With a game for first place in the Big Ten West on the horizon against No. 23 Wisconsin, Northwestern almost got caught looking past lowly Rutgers.
Isaiah Bowser scored on a 5-yard run with 8:12 to play and Northwestern avoided a major letdown by converting two fourth-downs plays on the game-winning drive in a much-harder-than-expected 18-15 win Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.
"We had confidence in them the whole game," Wildcats defensive end Joe Gaziano said of his offense. "We knew that they could put the points up [we] needed to score and needed to win the game, so I think in the fourth quarter we kind of looked at each other and said, 'Let's do this.' "
The Wildcats (4-3, 4-1) did, just barely, scoring the final 11 points and limiting Rutgers (1-7, 0-5) to a field goal in the second half.
Northwestern is a half-game ahead of both Wisconsin and Iowa in the West.
Bowser rushed for 108 yards on 24 carries. He also scored the opening touchdown on a 3-yard run after Rutgers muffed the opening kickoff and was forced to punt from its own 5.
The Scarlet Knights (1-7, 0-5) lost their seventh straight game.
No. 18 Penn State 33, Indiana 28: Trace McSorley scored a pair of second-half touchdowns to rally the Nittany Lions (5-2, 2-2) from a third-quarter deficit and give them a victory over the host Hoosiers (4-4, 1-4), breaking a two-game losing streak.
The Penn State defense was on the field for 100 plays and gave up a season-high 554 yards. But the Nittany Lions forced three turnovers and posted six sacks, four by Shaka Toney.
McSorley had his streak of throwing a touchdown pass end at 34 consecutive games. But he scored two touchdowns, rushed for 107 yards in 19 carries and completed 19 of 36 throws for 220 yards.