to the Big 12 next season, will open the season at home against Southern Utah on Aug. 29.

Northwestern: The Wildcats open the 2024 season at home against Miami of Ohio.


AP college football: and

Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.