Maybe it's not fair to call Northwestern's defensive effort in the Sun Bowl today a "collapse" like conference brethren Minnesota and Michigan, because the Wildcats have not played much D all year long. But for the third straight bowl game, a Big Ten team got a double-digt lead and still lost.
The Sun Bowl was every bit the shootout observers expected, ending in a 50-38 UCLA victory. Northwestern came out blazing, jumping out to a 22-0 lead. Brett Basanez put up a stunning seventy passes. He completed thirty-nine of them and netted 420 passing yards. It may have been a losing effort, but the gritty signal-caller went down in fighting fashion. He easily outplayed his accomplished Bruin counterpart Drew Olson, whose three interceptions matched his season total.
But the Bruins had too much on the ground. Chris Markey and Khalil Bell both easily broke the 100-yard barrier, and UCLA's comeback was so swift and certain they had the lead by halftime and scored 36 unanswered points.
So Northwestern's letdown continues the pattern in the Big Ten. Michigan had an 11-point lead on Nebraska. Minnesota had a 14-point lead against Virginia. Both lost. With these game added in, conference teams are now 0-3 in bowls that they led by a combined total of 47 points. The conference's defenses have started to resemble Saddam Hussein's during Operation Iraqi Freedom.