Northwestern receiver Jeremy Ebert and offensive lineman Al Netter already know the drill: the Wildcats won't put any game away until the final seconds.
"I'm kind of getting used to it, being in my fourth year," Ebert said. "I think I've been in about a hundred of these now. It's the Northwestern way, I guess."
It happened again on Saturday, when NU opened the season with a 24-17 win at Boston College. After Adonis Smith scored on a one-yard run for NU in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats found themselves up 24-10. But then the Eagles rallied and cut the deficit to a touchdown with six minutes to play.
It was a familiar refrain, especially when BC quarterback Chase Rettig started marching his offense downfield in the game's final minute. The Eagles got as close as the Wildcat 19 with 14 seconds remaining when the BC offense was whistled for a false start.
That's when things got interesting.
Because of a new NCAA rule, if a team gets called for a penalty in the final minute of either half and the clock stops, the opposing team can either take the yardage, take 10 seconds off the clock, take both or decline. The Wildcats took option three, knocking off 10 seconds from the game clock and then penalizing the Eagles five yards.
On the next play, defensive end Vince Browne tackled Rettig and the game was over.
"To be honest, I really didn't have an idea of what was going on," Netter said. "But it was huge for our defense to only have one last play instead of two, and it probably changed the play calling for Boston College as well. That was to our advantage to have four seconds instead of 14."