EVANSTON, Ill. -- No. 21 Stanford could not get its passing game going, and the Cardinal went nowhere when it tried to run.

It all added up to one miserable 16-6 loss to Northwestern yesterday and a big bucket of cold water on the idea that a strong finish last season would fuel a better start for the Cardinal this year.

Freshman Clayton Thorson ran for a 42-yard touchdown while playing turnover-free ball at quarterback, Justin Jackson added 134 yards rushing for Northwestern.

"We didn't give ourselves a chance to win," coach David Shaw said. "You can't score six points and beat anybody."

It was not what Stanford envisioned coming off an 8-5 season that snapped a string of four consecutive BCS bowls. They won the final three games last year.

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Kevin Hogan had a difficult afternoon, going 20-for-35 with 155 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times. Christian McCaffery ran for 66. But the Cardinal managed just 85 yards rushing and 240 in total offense.

For Northwestern, Anthony Walker broke up two passes and had a fumble recovery, and Kyle Queiro intercepted Hogan in the end zone with about a minute left.-- AP