Northwestern’s Joe Gaziano gets a school record ahead of his final game

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 23: Tanner Morgan #2 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers is sacked by Joe Gaziano #97 of the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half at Ryan Field on November 23, 2019 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

EVANSTON – A year ago, he along with the rest of his teammates were looking ahead to one last game against their rivals before making program history.

Joe Gaziano and Northwestern were headed to the Big Ten Championship Game before they took the field to win their eighth game of the year over Illinois at Ryan Field. They’d lose the game in Indianapolis to Ohio State, but they’d go onto a Holiday Bowl victory over Utah.

It’s different now for the senior defensive lineman, who knows his college career one way or the other on Saturday when the Wildcats face Illinois in Champaign. At 2-9 on the season, Gaziano’s Northwestern team will miss the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Perhaps it’s not the way he’d like to have ended a successful career in Evanston, but at least he’ll leave with a major school record, which came in his penultimate college football game.

Gaziano recorded a sack in the first half of the Wildcats’ game with Minnesota on Saturday at Ryan Field and in the process became the all-time leader in that statistic in school history.

He passed Casey Dailey, who held the record for 22 years after he got it during his senior season of 1997 and he would get a half-sack later in the game to bring his total to 29 for his Northwestern career.

What will make it memorable, however, is the unique way in which he got it against the Gophers.

In the second quarter, Gaziano rushed Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan and he was forced to throw the ball out of bounds. Since it was ruled as intentional grounding in the end zone, the defensive lineman was given credit for the sack.

When he came to the sidelines and the accomplishment was announced, the crowd at Ryan Field gave Gaziano a standing ovation.

For the season, Gaziano has eight sacks with 15 tackles for loss for Northwestern, who finishes their 2019 season Saturday at Illinois at 11 AM. It may not end with a division championship and a bowl win like 2018, but at least one of their best players will leave school with a major record.

 

 

 

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