2012 season will be remembered across the Big Ten as a time of
turbulence. Penn State began its first year of penance, Ohio
State served its one-year exile from the postseason, Rutgers and
Maryland incongruously joined the B1G, and the conference embarrassed
itself in non-conference play-- with the exception of one team.
For Northwestern, however, 2012 was a year of monumental
achievement. The team recorded ten wins, the third time ever for
NU. It finished the postseason ranked for the first time since
1996. Pat Fitzgerald won his 50th game as head coach, breaking by
one game the Northwestern coaching record held by Pappy Waldorf.
The team, for the first time, beat two SEC opponents in a single
season. NU welcomed its first All-American since 2005. It
continued its academic and graduation leadership streaks.
Did I miss anything?
Oh, yeah: there was the bowl game.
Northwestern's emotional 34-20 victory over Mississippi State
mercifully ended NU's run of tough postseason losses and fundamentally
changed the tone of NU's media coverage.
As the dust settled around the chaotic Big Ten, NU found itself one of
only two teams to win their bowls (along with Michigan State), and the
highest-ranked B1G team in the Coaches' Poll (#16). The program
had, just a week before, announced that it had raised $55 million
toward facilities construction and improvement, including a lakefront
practice facility that the media immediately labeled a "game changer"
for NU's football recruiting.
There truly has not been, ever, a time of more optimism surrounding
this team. 2012 was a fantastic season. NU enters 2013
having won its most recent three games-- the first time it can claim
that since 1971. It enters 2013 nearly guaranteed a spot in the
preseason rankings, for the first time since 2001. It will begin
2013 with its winningest coach, the bulk of its 2012 starters, a
well-ranked recruiting class, and-- more than ever, and amid the
maelstrom of the Big Ten-- high hopes.
from some of the comments I posted on this site during the course of
2012 season. Please note that the comments posted below are only
ones written by me, and I did not provide game previews or
much postgame commentary. As with last couple of years, the bulk of articles on
in 2012 came from jhodges and the other contributors. For their
2012 commentary and analysis, please check out their pages in the Guest Section.
NU Announces 2012 Recruiting Class [posted Feb. 1]
Northwestern has welcomed 21 new Wildcats, announcing its 2012 recruiting class
on Wednesday morning. Coach Fitzgerald said, "There are some
tremendous young men from great families and great high school programs
who, we believe, fit all our needs and will help us take the next step
in becoming a championship program."
The slate of recruits is fairly balanced between
offense and defense (with several recruits having potential on both
sides of the ball), with a slight lean toward offense and roughly six
recruits that can play on the offensive line. The class has no quarterback and no kicker (the third straight year
with no new punter or kicker).
however, has taken a slightly more positive view of NU's class, ranking
it (as of signing day) 45th in the nation-- down eight spots, however,
from just two weeks ago. Scout ranks NU's class fifth in the Big Ten, behind
Michigan Ohio State, MSU and Iowa, and just ahead of Penn State.
Scout had earlier ranked the Wildcats' class third in the conference.
has apparently struck gold in the Keystone State, snagging five
recruits from Pennsylvania. NU had signed five recruits from
Illinois last year; this year they signed four. The 'Cats also signed four from Ohio (the same number as last
year), including star defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo. The remainder of the class is spread across the country.
Rivals and Scout rated Odenigbo at four stars. Rivals also gave
four stars to defensive tackle Greg Kuhar, while Scout offered a fourth
star to offensive guard Adam DePietro. Like last year, Rivals no
longer provides a national team ranking for
schools not in the top 50, and Rivals does not put NU in the top 50
teams for recruiting this year. However, they do rank NU 9th in
Big Ten (ranked ahead of Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota, up from 11th
Kyle Prater Transfers to NU
addition to the 21 incoming recruits listed below, Northwestern will
also welcome a five-star transfer from USC. Wideout Kyle Prater
chose NU over Wisconsin as his new home. Prater's 2010 recruiting
status (the top recruit in the state of Illinois) would have put him in
an elite group of recruits in the history of NU, including Bill
DeCorrevont, who played for the 'Cats in the 1940s.
Pater said, according the the NUSports
release, "This Northwestern degree will take me far and help me become
a better person. The dynamics of the school and the team have shown me
a lot and I'm just happy to be a Wildcat."
The following table shows the
list of recruits who have committed to Northwestern. The comments are compiled
material taken from Rivals.com, Scout.com, and ESPN.
Please note that HailToPurple.com does not closely follow recruiting
efforts, nor do I have any interest in the recruiting process, crucial though it is-- for more
detailed info and analysis, be sure to check out Lou V.'s great work at
Rivals, LakeThePosts, and Scout.com/FoxSport's efforts on PurpleReign.
Congratulations and good luck to this promising group of soon-to-be
|Los Alamitos, CA
|7 offers, including Kansas State, Air Force, Navy and Wash. St..
Rivals and ESPN 3-Star. Rivals 17th ranked in state. Scout ranked
#10 OG. 11 offers, incl. BC, Cincy, Illinois, MSU, NC St., Pitt, Vandy,
and W. Vir.
|Scout ranked #3 long snapper; ESPN ranked #6 LS.
|Ft. Lauderdale, FL
and Scout 3-Star. Rivals 28th ranked safety. 16 offers, incl. BC,
FSU, GA Tech, Harvard, Illinois, Maryland, NC St., and Vandy.
|| Plano, IL
|Scout 3-Star. Multi-position player.
| Rivals and Scout 3-Star. Rivals 10th ranked in state. BC, Illinois, Iowa, L'ville, Notre Dame, Toledo offered.
||Concord Tnshp, OH
|Rivals 4-Star. Scout and ESPN 3-Star. Rivals ranked #21 DT; #18 in state. BC, Iowa, Michigan, 'Cuse, Toledo, Vandy, W. Vir. offered.
|Rivals, ESPN and Scout 3-Star. Rivals 17th ranked in state. 10 offers, incl. Iowa, Minny, Purdue, and Vandy.
| Scout and ESPN 3-Star. Missouri, Harvard, Princeton, Tulane, 'Nova, Yale offered.
|Rivals 3-Star. Rivals 16th ranked in state. 4 offers.
|Rivals, ESPN and Scout 4-Star.
Rivals ranked #9 at DE, #4 in state, #109 national. Scout ranked
#5 at DE. ESPN ranked #4 DE. 20 offers, incl. Alabama, BC, Cal, Cincy,
GA Tech, Illinois, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, UCLA,
USC, and Stanford.
|Rivals, ESPN and Scout 3-Star. Rivals ranked #5 in state. 8 offers, incl. BC, Duke, Michigan, and VA.
|Rivals, ESPN and Scout 3-Star. 8 offers, incl. Cincy, Maryland, Pitt, 'Cuse, Vandy and W. Vir.
||Lewis Ctr., OH
|Rivals, ESPN and Scout 3-Star. 10 offers, incl. Cincy, Indy, and W. Vir.
|Cincy, Indy, Ohio, Toledo offered.
|Scout 3-Star. Akron, Deleware, NIU offered.
||Upper St. Clair, PA
|Rivals, ESPN and Scout 3-Star. Rutgers, 'Cuse, Toledo offered.
|Central Mich. offered.
|Rivals 3-Star. SW Louisiana offered.
|Rivals, ESPN and Scout 3-Star. Rivals ranked #20 in state. Army, Central Mich., Toledo, W. Vir. offered.
NU Holds Spring Exhibition [posted April 13]
will conclude its 90th annual spring practice tomorrow by hosting the
Spring Exhibition, a chance for fans to meet players, see the team
during its final practice session, and have some fun at Ryan Field.
The official schedule can be found on NUSports.com. Among the activities:
- 7:00 am, Saturday: parking lots open for tailgating.
- 10:30: Ryan Field opens.
- Noon: Spring Exhibition practice<>15
minutes after Spring Exhibition: "Cool Down with the 'Cats." This event
recently replaced the traditional pre-game "Stretch with the
'Cats." Young fans are invited to cool down with the players, get
pictures and autographs.
Flashback to NU's 1935 spring practice.
2012 Media Previews and Predictions [initially posted June 10; last updated Aug. 10]
The annual college football magazines continue to appear at the
offering their picks and predictions. The slate of previews
begins with the annual magazines from Athlon and Lindy's and concludes
the Big Ten's August media event, when the conference announces its
In part due to the economic situation, and partially due to the shift from
print to online media, there are fewer preview magazines for college
football than there have been in other years. Athlon and Lindy's are
still around to inaugurate the preview season, and Phil Steele's
publication remains the most popular, but others have closed shop
or moved entirely to the Internet.
Typically, the print prognosticators do not favor NU. Of course,
previews are written by magazines trying to sell copies, and favoring
biggest teams (that is to say, the teams with the biggest followings)
a profitable strategy. However, NU has occasionally bucked that trend
and the conventional
thinking: in 2001, coming off its Big Ten title, NU was a
Ten favorite in many of the preseason predictions.
the past few years, however, most media have typically placed NU at ninth
place in the conference, ahead of Indiana and one school from the pair
of Illinois or Minnesota. After Nebraska joined the Big Ten, the
picks for NU are typically split between ninth and tenth in the
conference. There is also what I
call the "Heinz Line" at the 57 spot nationally: if a previewer favors
NU, he will place the 'Cats just above the 57th spot among the ranked
Division I-A teams; a bad prognostication consigns NU to a lower
rank. If the sportswriter has no overly optimistic or pessimistic
feel for the team, he will invariably rank NU at 57.
NU is riding four straight bowl seasons, with a host of returning talent. Last year, for the first time in a decade, the
media broke the Heinz Line rule and picked the 'Cats higher in
the national preseason rankings and picks. Will they again put NU above the fabled 57 line?
The 2012 List
Every summer since 2000, HailToPurple.com has posted a recap page
of what the larger 'Net and print publications predict for NU. Here are the 2012
- Since it has the crown for the most accurate pick three years running, let's start with Athlon.
Athlon ranks NU 49th nationally (just above Iowa),
set to finish 2012 with a second-straight 3-5 conference record.
Athlon predicts that this will be good for a fourth-place finish in the
Legends, tying with Iowa and beating out Minnesota. Athlon
predicts that NU will sweep the non-conference, finish 7-5, and vault
into the Insight Bowl. "[NU is] capable of winning eight games in
2012. New quarterback Kain Colter is a dynamic playmaker and
there are plenty of options at receiver. Fixing a leaky defense
is coach Pat Fitzgerald's top priority."
predicts another .500 finish for NU in 2012, good enough for 55th in
the nation and 8th in the Big Ten (which means that four conference
teams are tabbed to finish worse than 55th, which is unusual).
Lindy's notes NU's receiver corps, praising its size, speed and
depth. It names the defensive line as a key weakness, points out
the young secondary, and describes special teams as below
average. Lindy's makes a point of mentioning that the incoming
group of players is the best in Fitz's tenure; it is particularly
impressed with Greg Kuhar and Ifeadi Odenigbo.
released its early summer predictions, and CFN sees NU finishing 6-6
again in 2012, ranking the 'Cats #50 in the country. CFN puts NU
at #9 in the conference, just behind Penn State, and above Purdue,
Indiana and Minny. It predicts a return to the Meineke Bowl.
- Internet statistician and ranking mogul James Howell has
been offering his rankings and game predictions for many years.
For the 2012 preseason his power rankings take a very low view of NU,
ranking the 'Cats 63rd (down even from Howell's 2011 61st
ranking). Howell tabs NU ninth in the conference (he ranks
Indiana a humiliating #108 nationally).
- Writer Dan Vasta has submitted Bleacher Report's early
predictions; he ranks NU #43, one of the highest picks so far. Bleacher
Report tabs NU to finish 7-5, eighth in the Big Ten, just behind Penn
State and ahead of Purdue, Illinois, Minny and Indy. The site's
contributor, Scott Polacek, however, has a different take, slotting NU
ninth in the Big Ten: "If Northwestern couldn’t finish in the rankings
when it was under the direction of Dan Persa, who set the NCAA record
for all-time completion percentage, it’s a safe bet to say it will
probably not finish ranked in its first season without him."
- Always the most anticipated college print annual, Phil Steele's
College Football Review is now on newsstands. Steele typically
releases two preseason national polls: his standard preseason poll
(which shows his prediction of how each FBS team will finish the
season) and the power poll (how strong each team is, regardless of its
2012 schedule). NU is unranked in Steele's top-50 standard poll.
The 'Cats come very close to hitting the Heinz Line in Steele's Power
Poll, however, clocking in at #58. And what team does Steele slot
at #57? Illinois. As for NU in the conference, Steele
follows most predictions this year, placing NU at fifth in the Legends
Division, ahead of Minnesota. Steele gives the 'Cats a 4/9 chance
of making a bowl, with Detroit (vs. Ohio U.) being the most likely
- One of the more pessimistic predictions comes from Patrick Schmidt, at the blog getrealfootball.com. Schmidt forecasts a 4-8 season for NU, with too many spots to fill on the roster.
- A recent entry in the magazine annuals comes from USA Today.
Its print version does not give full rankings for FBS teams; it just
gives the top 25. Unsurprisingly, the 'Cats are not ranked.
USA Today predicts a fifth place finish in the Legends Divison (ahead
of Minny), with a 3-5 Big Ten finish and 6-6 overall. The
publication cautions, however, that NU could wind up with as low as
- Paul Myerberg, at the college football blog Pre Snap Read,
ranks NU #59, just two spots below the Heinz Line. Pre Snap Read
places NU eighth in the conference, ahead of usual suspects Indiana (a
sad 109th), Purdue and Minnesota, and also ahead of Illinois (#64).
- Want the most optimistic pick for 2012? Look to none other than ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper named Northwestern as one of the most underrated teams in 2012,
and said that the 'Cats deserve a spot in the top 25.
- CBS Sports
and its college football analyst, Tom Fornelli, place NU in the
familiar fifth position in the Legends Division, ahead of
Minnesota. Fornelli notes that NU's defensive performance will be
key this season.
- NationalChamps.net only ranks the top 50 teams. NU is not among them, although Illinois is (at #44).
- Mike Huguenin at Yahoo
thinks that "the Wildcats seem to have plateaued," making bowls the
past four years, but seeing their win totals decrease by one each
year. Yahoo puts the 'Cats at #50 nationally and eighth in the
Big Ten, just below Iowa (#43).
note: Each year's Season Review Page
the media's preseason
predictions. Before the 2012 season, most of the media-- as is
typical-- underestimated the 'Cats. By far the most accurate
prediction for 2012 came from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., the only major media commentator to predict that NU should be ranked.
This year's Dog Pick goes to both getrealfootball.com (for its 4-8 prediction) and to the increasingly inaccurate Phil Steele.
Steele earns a share of the 2012 Dog because he not only ranked NU
below the Heinz Line, he picked Illinois over the 'Cats. Well
NU Reveals New Under Armour Uniforms [posted July 26]
became Under Armour's first Big Ten school in 2012, and the new Under
Armour uniforms were a carefully planned mixture of tradition and
modern design. The result: a fantastic team identity that is
progressive, yet retro, and uniquely Northwestern.
2012 home jersey is purple, as it has been since 2003. However,
Under Armour changed the shade of purple and, in a titanic improvement,
made sure that the purple jersey matched the purple helmet, even when
seen on TV (has that ever before been the case?) Among the jersey
athletic teams have a consistent style, with each sport having unique
elements. "19 sports; one team." UA's approach to
the uniform design is "500 / 50 / 5": there are aspects to the uniforms
identifiable at 500 feet, 50 feet, and details recognizable only
close-up (five feet).
The design team
seems to have taken a lot from campus architecture, particularly from
Deering Library. Gothic arches play into the new design, as does
neo-gothic stonework. There was earlier mention of ivy patterns and the
modified old-English script on NU's building signs, but those have not
yet made their appearance.
stripe is the dominant feature, appearing
across the chest and back of the jerseys. The chest stripe is
reminiscent of the 1909 NU jersey design, a look Northwestern
pioneered. Under Armour and NU's offseason slogan, "reclaim the
stripe!" is manifest in the new uniforms. The Northwestern stripe
has become the team identifier, even making its debut in the field end
zone design for 2012.
- The sleeve stripes appear not on the jersey itself, but on the base layer (the compression shirt).
- The stripes are a
single color, for the first time since 1977. The stripe is all
purple on the white jerseys and (for the first time ever) all black on
the purple jersey.
the first time ever, NU's uniforms have a word ("NORTHWESTERN") across
the chest of the jersey. The font, by the way, appears to be Morgan Poster Avec.
numbers and the "NORTHWESTERN" logo are
sewn on. For the purple jerseys, the numbers are white with a
black outline. For the white jerseys, the numbers are black, with
a white outline (except for the shoulder numbers, which are purple,
with a black outline). The numbers are patterned, or
embellished, with a brickwork design, similar to the
campus building brickwork.
- The jerseys, for the first time since 1994, have shoulder, or TV, numbers.
- There is no N-Cat logo on the uniform. Northwestern appears to be moving away from using the N-Cat logo on most apparel.
- All Big Ten teams are now required to wear the "B1G" logo on their jerseys.
Prater Ruled Eligible to Play in 2012 [posted July 31]
on Tuesday that Kyle Prater, the star wide receiver transfer from USC,
will indeed be eligible to play for the Wildcats this fall. There
was a possibility that Prater would have to wait a year to joint the
team. Instead, the NCAA granted a residence waiver to Prater,
allowing him to play this season and giving him three full years of
eligibility with NU.
"It's been a long road so first and foremost I want to thank God for
the chance to play football and do what I love," Prater said. "I feel
blessed for the opportunities I've found at Northwestern and am excited
to get back on the field this fall. My family is very important to me
so it means a lot for them to be nearby while I play football and earn
my degree at Northwestern. I'm thankful for this decision from the NCAA
and am ready to be on the field with my teammates when this season
Prater was a five-star recruit for USC in 2010, a standout from
Hillside, Illinois's Proviso West High School. Rivals rated him
the top wide receiver prospect nationwide in 2010 and the third-highest
ranked player at any position. At the time Rivals' Barry Every
wrote, "[Prater] is the type of wideout that does not have to be open
to make a catch and will be a threat to score from any point on the
field. He has possibly the best hands and body control of any
receiver in the country."
Camp Kenosha XXI Begins [posted Aug. 13]
Wildcats have begun Camp Kenosha XXI. The team traveled last
Saturday to the UW-Parkside campus for the second leg of its 2012
preseason practices, having wrapped up initial practices in
Evanston. On Monday morning, the 'Cats are holding their first
The team apparently is in good shape heading into Kenosha. Coach
Fitzgerald, quoted in the Sun-Times, commented on the 'Cats' condition:
“We had a lot of retention from spring physically. You kind of go
one of two places in the summer. You either go through and do your
voluntary 7-on-7s and position-specific stuff and you either create a
lot of bad habits and get rusty or you take steps forward. And this
group almost across the board took really positive steps forward
fundamentally over the summer."
Like last season, all of the Kenosha practices, including the August 18 team scrimmage, will be closed to the general public.
Kenosha Concludes; 'Cats Prepare for Opener [posted Aug. 19]
wrapped up its twenty-first annual practice sessions in Kenosha with a
scrimmage on Saturday, a day after the Wildcats joined several Navy
SEALs for a special practice on the Lake Michigan shore.
The good news from Cheddarland: the team suffered no serious
injuries. Most of the key returning starters did not play in the
Saturday scrimmage, and the second string had an efficient, productive
The Friday session with the SEALs continued the 'Cats' recent tradition
of having at least one practice tied into the US military. In
2010 NU began staging a post-Kenosha practice at the Great Lakes
Naval Station, and the team had planned as recently as this spring to
continue that tradition at Great Lakes this summer. However, the
NCAA has enforced a rule prohibiting teams from staging preseason
practices at more than one off-campus site, and NU's Kenosha practices
now prevent the team from following up at Great Lakes. Instead,
this year the team will visit Great Lakes and meet with the troops, but
won't practice there.
team that included the military in its preseason practices is
Northwestern's first opponent of 2012, the Syracuse Orange.
Syracuse staged part of its August practice schedule at nearby Fort
Drum, with the help of several members of the 10th Mountain
Division. While NU's work with the SEALs included an intense
workout, the Orange engaged in a paintball tournament.
season, Northwestern endured a five-game losing streak midseason,
before rebounding to qualify for the Texas Bowl. Syracuse,
however, finished 2011 with a five-game losing skid, sputtering to a
5-7 finish. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib returns for 2012,
and he brings along school records for TD passes, completions and
passing yards in a season. He also returns, however, with only
four other offensive starters from last year. Nassib will likely
be helped by Syracuse's version of Kain Colter: Ashton Broyld, a
capable quarterback / receiver / runningback. Against
Northwestern's improved (but still untested) defense, Broyld could find
his groove, or he could be ground up.
The Syracuse defense has lost some key talent on the defensive line,
with one starter moving early to the NFL, one dropping out of school,
and another suffering a season-ending injury. NU's offensive line
should win the battle in the trench, but the Orange defensive secondary
should be strong. The 'Cats will get an early test and a good
opportunity to find out just where they are.
NU Prepares Ryan Field for 2012 [posted Aug. 19]
is last year's "44-Foot Fitz." In its place on Ryan Field's
southwest tower is a new banner, featuring the UnderArmour logo and the
Northwestern stripe and helmet. NU has also updated the hanging
banners across the exterior of the stadium, as you can see in the
Chi Chi Bang Bang! NU Edges 'Cuse 42-41 [posted Sept. 1]
off by an 82-yard explosive punt return for touchdown by Venric Mark,
Northwestern built a 35-13 lead against Syracuse, only to fall behind late
in the fourth quarter. The NU defense, absolutely riddled by the
Orange air assault and pass interference, gave up 470 passing yards,
but also picked up two crucial turnovers-- both by Chi Chi Ariguzo-- that led to scores.
With Kain Colter injured on the sidelines, Trevor Siemian led the final
drive to regain the lead for good with under a minute left. . .
Stingin' In The Rain: NU Beats Vandy 23-13 [posted Sept. 9]
doubts lingering from last week's performance against Syracuse, the
Northwestern defense stepped onto Ryan Field Saturday night and
delivered a defining statement against SEC foe Vanderbilt, en route to
a 23-13 win. . .
. . . The defense held Vandy to 318 total yards and forced
two critical fumbles. While the offense appeared stymied for much
of the first three quarters, it roared back in the fourth, with Siemian
and Colter taking turns at stunning the Commodores in the last ten
NU Honors 1962 Team: 50th Anniversary of #1 'Cats [posted Oct. 26]
addition to celebrating the 1962 team, Thursday's event also
highlighted the recent efforts to restore and preserve Northwestern's
trove of historic game films. NU has one of the largest, most
comprehensive archives of football film in the country.
Obviously, this material is a gold mine for team historians, former
players and their families. Some of the material that has already
been preserved and digitized can be viewed here.
On Thursday, Northwestern celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the
1962 Wildcats, one of the greatest teams in NU history. Returning
to campus were team captain Jay Robertson, quarterback Tom Myers, wide
receiver Paul Flatley, and other members of the team. Coach Ara
Parseghian had been invited to return, but unfortunately had an
obligation elsewhere this week. In addition to attending the
fiftieth celebration on Thursday, Flatley will attend this Saturday's
homecoming game against Iowa as the Wildcats' honorary captain.
The 1962 team was the culmination of Coach Parseghian's rebuilding of
the Wildcat program. Parseghian came to NU from Miami, Ohio, in
1956, just after NU had suffered its first winless season in
decades. Parseghian brought with him an intensity unmatched among
college coaches and an uncanny ability to recruit. His recruiting
efforts began to bear fruit in 1958, when the 'Cats reached #4 in the
nation after knocking off two top-ten teams (#10 Washington State and
#5 Ohio State). A year later, the 'Cats famously took down #2
Oklahoma en route to their own #2 ranking.
During Thursday's celebration, athletic director Jim Phillips held a
panel discussion with Robertson, Flatley and Myers, and each described
Parseghian's recruiting abilities. Flatley recalled being
impressed with Parseghian's passion-- "how could you not be
impressed?" For Myers, the key impression was the one that
Parseghian made on his mother, who was swept away by Parseghian's
energy and charm. Myers, who is from Ohio, had also been
recruited by Woody Hayes. Hayes complemented Myers' athleticism
"as a pole vaulter," but had little use for a passer in the "three
yards and a cloud of dust" Big Ten of the early 1960s.
Parseghian, however, was far more creative and adaptable.
NU was, at the time, also a ground-based team, but Ara saw in Myers the
opportunity to open up the air game, and he crafted his offense around
his new weapon. 1962 was Myers' first season as a varsity player,
and it would open up the Wildcat's passing game as never before.
Parseghian took Flatley, a 190-pound fullback, and moved him to
wideout, and the fireworks began.
The 1962 team began by beating South Carolina, a game during which-- as
recalled by Flatley-- Myers completed 20 straight passes. The
Chicago Tribune wrote afterward, "Yesterday, a sophomore quarterback
playing his first collegiate game had fans whispering his name in the
same breath with (Otto) Graham's."
against Illinois and Minnesota set up a blockbuster game against the
Buckeyes in Columbus. NU was ranked #8; OSU was #6. Myers
and Flatley recalled the nightmarish way the game began: Ohio State
returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, held NU's first drive to
a three-and-out, then drove in for another touchdown. Despite
being down 14-0 within minutes of the game's start, "no one on our side
seemed concerned," Myers recalled, "and Ohio State would not score
again." The game ended in an 18-14 Wildcat victory.
All three alumni described the reception the team received by students
upon their return from Columbus. A large group of students met
the team at the airport, and students continued the party throughout
the weekend. The win propelled the team to a #3 ranking, and the
'Cats were fired up for their homecoming tilt against Notre Dame, a
team that NU had beaten three straight times.
Flatley's catch vs. Notre Dame
The NU - Notre Dame game became a legendary moment in Wildcat football (and ranks #7 on HailToPurple.com's list of the greatest games in NU history).
Northwestern swamped the Irish 35-6, taking advantage of the
Myers-to-Flatley aerial circus that was powering the 'Cats. Flatley's
one-handed grab during the game has become an iconic image of NU
football, and Myers' account of that play was quite funny: "I'm not a
fan of that play, because that great catch meant it was a terrible
throw!" Flatley recounted how he had applied stickem to his hands
before the game ("It was legal back then! It was legal!"), leading
Myers to quip, "I didn't want to touch the ball afterwards. I was
afraid it wouldn't leave my hands on the next throw."
The win over the Irish led
to Northwestern taking the #1 spot in the AP Poll for the first time
since 1936, and NU would hold the top spot for just two weeks. A 26-21
win over a strong Indiana team the following week allowed the 'Cats to
keep their #1 ranking, but the win proved costly, and NU found itself
riddled with injuries and lacking the needed depth to maintain. NU
lost to #8 Wisconsin a week later.
The team wrapped up the season by beating the Miami Hurricaines for its seventh win, giving NU one of its finest seasons.
Athletic Director Phillips (left) and NU Trustee Dan Jones (far right) present Jay Robertson,
Paul Flatley and Tom Myers with new Northwestern jerseys.
The Northwestern Archives is conducting this effort, and it is
daunting. Readers of HailToPurple.com know the rich history and
compelling story of Northwestern Football, and here is our chance to
help preserve that history. Donors
can become part of the Northwestern Game-Savers Team, funding the
preservation of one of the greatest football archives in America. . . .
Signature Win! 'Cats Beat MSU; Fitz One Win From Pappy [posted Nov. 18]
into East Lansing, the Wildcats stood and delivered: they claimed their
eighth win of the season, a feat that the program has accomplished just
five other times during the Expect Victory era. The 'Cats
delivered their first win over Michigan State-- a team that NU used to
devil-- since the wild overtime thriller in 2007. They delivered
one more piece-- perhaps the keystone-- to a bridge leading directly to
Florida and a January 1 bowl. Most importantly, however, NU
delivered a win that was a season signature, the defining win of the
regular season. The wins over Vanderbilt and Iowa were important,
but this was Michigan State,
preseason conference favorite, a team that has recently had NU's
number, hosting the Wildcats during a year when the 'Cats had fallen in
close games to other teams that were or are the conference favorites.
In a series with so many recent offensive bonanzas, this game
surprisingly began as a defensive battle. NU charged out of the
gate and drove quickly to the red zone, thanks to a nice shovel pass
from Kain Colter to Dan Vitale and the usual scrambling heroics by
Colter. However, the Spartan defense, arguably the best in the
Legends, shut down the drive at the Spartan seven-yard line, and NU had
to rely on Jeff Budzien to grab the first score.
Budzien went on to have his usual sterling performance, providing the
'Cats with their only other score of the first half (a 43-yarder with
41 seconds to go) and the game-winner in the middle of the fourth
By the end of the first quarter, the Wildcat offense had been stymied
by the MSU defense and by the loss (totally ignored by the ESPN
announcing crew) of Venric Mark. Mark had sustained "an extreme
upper body injury," as an NU spokesperson would phrase it later.
NU's offense would take another hit later in the game, when Colter
departed and Trevor Siemian assumed command. After the game,
Coach Fitzgerald speculated that both Mark and Siemian had sustained
minor injuries and would be available for the season finale.
The NU defense made sure, however, that the highlight reel would not be
clogged by the team in green. Quentin Williams's TFL and Tyler
Scott's PBU derailed Michigan State's opening drive. MSU's second
drive ended in near disaster, with a fumble recovered by Sean McEvilly
at the NU 2-yard line. It was to be the first of four MSU
turnovers forced by the NU defense, including another fumble and two
interceptions that bookended the third quarter (a pick six by David
Nwabuisi caused by Ibraheim Campbell's quarterback assault and a pick
by Jared Carpenter).
Those four forced turnovers, however, don't include one of the most
important turnovers of the game: MSU's turnover on downs. By the
second quarter, MSU led Northwestern by the improbable score of 5-3
(the Spartans had sacked Colter a couple of plays after the fumble
recovery near the NU goal) and had driven to the NU 8-yard line for a
first and goal. Campbell, with help from Chance Carter, Damien
Proby and Drew Smith, orchestrated a goal line stand for the ages.
Both offenses, however, began to open up in the second half. With
the score knotted at 13, Colter and Siemian paired up for a TD drive
that included two first-down passes to Vitale. Vitale would end
the day with 110 receiving yards, leading all 'Cats and demonstrating
that he is the team's go-to superback.
Budzien's last field goal, which gave NU its fragile 23-20 lead, came
with just over seven minutes to go, and it set up the usual fourth
quarter lead drama that 'Cat fans now dread. This time, however,
with a signature win on the line, Northwestern would fight like hell to
claim it, and would not suffer the heartbreaking single play that has
plagued both NU and MSU this year. As the Spartans attempted
their last gasp in the final minute of the game, Campbell, Demetrius
Dugar, Carpenter, and the rest of the Wildcat defense slammed the door,
silenced Spartan Stadium, and signed their names to the best win of
eight so far in 2012.
[posted Nov. 20]
his seventh season as head coach of the Wildcats concludes, Pat
Fitzgerald stands at the threshold of winning more games at
Northwestern than any coach before him. When he wins his fiftieth
game, either with a long-sought January 1 bowl victory or a
non-conference win early next season, he will pass Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf
for the record. Doing so, Fitzgerald will break one final streak
of frustration, bad luck and heartbreak that remains from
Northwestern’s football challenges in recent decades: Fitzgerald will
have stayed at NU long enough to have passed Pappy, long enough to have
contributed to a stable and enduring football program with a
long-tenured coach. Great coaches have appeared in Evanston
between the terms of these two men—Voigts, Parseghian, Agase, Barnett,
and Walker among them—but none stayed, or could stay, long enough to
make it to 50 victories.
It is not a groundbreaking mark only for Fitzgerald. As we will
see, it is a landmark for the school and the program as well.
The man whom Fitzgerald will pass, Lynn Waldorf, had a successful
coaching career before he came to Northwestern and an even more famous
one after his departure from Evanston. Like Fitzgerald,
Waldorf was a two-time All American as a player (for Syracuse), and
like Fitz, Waldorf became a head coach at a very young age.
Waldorf made his head coaching debut in 1925, at age 23, at Oklahoma
City University. He coached there for four seasons, turning
around the fortunes of that small school’s team and earning a
Waldorf entered coaching at the major college level in 1929 at Oklahoma
State. He was a stunning success, powering the Cowboys to three
Missouri Valley Conference championships during his five seasons in
Stillwater. From there, Pappy made a one-season stop at
Kansas State, coaching the other Wildcats to a Big Eight Conference
Noting Waldorf’s reputation as an up and coming coach, NU athletic
director Tug Wilson began to work to replace Northwestern’s coach, Dick
Hanley, with Waldorf. Hanley had coached the ‘Cats to
back-to-back Big Ten titles in 1930 and ’31, but his team was in a
brief slump, and Hanley had lost support of the NU
Even during this period in Northwestern’s football history, a period
festooned with conference titles and near misses at national titles, a
problem was beginning to crop up between the football head coach and
the school’s administration and athletic director. At a school
with such recruiting, admissions, and academic restrictions as
Northwestern, it can become very difficult to achieve and maintain a
balance between providing its football coach with the support he needs,
jeopardizing the school standards, or undercutting support for its
coach—through negligence, indifference, or even hostility. With
Hanley, it had become a hostile withdrawal of support. And so,
after eight seasons, NU’s winningest coach, the only coach to date with
multiple Big Ten titles, was essentially forced out, and Waldorf was in.
Pappy prowls the sideline in California [HTP Photo Archive]
Waldorf, as he had in each of his previous schools, struck immediate
gold. During his first season he led the ‘Cats to a seismic upset
of Notre Dame, in South Bend, just one week after the Irish had beaten
Ohio State in the original “game of the century.” The game is
famous for a twist that Waldorf, along with assistant coach Litz
Rusness, developed: the shifting defense. Before the ’35
game with the Irish, most defenses lined up in the same formation the
entire game. Instead, Waldorf’s ‘Cats paid attention to the
offensive formation, then shifted from a 5-3 formation into a formation
more suitable to defend the offense as set. The result was a 14-7
upending of the Irish. The win allowed Waldorf to claim the very
first national coach of the year award at the end of the ’35 season.
The following year NU would lose to Notre Dame, which might seem a bit
of a letdown, until one realizes that the 1936 NU – Notre Dame game was
to determine the national championship. Northwestern, in Pappy’s
second season, had beaten Minnesota, snapping the Gophers’ 28-game
unbeaten streak and earning itself the #1 national ranking in the AP
Poll’s first year. The ‘Cats would lose out on the national
championship (which Minnesota would ultimately claim, though it did not
win its own conference), but would win the unshared Big Ten title.
Waldorf was winning games, and he was doing so by bringing in top
flight talent, including Bob Voigts and Bernie Jefferson (both of whom
had key roles in the ’36 title season), Bill DeCorrevont (the national
#1 recruiting pick and to this day NU’s top-rated recruit), and of
course halfback Otto Graham.
Graham had come to NU on a basketball scholarship and was a music
major; his place on the Dyche Stadium grass was supposed to be as a
French horn player for NUMB. However, Graham was also a skilled
baseball player and a versatile football player, and during his
freshman year he guided his fraternity’s intramural football team to
the IM championship. Waldorf watched, and he made his move,
recruiting Graham for the Wildcat football team.
Pappy’s observation paid off. Graham’s 1941 football debut
was a stunner. He helped to dismantle Waldorf’s old school,
Kansas State, 51 to 3 in the season opener. Graham was set to
begin a three-year campaign to tear apart the Big Ten’s passing records
en route to All American honors and a place as one of NU’s greatest
athletes. By 1943 Graham was a commanding figure in the
conference, and Pappy had surpassed Hanley’s win record, taking the
title of the all-time winningest coach at NU.
The following three seasons, however, were somewhat disappointing, and
by the end of the 1946 season, Pappy had become frustrated with the
school and its restrictions. When asked at one point about the
relatively small number of players NU had on its roster compared to
other Big Ten teams, Waldorf had complained, “Overall, things were
uneven at Northwestern. We were never able to offer as much
financial aid as we were allowed to under the rules.”1
When the University of California’s athletic director offered Waldorf
that school’s head coaching position—and a sizable raise—Waldorf
countered by requesting control over his staff and that he would report
to the president of the university2, shaking off the restrictions that
had encumbered him at NU. And so, in early 1947, with 49 wins
after 12 seasons as the Wildcats’ coach, Pappy Waldorf left for Cal.
While head coach of the Bears, Waldorf enjoyed a string of three
straight Pacific Coast Conference titles and three straight Rose Bowl
appearances. The first Rose Bowl for Pappy was, of course, the
1949 Rose Bowl against his former team and his former student,
Northwestern, coached by Bob Voigts.
THE COACHES SINCE PAPPY
Voigts, another very young head coach, resembled Fitzgerald even more
than Pappy did. Voigts was an NU alumnus, who as a Wildcat player
was named All American. He, like Fitz, was 31 years old when he
took the reins at NU. He was a former assistant coach, but had no
experience as a coordinator or head coach.
When Voigts in his second year led the ‘Cats to the famed Rose Bowl win
over Pappy’s Cal Bears, it seemed that Voigts was the perfect fit for
Northwestern. But that fit was not to last. As with Hanley
and Waldorf, Voigts found his team in a rut a few years after stellar
success. And as it had with Hanley, the administration decided to
cut itself free of its coach. Voigts found alumni and
administration support evaporating toward the end of the 1954 season,
and he left, essentially forced out as Hanley had been.
Voigts’s successor, Lou Saban, did not work out, but the next coach,
Ara Parseghian, certainly did. Parseghian rebuilt the team,
recruited top-flight talent, and by 1958 had the Wildcats poised to
make a series of runs at the conference. While NU did not win a
title under Parseghian, it came close several times, and it remained
very competitive. By the end of his eighth season at NU, however,
Parseghian had also become as frustrated as his predecessors.
|Northwestern would not
budge on its academic restrictions, which was OK, but it also did not
give its football coach the level of control and resources that other
Big Ten schools afforded their programs. “I’m restive,” Parseghian
famously uttered when asked about his possible plans to leave
Evanston. Eventually, he did, for a school that promised more
resources, and had the tradition to back it up: Notre Dame. The “Era
of Ara” ended after the 1963 season, and Ara had 36 wins and one game
over a .500 record. He would be the last coach to leave Evanston with
a winning record.
One of Parseghian’s
assistants, Alex Agase, took the helm in 1964, struggled for a few
seasons, and then hit gold in 1970, taking the ‘Cats to the brink of a
title and a Rose Bowl bid two years in a row. During his nine seasons,
Agase notched 32 wins. However, he also became unhappy with the
support he had received from the Northwestern administration.
Ara: the Coach Who Would Be King
[HTP Photo Archive]
Agase had even more reason to complain: in 1970 Robert Strotz became
the president of Northwestern, and Strotz was not one to increase money
and resources for athletics. Again, Northwestern had a solid
coach. Again, the coach grew disappointed with the resources
available to his program. And again, he was denied what he needed
to succeed. Agase left for Purdue before the 1973 season.
So began the Dark Ages. Coaches Pont, Venturi, Green, and Peay
had no realistic hope of claiming win #50 at Northwestern. Green,
realizing the futility of hoping for what he needed to succeed at NU,
bolted for Stanford. Pont, who was by 1977 also the athletic
director, removed himself from command after five seasons.
Venturi and Peay were let go. But NU’s next president, Arnold
Weber, was setting the stage for the end of the Dark Ages, and the next
coach would again have a shot at passing Pappy.
Gary Barnett’s first few years at NU and fantastic run through the Big
Ten in 1995 and 1996 put him half way to 50 wins. However,
Barnett often looked for another home, and by 1998 his search had
picked up. Part of this was Barnett’s own wanderlust; however, a
significant reason for Barnett’s resume blizzard was the same old
problem that had plagued the football program for nearly 70
years. Barnett, holder of two Big Ten football titles, NU’s first
since Pappy, was being paid less than incoming basketball coach Kevin
O’Neill. Athletic director Rick Taylor had shown Barnett a
surprising level of disrespect, and when Barnett made a fairly
reasonable plea for more resources, the response was much the same as
it had always been. And so, Barnett took the opportunity to
return to Colorado, after winning 35 games at NU, one shy of Dick
When Taylor announced Randy Walker as Barnett’s successor, the first
piece was in place at having a coach who would stay the distance and
build an enduring program at NU. The second piece was Taylor’s
own replacement four years later. Mark Murphy was a director who
understood the vital importance of keeping his good coaches, and he was
determined to keep Walker, who was at that point three years removed
from the 2000 Big Ten title and had placed the program back on stable
ground. In the spring of 2006, Murphy signed Walker to a contract
extension through 2011. The extension would have meant Walker
would have been at Northwestern for 13 seasons, one longer than
Waldorf. Walker was ecstatic, and the pattern of frustration,
disappointment, and erosion with Northwestern’s football coaching
position was at last at an end. It seemed Walker was destined to
pass Waldorf and surpass 50 wins.
Nothing, sadly, is what it seems. The pattern indeed, had ended,
but it would take the next coach to reach the milestone. The
Wildcat nation lost Walker, but Fitzgerald is just as committed.
Murphy moved on, but his successor has shown an even more passionate
commitment to the program and to its longevity. And so a new
milestone is to be set. And never in our lifetimes will we see
the coach who will eventually pass Fitz.
1-2: Cameron and Greenburg, Pappy, The Gentle Bear, 2000.
Other references: Paulison, The Tale of the Wildcats, 1951.
LaTourette, Northwestern Wildcat Football, 2005.
NINE IS FINE! NU Mauls Illini 50-14;
than a few Wildcat fans had the same reaction last week to the news
that Northwestern was a 19-point favorite vs. Illinois: uh-oh.
Would this, the final game of the regular season, be NU's "trap game,"
the one game the 'Cats should win that they do not? Would this be
like last year's Army game?
Fitz Ties Pappy for Wins; 'Cats Close Jan. 1 Bowl Bid [posted Nov. 25]
Fans needn't have worried. This was not like last year's Army
game, nor the trap games of previous recent seasons. This
time, there would be no letting off the gas, no playing "not to lose"
until the job was truly done.
Last Saturday, the job was truly done midway through the third quarter
as Northwestern took a 48 to 14 lead over woeful Illinois, en route to
a righteous 50 to 14 destruction of the Illini. Fueled by the
humiliation at Wrigley Field in 2010 and last year's depressingly close
loss in Champaign, Northwestern's killer instinct kicked in, and the
'Cats poured out an offensive and defensive spectacle early in the second half.
The first half, however, began sluggishly. Northwestern's defense
had problems stopping Illinois early, allowing a methodical opening
drive to give Champaign County's Big Ten team a 7-0 lead. Colter
and Mark responded by driving into Illini territory, but got no further
than the 27-yard line. From there, Jeff Budzien kept his nearly
flawless season at its stellar level by drilling a 44-yard field goal
(That Budzien is not being considered for the Lou Groza Award this
season is borderline criminal. Among the finalists is a Tulane
kicker who has missed an extra point and a Florida kicker who is 20 for
24 for FGs.).
On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats rocked returner Justin Green,
popping the ball directly into the arms of Cameron Dickerson.
Colter took advantage of the turnover by streaking into the end zone in
two plays, putting the 'Cats into the lead for good.
Illinois's next drive was shut down, in part due to one of several
personal fouls that the Illini would commit during an exquisitely
sloppy performance by the Orange and Blue. Colter then sought to
extend the Wildcats' lead, but was injured at midfield. Trevor
Siemian's first throw was picked off, but the favor was returned on the
very next play by David Nwabuisi. Nwabuisi's monster game on
Saturday climaxed with his pick at the Illinois 38-yard line, which was
brought closer to the Illinois goal thanks to a bizarre Illinois
coaching sideline interference penalty. Coach Beckman ended up suffering through two sideline penalties. . . .
. . . A
Colter pass to Tony Jones gave NU a brief 10-point lead. However,
Illinois was not yet done. The Illini burned through a
four-minute drive, mixing up passing and ground attacks, to score and
come within three. The Wildcat defense was playing some of its
worst ball of the season. Within minutes, however, the defense
would turn itself around dramatically, going from flat to fabulous,
playing some of its best ball of the season.
The offense also stepped up, as Colter, Mark, and superback Tim Riley
churned out a ground-based assault for a touchdown and a return to a
double digit lead. Within minutes of the beginning of the third
quarter, NU's lead stretched to 20 with a Colter air strike to Tyris
Jones, and the rout was officially underway. Illinois's next
drive ended with the highlight of the game, an Ibraheim Campbell
interception during which Campbell shook off the intended receiver and
broke loose for a 40-yard return. The following play was a wild
one: a grouped formation leading to a spread, and Colter throwing a
touchdown lob to a wide-open Paul Jorgensen. Colter's three
passing touchdowns for the day were a personal best for #2.
Another Illinois interception led to Northwestern's final scoring drive
of the day, coming with more than two minutes to go in the third
quarter. The Wildcat defense slammed the door shut on Illinois,
which raised the white flag when it punted to begin the fourth quarter.
And so began NU's drive to kill the quarter, an eleven minute and ten
second drive that could very well be the longest single drive in NU's
entire history. The drive included two fourth downs that NU
converted to keep possession. At the end, the 'Cats had a first
down at the Illinois three-yard line. What to do?
What to do, indeed! Coach Fitzgerald put in defensive lineman, punt team blocker nonpareil
Bo Cisek to serve as tailback! While some saw the move as an
insult to Illinois, nothing could be further from the truth. The
'Cats did not want to crack the 50-point mark, kicking a field goal
would have been ridiculous, and Bo Cisek-- a senior-- had not seen the
field: Northwestern had not, and would not, punt against
Illinois. So Bo ran two rushing plays, fumbling on the second
one, and giving the ball to Illinois. And two plays later, NU
cracked the 50-point mark, despite efforts to avoid it, when Max
Chapman took down Dami Ayoola in the end zone for a safety.
Forty seconds later, Coach Fitzgerald received his second Gatorade bath
as NU's head coach. The first time his players had given him the
Gatorade treatment had been in 2008, when the 'Cats defeated Illinois
in the final Sweet Sioux game that gave NU nine wins for the first time
since 1996. Saturday's win against Illinois also gave NU nine
wins, for the first time since the 2008 season. However, it also
gave Fitzgerald his 49th win, tying Pappy Waldorf for the most wins in
Congratulations to Coach Fitzgerald, this year's seniors, and the rest
of the Wildcats. Enjoy #9, enjoy the LOL Hat, and brace yourself
for the challenge that awaits you in Florida this January.
Attendance Update [posted Nov. 25]
Saturday's game vs. Illinois was NU's final home game of the season,
and 32,415 fans were in attendance, less than September's Boston
College game. However, the Illinois game was held on the Saturday
after Thanksgiving (with few students on campus), and against a
suffering opponent with no local buzz. Still, the average attendance for 2012
at Ryan Field came to 35,697, nearly 7% better than last year.
Taken with 2010's huge boost in attendance, the last three seasons
represent the best attendance for Dyche / Ryan since the last three
years of Gary Barnett's tenure. NU's on-field performance, taken
with the new and effective marketing efforts by the school, will
continue to reap benefits.
[Posted Dec. 1]
Brace for Gator! NU Accepts Gator Bowl Bid [posted Dec. 2]
will make its first-ever trip to the Gator Bowl on January 1,
2013 and will play the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It will be the first meeting between NU and MSU.
The B1G will be considered the "home" team this year in the Gator,
meaning NU fans will sit on the east side of Everbank Field, and the
team will be in either purple or black jerseys. . . .
NU's Bowl Ticket Sales Up 47% vs. Last Year [posted Dec. 13]
Dec. 13-- In a Twitter
message on December 12, the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein
mentioned that Northwestern is not revealing exactly how many of its allotted tickets have been sold so far. However, the
school did tell Greenstein that sales are up 47% vs. this time last
year (when NU was headed for the Texas Bowl). ESPN's Adam Rittenberg also cited NU's statement that sales are up 47%.
At this point last year, NU officials had also declined to give an
exact number, but they did reveal that the sales were double what the
school had sold in 2010 for the TicketCity Bowl. By December 29
last year, NU gave the first tally, stating that it had sold 10,000 of
its 12,000 tickets, which put NU above the conference average for
percent of allotment sold. NU would eventually sell out its Texas
Bowl allotment, as it had also sold out the TicketCity Bowl allotment.
It should be noted that, although local Florida media sources put NU's
Gator Bowl allotment at 12,750 (see post below), Rittenberg today posted
the allotment at 15,000, which would be a huge number for a bowl
outside of the BCS. Even the Cap One has a school allotment at
"only" 12,500. Nebraska, by the way, has sold only 4,000 of its
Cap One allotment. I'm sure the Cap One Bowl is elated at having
been forced by the Big Ten Conference leadership to select Nebraska
Mark Named All-American [posted Dec. 14]
Football Writers Association of America has named Venric Mark to its
All-American first-team , the only B1G player to be named All-American
this season by the FWAA. Mark received the honor as a punt
While Mark had been named to other All-American lists, the FWAA list is
one of the "official" All-American selections, and it should secure
Mark a place on the Otto Graham Honor Roll, the list of All-Americans
fixed to the west side of Ryan Field. The last such Wildcat to
receive this honor was Zach Strief in 2005.
Congratulations to Mark for this outstanding honor!
List of NU football All-Americans:
*Johnson's All-Amercan selection is not officially recognized by NU. Johnson was named All-American by Casper Whitney for Colliers. Whitney was, at the time, one of the two recognized sources for All-American selection, along with Walter Camp.
- 1898: Alton Johnson*
- 1925: Tim Lowry
- 1926: Moon Baker
- 1926: Bob Johnson
- 1929: Hank Anderson
- 1930: Frank Baker
- 1930: Reb Russell
- 1930: Wade Woodworth
- 1931: Dallas Marvil
- 1931: Pug Rentner
- 1931: Jack Riley
- 1933: Eggs Manske
- 1935: Paul Tangora
- 1936: Steve Reid
- 1938: Bob Voigts
- 1939: John Haman
- 1940: Alf Bauman
- 1943: Otto Graham
- 1943: Herb Hein
- 1945: Max Morris
- 1948: Art Murakowski
- 1948: Alex Sarkisian
- 1950: Don Stonesifer
- 1952: Joe Collier
- 1958: Andy Cvercko
- 1959: James Andreotti
- 1959: Ron Burton
- 1961: Larry Onesti
- 1962: Jack Cvercko
- 1962: Tom Myers
- 1970: Mike Adamle
- 1971: Eric Hutchinson
- 1982: Chris Hinton
- 1983: John Kidd
- 1995: Pat Fitzgerald
- 1995: Sam Valenzisi
- 1996: Pat Fitzgerald
- 2000: Damien Anderson
- 2005: Zach Strief
- 2012: Venric Mark
Mississippi State: Scouting Report [posted Dec. 16]
. . . [As] Northwestern began its Gator Bowl prep last week, so too did the Bulldogs. MSU
began its practices earlier than NU, with first and second-team players
engaged in vigorous practices early in the week; NU's first practice
came on Saturday.
practiced without the help of backup running back Nick Griffin, who
will be out of the bowl with a knee injury. Starting running back
LaDarius Perkins, however, will be good to go, and will be NU's number
Slightly less certain is starting quarterback Tyler Russell.
Russell got hurt at the end of the regular season, but was expected to
be at 100% for the Gator Bowl. However, Russell was seen at
practice this weekend with a boot on his right foot, and only
participated in drills "that involve minimal mobility," according to
the Columbus (MS) Dispatch. The Bulldog staff still expects
Russell to practice at full speed as practice unfolds this week.
Initial reports by local media indicated that MSU's offensive and
defensive lines, as well as its linebacking corps, look good and are
having a productive prep session. MSU Coach Dan Mullen is
sufficiently comfortable with his starters that he has been rotating
his redshirt freshmen into the prep quite a bit, in order to give the
group additional experience for next season.
As is standard in any game prep, Mullen has had his team brush up on
its opponent. The team has started to watch NU game film, and at
least one Bulldog is not impressed with what he has seen. When
asked about Venric Mark, NU's newest All-American (and the only Big Ten
player named to the NWAA's All-American list), cornerback Corey
Broomfield was blunt: "He [Mark] don't look like a Big Ten
player. When a guy is fast in the Big Ten he stands out. . . If
he was in SEC he would be just another player." Broomfield also
assessed NU's chances of giving the Big Ten a rare bowl win vs. the
SEC: "Look at the past. Look at the track record and whatever
conclusion you come to, that's what you can make."
Game Preview: Mississippi State [posted Dec. 23]
this point, what is left to say about the context of this year's bowl
game for Northwestern, that hasn't already been covered from every
possible viewpoint? Win, and Northwestern snags its tenth win in
a season, for the third time ever. NU finishes the season ranked
in the standard polls for the first time since the 1996 season, and
will likely be ranked next year in the preseason polls, for the first
time since 2001. Lose, and we get to hear the same threadbare
stories of the three-generation postseason drought. At least this
guy hasn't yet popped up:
Fitzgerald has now coached the 'Cats through five bowl games, all
against heavy favorites, and he now has found a zen in preparation,
balancing fun and work. “I’m more comfortable in the (bowl)
routine,” Fitzgerald said last week. “Like a lot of things, the first
time you do it, you look back and think: 'What the heck was I doing?'
We’ve definitely tweaked our plan."
Against Mississippi State in the Gator
Bowl, Northwestern is now a two-point underdog, the closest odds NU has
had in a bowl game since Fitz took over, and the closest odds of any
B1G team the season (all are, of course, underdogs in the wake of the
conference's annus horribilis). The 'Cats should be ready, and it goes without saying that they will be motivated.
Will proper preparation and high-gear motivation be enough against
another SEC foe? Mississippi State is a well-coached, highly
talented team with one of the longest bowl winning streaks
in the nation. The Bulldogs took a 7-0 run into the middle of the
season, and were a top-ten team. Things haven't been quite as
happy since the end of October, when Miss. State lost to then-#1
Alabama, and have dropped three of four since that loss.
Make no mistake: the Bulldogs' four late-season losses aren't
indicative of MSU's current position. The losses came either
against highly-ranked talent or-- in the case of the regular
season-ending Egg Bowl-- in a rivalry game. MSU should by rights
still be a ranked team. They have a balanced offense, strong
defense with outstanding linebackers, and solid special teams.
And they will give Northwestern just as much a challenge as any of the
'Cats' previous SEC and Big Twelve bowl opponents.
MSU's quarterback, junior Tyler Russell, has come into his own this
season, scoring 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions. Russell
sprained his right ankle in the regular season finale against Ole Miss,
and he wore a leg boot as recently as last week during practices.
However, according to reports coming out of Starkville this week,
Russell has recovered. "I think, come the bowl game, I'll be
100%," Russell said on Wednesday. If he is, indeed fully
recovered, he will test NU's secondary as much as any quarterback the
'Cats have faced so far.
Along with Russell, the rest of the Bulldogs look to be practicing at
100% going into the home stretch before the bowl. MSU head coach
Dan Mullen has seemed pleased with his team's practices throughout the
prep period: “Pretty solid practices,” Mullen said, “I like the
transition back into game prep and it’s always a great week. We’re
trying to get ready to play a game like it’s (this) Saturday. Our guys
have done that, had the good focus, good preparation. We have to clean
up some things out there tomorrow before we leave but hopefully we’re
ready to play the game. Then you get the confidence builder when you
get to the bowl of reviewing the whole practice week again.”
Northwestern's All-American punt returner, Venric Mark, will be tested
by a strong Bulldog defense when he lines up on offense, and he has a
special teams mirror in MSU's kick returner, Jameon Lewis. Lewis,
who averages over 28 yards on kickoff returns, leads the SEC. One
imagines a possible MSU attack similar to what NU fans witnessed in
2001 with the other MSU:
Northwestern scoring late, kicking off, and watching as that kick is
rocketed back for an immediate answering score. The 'Cats kick
coverage needs to be laser-focused on Lewis.
Of course, MSU will need to be just as focused when it punts against
Mark. Mark earned his All-American honor by averaging over 20
yards on punt returns, giving NU a 17.5 punt return average, third best
in the nation.
When NU is on offense, Mark and quarterback Kain Colter will need to
keep the attack balanced. While NU's running game has been the
feature of 2012, MSU has had problems defending the pass. If the
Wildcats can get enough momentum in the air to rattle the Bulldogs, NU
should be able to open its running game. It might be tough,
however, to find success with the ground game initially, because MSU is
built for such an attack.
MSU will possibly have the same plan. The Bulldogs know full well
how NU played in its three losses in 2012: the 'Cats led all three in
the second half, and were just a few plays away from winning. The
'Cats never faced a steep deficit, and going down big, early, might
break the 'Cats. Look for MSU to try to open an early lead
through the air, with Russell focusing on wideout Chad Bumphis.
Bumphis will aim for the corners, and NU's corners will be keyed on
during the first couple of Bulldog drives.
So, whose early strike will succeed? Will MSU's attempt to lead
early put the bowl out of reach for NU, or will the 'Cats unleash a
balanced air and ground assault that will toll the cowbell for the
Bulldogs' bowl winning streak? Two things play into
Northwestern's favor. First, it's true that NU has not faced a
big deficit this year, but they have in the past, and we all know that
NU thrives on coming back. Even if Mississippi State manages to
go up early, NU has enough offensive firepower to hang on.
Second, it is entirely possible that we have not seen all the pages in
Mr. McCall's infamous 2012 playbook. There is speculation that
the Colter / Trevor Siemian combo may have permutations not yet
witnessed by mortal eyes.
Prepare to witness such unexpected things, and more. If NU's play
in such recent bowls as the Alamo and the Outback are any indication,
'Cat fans are in for an entertaining treat, and I suspect that this
time, the ending will be just as much a treat as the journey.
Prediction: for the first time this season, Northwestern goes down big
early. And, having staged as thrilling a comeback as we've seen
in the last ten years, the Wildcats wax their bowl curse and provide
the B1G with one of its three bowl wins this year. NU 38,
Mississippi State 31.
NU Now Favored Vs. MSU [posted Dec. 28]
NU, which had begun the bowl season as a two-point
underdog to Mississippi State, is now a one to one and a half-point
favorite against the Bulldogs. It is very rare for Northwestern
to open as an underdog against an opponent and flip to favorite
status. In a bowl game, it's unheard of: the 'Cats have opened
and remained underdogs in all their bowl games since 1995.
However, in the 1949 Rose Bowl, the media and Vegas initially saw NU as
an underdog vs. undefeated, fourth-ranked Cal. All media
continued to treat Northwestern as a heavy underdog, but Vegas had, by
game time, set NU as a seven-point favorite against the Bears. NU
won by six.
PARTY LIKE IT'S 1949!
'CATS WIN 2013 GATOR BOWL [posted Jan. 2, 2013]
The very last brick in the rebuilding of Northwestern Football, a
project begun 20 years ago, has finally been set in place. Until
January 1, 2013, Wildcat fans could rattle off a list of
accomplishments by their team and their school, each with a nice purple
check mark by it:
- Renewed commitment by the school in its football program? Checked in the late 1980s.
- A coach that could begin the rebuilding process? Checked in December 1991.
- True rebuilding begun? Checked in 1992.
- Losing streaks vs. Notre Dame, Michigan, and Iowa eliminated? Checked in 1995.
- Big Ten title? Checked in 1995.
- Consistent program? Checked, beginning in 2003.
- Losing streak to Ohio State eliminated? Checked in 2004.
- Bowl success?
check mark after that last one, and its absence began to gnaw at the
program, taking more of the media's attention, diverting focus from what
the program had accomplished. It went from an annoyance to a streak,
a joke, a journalist's crutch, and finally a stuffed monkey-- a totem
of futility carried by a team that was racking up more wins and
accomplishments than any other group of Wildcats before them. But
few outside of the NU community cared much for those accomplishments:
there was that monkey to discuss, and it's an easy story, after all.
By the afternoon of January 1, that lazy story was blown apart, as was
the monkey: its shredded remains littered the Northwestern locker room
at EverBank Field. Northwestern completed its rebuilding mission,
beating SEC-foe Mississippi State 34 to 20 in the 68th Gator
Bowl. The win was among the most emotional moments for Wildcat
fans in recent memory, ranking alongside the invitation to the 1996
Rose Bowl for pure overwhelming joy.
joy began almost immediately during the Gator Bowl game itself.
Within the first minute of play, Quentin Williams picked off Tyler
Russell's third pass, racing it straight back for a pick six, a
Northwestern lead, and a place in Wildcat history. Williams'
interception was the first of four for NU against the Bulldogs, tying a
Northwestern bowl record-- the 'Cats also notched four picks against
Cal in their Rose Bowl victory.
Mississippi State, dizzy from the quick Wildcat strike, attempted to
even the score with a drive mixing rush and pass work. The
rushing succeeded against NU: MSU gained two first downs on the
ground. However, Russell's passing was... mixed. A first
down pass to Chris Smith put MSU at midfield. However, as the
Bulldogs neared the Wildcat red zone, Russell rifled off his second
pick, this time to Ibraheim Campbell.
With the second Wildcat interception, NU's offense finally took the
field. Kain Colter combined clever scrambling with a couple of great
short-gain passes to Dan Vitale and an 11-yard strike to Christian
Jones to bring the ball to midfield. A 24-yard pass to Vitale
sent NU to the red zone, but the drive stalled. Jeff Budzien's
34-yard field goal put NU up by ten, and sent the purple-clad into a
frenzy. Budzein's performance was as expected; slightly more
surprising was the game plan focus on Vitale, who was simply
The Wildcat defense slammed shut MSU's third possession, and NU sought
to add to its double-digit lead. Already NU was on somewhat
rarely trodden ground: in their previous ten bowl games, the 'Cats
enjoyed a double-digit lead in only two of them, the 2003 Motor City
Bowl and the 2005 Sun Bowl. The Wildcats' drive would also stall
in the MSU red zone, but not before All-American Venric Mark broke
loose for a 22-yard scamper into Bulldog territory. With
Budzein's second and final field goal, NU sported a 13-point lead, and
MSU fans began to worry.
NU fans quickly joined them. The second quarter was a sloppy
mess, with the teams swapping interceptions within an 11-second
NU recovered from its pick when Chi Chi Ariguzo became the third
Wildcat to catch a Russell pass. However, MSU would go on to tack
on a field goal and a touchdown before halftime, and NU took a tender
three-point lead into the locker room.
The third quarter began just as gloomily as the second quarter had ended. Colter threw an interception, and MSU
made the 'Cats pay by drilling a 47-yard field goal to tie the
game. It was difficult not to wonder: would the streak
continue? Was NU going to add another disappointing page to this threadworn
Not if Trevor Siemian could help it. Siemian spelled Colter for
the next drive and strung together three straight first-down passes--
to Rashad Lawrence, Demetrius Fields, and Vitale-- to set up Tyris
Jones's touchdown. The lead was seven. Could it hold?
Siemian's hot hand briefly gave out when he threw an interception. However, the Northwestern defense--particularly the
often-maligned secondary-- saved the game, stoning the Bulldogs in
their last two drives of the third quarter. NU's final drive of
the quarter was one for the books. Mark and Vitale each picked up
first downs before Siemian scrambled
for a first down in Bulldog territory. Not to be outdone, Colter
went wild for 31 yards, taking the ball to the MSU 4-yard line.
From there Siemian put on his second Colter imitation, taking the ball
and pounding into the end zone. The 'Cats were up by two
touchdowns, and Wildcat fans everywhere dared to think that this,
maybe, might the the game for which they had hoped so impatiently.
The following drive by MSU appeared to stall, but a Northwestern
penalty put the Bulldogs into the NU red zone, and they responded,
coming back to within seven. A Northwestern punt put MSU in place
to tie the game. On third down Russell launched a bullet that
went up for grabs. The grabber turned out to be Nick VanHoose,
and he tore ass to the MSU 10-yard line. However, a Bulldog
sideline interference call put the ball on the MSU 5. Strangely,
it was the second straight game in which NU benefited from an
opponent's sideline interference. On third down, with Wildcat
Nation holding its breath, Mark punched in for the last score of the
game. MSU would have two more chances to answer, but the sterling
defensive performance of Jared Carpenter, Tyler Scott, Williams, and so
many others, locked down Northwestern's end zone and locked up
Northwestern's Gator Bowl victory.
And what a victory. This was a victory of the offense, of Colter,
Siemian, Mark, Vitale and the rest, innovative and determined; this was
a victory of special teams, of Mark and the incredible Budzien; this
was a victory of defense, relentless, always improving; this was a
victory of coaching, Fitzgerald celebrating his 50th win at
Northwestern University, as no one else ever has, in a venue fitting
the occasion, and doing so with one of the most underrated coaching
staffs in the nation.
This was, finally, a victory of doing things the right way, the Wildcat
way. It was what's important now, and the team that provided this victory are a group of players whom Northwestern alumni and fans everywhere will always
regard fondly, with deserved pride.
The mission is complete. "What now?"
-- is a silly question. The mission was the rebuilding of the
program. Well, consider it officially rebuilt. The new
mission is to take that rebuilt program to places only dreamed
Now comes the fun part. Now, let's sit back, savor
the moment, and realize that there has never,-- not in 137 years of
Northwestern football-- never been a better moment to be a fan of the