Wildcat History
Page Created


Part Two
HailToPurple.com occasionally posted passages from several texts giving anecdotal histories of the Wildcats. 

What follows are the collected passages originally posted weekly.  The accounts are given in the order that the events that they describe took place.  Again, these passages are not original to this site:  the sources are given before each quote.

1943: Automatic Otto's Wild Season

This section, describing the 1943 season and the climax of Otto Graham's college career,  is from The Tale of the Wildcats, a Centennial History of Northwestern University Athletics.

The Wildcats of '43 both started and finished in style, winding up the Conference campaign with five victories and one defeat, the loss being at the hands of Michigan, which, like Purdue, swept through the schedule undefeated.  Although 30 members of the '42 club were lost through graduation and to the armed forces, Northwestern's second wartime football club was a veteran one.  In addition to 14 lettermen, there was an impressive array of transfer students from other schools who were enrolled in the Navy's V-12 unit.  Among them were several Minnesota players, Herman Frickey, Herb Hein, and Jerry Carle.

The Wildcats introduced themselves formally in a night game at Dyche Stadium and accomplished a 14-6 victory over Indiana, which presented a freshman named Bob Hoerschemeyer to scare the Wildcats until Graham's passes prevailed.  Michigan was favored to win and did, but only because of another transfer from Minnesota, Bill Daley.  The final score was 21 to 7, to which Daley contributed touchdown runs of 37 and 64 yards.

Graham's passes featured a 13 to 0 triumph over Great Lakes [Naval Base], and Otto the Omnipotent also engineered a 13 to 0 beating of Ohio State, scoring one touchdown and passing to Lynne McNutt for another.  In the Minnesota game the former Gophers in the NU lineup received a real jolt when their old schoolmates scored in eight plays following the kickoff, but then Graham pitched a 50-yard scoring pass to Hein, Carle kicked the point, and the Wildcats were on their way to a 42 to 6 decision. . . . 

Graham had a field day at Madison in the course of a 41 to 0 brush with Wisconsin.  Otto contributed three touchdowns and three extra points in the first 12 munutes, returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown in the third period, and tossed a fifth score to Wallis.  He was almost as devastating while the Wildcats were beating Illinois, 53 to 6, scoring twice and completing four of six passes to boost his Conference record total to 158 successes in 334 throws for 2,163 yards.  And for an appropriate conclusion to his career he ran onto the field at game's end, clad in civilian clothes, grabbed the ball over which the teams were fighting, and ran off with it.  He also ran off with the Chicago Tribune silver football award as the most valuable player in the Conference.

Above: at Dyche Stadium, Otto prepares to run in for NU's only score vs. Michigan, 1943.
Below: Graham receives the conference's MVP award from-- of all people-- Amos Alonzo Stagg, the legendary University of Chicago coach.  [Estate of Otto Graham]

1945: Sweet Sioux Trophy Begins

NU's last remaining trophy game was the annual Sweet Sioux game against Illinois.  For a while NU and Illinois had played for an old fire bell; however, that trophy was forgotten by the mid forties, and an effort was made by the newspapers of the two schools to renew a trophy rivalry.

The following passage is from Northwestern's yearbook, The Syllabus, and it describes the 1945 inauguration of Sweet Sioux.  Its author is unknown.

NU Takes Sweet Sioux

A tradition was born at the 1945 Northwestern - Illinois football game.  It's the Wooden Indian, Sweet Sioux, custody of which went for the first time to Northwestern by virtue of a 13-7 gridiron conquest of the Fighting Illini in Dyche Stadium on November 24.  Sweet Sioux, like his colleague trophies, the Old Oaken Bucket and Little Brown Jug, will be presented annually, to the winner of the NU - U of I cross-state grid match.

The country-wide campaign to transform NU and the U of I into traditional pigskin rivals was conceived by Tom Koch, sports editor of the Daily Northwestern.  Jim Aldrich, news editor of the Daily; Alice Methudy, editorial chairman of the Daily; and other staff members threw in their lot, and the hunt for a hemlock Hopi was on.  Bob Doherty, sports editor of the Daily Illini, handled the campaign on the Illinois campus.

After examining all the entries, members of the student Wooden Indian Committee selected the brave uncovered by Bill Brown, Northwestern journalism sophomore.  The Northwestern chapter of Acacia Fraternity donated the redskin.

Unwilling to continue calling the trophy Chief Whosis, the Daily Northwestern and Daily Illini conducted contests to name it.  Entries poured in, and a staff of experts, consisting of Chicago sports editors and campus athletic authorities had to be called in to select a winner.

The trophy is one of the few remaining cigar store relics.  He was carved by hand in 1833 and had a colorful career on his own before being adopted by the two universities.  Brown discovered the chief in an Evanston antique shop, staring quietly at his sixth generation of Americans.

And so Northwestern and Illinois become traditional football rivals, bound together by Sweet Sioux.  The rivalry is a natural one, and will undoubtedly become one of the nation's hottest in years to come.

Well, dear old Sweet Sioux found that it would set up light-housekeeping in Patten for the ensuing year when it saw the 'Cats sweep over Illinois, 13-7.

Hap Murphey was the "man of the hour" for NU rooters as he racked up 153 yards gained in 30 rushes, half of Northwestern's total.  Besides that record-shattering performance, Hap accounted for the winning touchdown in the last quarter.

The Illini, despite their crippled and degenerate state, scored first.  They took over on the NU 41 after the officials called a chipping penalty on the 'Cats while an Illini punt was in the air.  Jack Pierce swept over his own left tackle on the first play and went all the way for a score.

A 79-yard drive gave the 'Cats the tying marker halfway in the second quarter.  Murphey and Ed Parsegian were the king-pins, Parsegian scoring and Jim Farrar knotting the count 7-7.

Bob Jones, sub Illinois tackle, was called on to try a 28-yard field goal from a difficult angle in the third quarter.  However, his kick missed by the thickness of a coat of paint as the ball grazed the upright and fell back into the playing field.

NU got the clincher on a 55-yard drive into the promised land.  Murphy and Ted Kemp did yeoman-like jobs in the attack with Hap doing the final scoring of the year.

The original Sweet Sioux only lasted one year.  In 1946 the statue was stolen from its case at NU's Patten Gym, and the two schools replaced the trophy with a tomahawk in 1947.  The statue was recovered soon after, but the universities agreed to keep the tomahawk as the trophy, since it would be easier to transport.  

Acacia, the fraternity which had originally discovered Sweet Sioux, reclaimed the statue.  The statue remained in the fraternity house until a 1985 fire.  It is believed that the Sweet Sioux statue was a victim of that fire.

1948: NU Smells Roses

NU, under Bob Voigts, compiled a 7-2 record in 1948 and earned a trip to the 1949 Rose Bowl.  Forty years later, Jesse Wheeler described the game as part of an NU Athletic Department retrospective.  Wheeler's article appears below:

What you are about to witness is an event of magnificent proportion, intense historical significance and heretofore unprecedented popularity.  After a journey of more than 2,000 miles, you now sit in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.  Ninety-three thousand frenzied fans accompany you in singing the last bars of the National Anthem.  The kickoff of the 1949 Rose Bowl is finally here.  Will Northwestern pull through?

Upon receipt of the Rose Bowl invitation following the 1948 season, Northwestern experienced wild celebration, the likes of which were considered foreign to its campus.  Classes were canceled, friendly rioting broke out in the streets, and traffic in Evanston and the Loop in downtown Chicago was brought to a halt due to parading.  Thousands of students and alumni formed a caravan of Wildcat support, traveling to California, certain that this year belonged to their team.

The contest between the Wildcats of Northwestern and the Golden Bears of California was made even more dramatic by the peculiar relationship of the opposing coaches.  Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf of the Golden Bears had been head coach at Northwestern for 12 years before moving on to Berkeley in 1947.  His successor at NU, Bob Voigts, had been an All-America tackle on Waldorf's 1938 Wildcat squad.  Was it possible for the upstart pupil to outsmart his own mentor?

Alex Sarkisian, center for the 'Cats and captain of the 1948 team, recalls, "Bob had a lot of respect for Pappy.  Everyone did.  We learned a great deal from him... he was what a coach should be."

Midsummer experts took one look at Northwestern's 1948 schedule and called it suicide.  The 'Cats, who had finished eighth in the Western Conference the previous season, would be facing such powerhouses as UCLA, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Minnesota.   Undaunted, the 'Cats threw themselves upon their prey and finished the regular season with a 7-2 mark, outscoring their opponents 171-77 and posting three shutouts.  The unbeaten Golden Bears were just as impressive in their 10 conquests, outscoring their victims 276-80.  Did the Wildcats feel they had a chance to win?

"We sure did," said Sarkisian, "and we had to feel that way.  Otherwise there's no way we could have made it from our own 12-yard line to their end zone with only two and a half minutes left!"

The crowd anticipated a thriller and was not disappointed.  Northwestern's senior halfback, Frank Aschenbrenner ignited the fireworks early in the first quarter when he raced 73 yards for a touchdown, a run which stood for years as the longest run from scrimmage in Rose Bowl history.  Jim  Farrar's point-after kick was successful, and the Purple and White went up 7-0.  On the very next play from scrimmage, California All-America fullback Jackie Jensen scampered 65 yards for a touchdown, and the Bears knotted the game at 7-7.

In the second quarter, Wildcat fullback Art Murakowski plunged over the goal line, fumbling in the air.  The officials ruled the play a touchdown, and after a missed extra point, NU led 13-7, a score which held into the second half.

In the third period, Cal's Jensen left the game with a back injury, and it seemed as though Northwestern had the upper hand.  However, Jensen's understudy, Frank Brunk, proved just as destructive, and spearheaded a drive that put the Bears ahead, 14-13.

After a series of thwarted drives, the Wildcats took over at their own 12-yard line with less than three minutes remaining in the game.  Several short gains moved NU to the California 43-yard line, setting the stage for perhaps the greatest play in Wildcat gridiron history-- and certainly the most dramatic.  Ed Tunnicliff, NU's 155-pound halfback, took a direct pass from the center, Sarkisian, bypassing the quarterback.  As the California defense was maneuvered out of position, Tunnicliff, aided by several down-field blocks, swept into the end zone for the winning score.

"I knew they had that play," Walforf said following the game.  "We practiced it when I was coach there... it's just that we never used it!"

With time running out, NU defensive back Loran "Pee Wee" Day doused the Bears' final hope as he intercepted a desperation pass at midfield to preserve the Wildcat win.  Minutes after the game ended, Wildcat fans tore down the goal posts, determined never to forget Northwestern's "Rags to Roses" victory.

Here is another account of the Rose Bowl Championship.  The following description comes from Northwestern University: Celebrating 150 Years, by Jay Pridmore.  Pridmore's book was released by the University as part of its Sesquicentennial

By Jay Pridmore

It wasn't that Northwestern was unfamiliar with gridiron glory.  It had been helping national powerhouses like Notre Dame and Michigan achieve it for years.  But the 1948 season was different.  That year the Wildcats finally got their bid to the biggest football game in the nation at the time -- the Rose Bowl.

When the Wildcats beat Illinois in the last game of the regular season, they clinched second place in the Big Nine.  (Without the University of Chicago, which dropped football in 1939, and Michigan State, which was admitted in 1949, it was not then "Big Ten.") Since the conference champion normally went to the Rose Bowl but was not permitted to go two years in a row, repeat champs Michigan stayed home, and Northwestern got its first chance against the best of the Pacific Conference on New Year's Day 1949.

When the bid came, the campus was on cloud nine.  A 24-hour celebration erupted, with undergrads prowling the streets and fraternity men serenading women in their dorms.  President Snyder, always bookish and disciplined, also got a visit from happy songsters, who tacked a "no school" sign on his door.  The Admiral even seemed to enjoy it.

On Monday a good-natured "strike" was called.  Pledge classes were assigned to barricade the doors of classrooms, which was unnecessary, because no one went to class anyway.  That night a Rose Bowl dance was followed with an announcement by Captain Alex "Sarkie" Sarkisian '49 that school was off the rest of the week.

NU Archives

Such a vacation from academic work seemed extreme to some, including students at the University of Chicago, who rushed out with a Daily Northwestern parody.  The Daily Country Club had the headline "Onions!"  mocking the Daily's "Roses!"  And it purported to quote President Frank "Blissful" Snyder: "Other schools might suspend classes for a big thing like a bid to the Onion Bowl, but here at CCU (Country Club University), where we have no classes of importance anyway, we are not faced with that problem."

Hyde Park's jealousy aside, Coach Bob Voigt's tough Wildcat team was the real thing, led by Sarkisian at center and a front line that included tackle Steve Sawle '50, the following year's captain.  Art Murakowski '51 and Frank Aschenbrenner '49 did most of the running chores.  Everyone was ready on January 1, 1949, when the Purple team went up against the Golden Bears of the University of California, headed by former Northwestern coach "Pappy" Waldorf.  The game went down to the final minute, when Northwestern's halfback, Ed Tunnicliff '50, scored on a 45-yard end sweep.  The 20-14 victory was sealed when Loran "Pee Wee" Day '50 intercepted a pass to stall Cal's final drive.

It was a good thing for Evanston that the victory took place in Pasadena, or Evanston might have collapsed under another celebration.  Instead, Cheyenne, Wyoming, bore the brunt of Northwestern's school spirit.  That's where the "Wildcat Special" Rose Bowl train was stranded for three days in a blinding Rocky Mountain blizzard.  The streets of Cheyenne were subjected to three days of spontaneous Northwestern cheers before 275 students finally left town.

1900-1950: What NU's Sports Pioneers Remembered

The following installment is from The Tale of the Wildcats, a Centennial History of Northwestern University Athletics, a 1951 classic by Walter Paulison.  Long out of print, Tale of the Wildcats gives an 'official' history of NU football, including the following recollections by some of NU's greatest players.

These quotes were collected in 1950 during interviews with some of the oldest surviving players, as well as contemporary Wildcats.  The players recounted what were, for them, the greatest and most remarkable moments on the field.

Raymond Lamke, class of 1913: "A 65 yard run against Indiana in the rain in 1910.  Score: NU 5, Indiana 0."

Roy Young, '12: "It makes you feel good to have your children read about you in the year books and to have them think you could do something in your younger days, now that you're fat and 50."

James Solheim, '27: "When I called for a drop kick from the 42 yard line, one yard from the sidelines in the Notre Dame game of '24 and [Ralph] Moon Baker booted it between the uprights.  Moon was nice about such things. I'd call a dumb play and he'd get me out of it with a long run or a great kick."

Leland Lewis, '28: "The Iowa game of '26.  With that victory NU won [a] Big Ten championship."

James Paterson, '23: "Playing Iowa's conference champions and suddenly realizing that even champions aren't superhuman.  We ran all over the field in the second half."

James Oates, 1893: "Winning the first game Northwestern ever played against Michigan in 1892 and taking 13 men to Minneapolis for the Minnesota game of the same year.  We played 60 minute football then."

Don Heap, '38: "Scoring the winning touchdown against Notre Dame in '35 and the following year committing blunders which lost the game, emphasizing how little difference there is between the hero and the heel."

Walter Dill Scott, 1895: "Our defeat by Michigan, 72-6, in '93."

Albert Potter, 1897: "Playing every minute of every game for two years.  It was a case of necessity. We had few subs."

Harry Allen, 1904: "The small squads and the mass plays.  To leave a game was a disgrace unless the player had to be carried off the field."

Charles Ward, 1903: "When I backed up the line against Michigan's 'point-a-minute team' and the great Willie Heston nearly knocked my head off."

Charles Blair, '05: "Oddly enough our worst defeats are longest remembered.  Coach Wally McCornack's saying that '60 minutes to play and all your life to think about it' is 100 percent true."

Albert Weinberger, '06: "Only in later life does one come to appreciate the full benefits of football:  how to accept victory and defeat in good grace; a willingness to sacrifice and not let your fellow players down."

Robert Wienecke, '25: "The spirit of the '24 team which carried to superb heights against Chicago and Notre Dame and earned Northwestern the nickname of Wildcats."

Jack Riley, '32: "The battles of wit and strength against brilliant opponents; the feeling of confidence engendered by such teammates as Baker, Manske, Marvil, Bruder, Moore, Rentner, and others; the satisfaction of having taken part in a winning combination."

Harry Wells, '13: "Those games in which it was obvious that team play and team morale were on such a plane that the team refused to be beaten.  That is the greatest contribution which the game has to offer and the thing for which we should all strive."

Jack Heuss, '34: "When the traffic cop wouldn't let our bus driver make a left turn on Michigan Avenue on our way to Soldier Field for the Stanford game and thinking what the 50,000 people in the stands would do if we didn't get to the field."

Bill Ivy, '46: "I received a cut on my face in the Ohio State game and told Carl Erickson to let me stay in the game as I was a physician.  'You may be a doctor,' retorted Carl, 'but I'm the trainer and I'll let you know when you can play."

Alex Sarkisian, '49: "After the Rose Bowl victory the photographers asked Coach Voigts to pose with me holding the football used in the game.  I was still in my wet, soiled uniform and I told the coach not to put his arm around me as it would soil his suit.  He looked at me and said, 'I can always get a new suit but I'll never get another football team like this one.'   It was a privilege to have played under such a fine gentleman and truly great coach."

1962: Myers to Flatley

This was a featured article from NU's athletic department, written by Greg Jayne in 1987.  Jayne's "Wildcat Legends" article gives an account of the 1962 NU squad, which for two weeks was ranked the #1 team in the nation.

The 1962 Wildcats, respected but unranked by pre-season pollsters, started the year with six straight victories and spent two weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation.

NU was coming off a 4-5 season that included a 2-4 Big Ten record and gave no hint of the greatness to come. But unsuspecting opponents quickly learned that head coach Ara Parseghian had designed one of the nations most explosive offensive attacks, built around the strong arm of quarterback Tom Myers and the soft hands of flanker Paul Flatley.

It was Myers who provided the Wildcats with the element of surprise. Freshmen were not allowed to compete at the varsity level, so opponents had little idea before the season that the 6-0, 180-pound sophomore was one of the nations best passers.

It didn't take them long to find out. Myers completed 20 of 24 passes for 275 yards to lead NU to a 37-20 victory over South Carolina in the season opener.

After just one game, Myers had established himself among the greatest passers in Northwestern history and the Wildcats had served notice that they would compete for the conference crown.

"Yesterday, a sophomore quarterback playing his first collegiate game had fans whispering his name in the same breath with (Otto) Graham's,” Roy Damer of the Chicago Tribune reported.

But things were just beginning for Myers and the Wildcats. In their next outing, they thumped arch-rival Illinois, 45-0, and Myers received more rave reviews.
“Myers was a sharpshooter at finding his targets and a whirling dervish at avoiding charging tacklers,” Howard Barry of the Tribune wrote.
While some people were convinced the Wildcats were for real, critics remained. After all, the best record Parseghian had produced in his six years at the school was a 6-3 mark in 1959.

But the third game of the season convinced almost everybody. NU traveled to Minneapolis to face the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. The Gophers were defending Rose Bowl champions and had won the national title in 1960.

“The answer is yes, Tom Myers, 19-year-old Northwestern sophomore quarterback, IS that good,” Barry wrote after the Wildcats had earned a 34-22 come-from-behind victory. Myers completed 16 of 25 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns.

With its third straight win, NU bolted into the Top 10. More importantly, the Wildcats had a 2-0 conference mark and were tied for first in their bid to return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1948 season.

But Northwestern was facing its toughest test yet: the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus. The Buckeyes were defending Big Ten champions and had been named national champions in 1961 by the Football Writers’ Association. Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, in his 12th season at the school, already had achieved legend status and had won three national titles.

The Buckeyes began 1962 ranked No. 1, but had fallen from that spot after a loss at UCLA. Despite the blemished record, OSU still was favored to win the conference crown, and surely would put the upstart Wildcats in their place.

But Myers and company had something else in mind. They marched into Ohio Stadium and beat the Buckeyes, 18-14, before a stadium-record crowd of 84,376. Myers was 18 of 30 for 177 yards. Ten of the completions went to Flatley, giving him 29 in just four games.

The victory was NU’s first in Columbus since 1943, and touched off a campus celebration that enthusiastic students carried to the streets of downtown Evanston.
“Scent of Roses Fills Air in Evanston as N.U. Students Roar Welcome to ‘Cats,” read a headline in the next day's Tribune. The win had Wildcat fans thinking "Rose Bowl" and jumped the team to the No. 2 spot in the national polls.

Notre Dame was next on the agenda for the Wildcats, and NU took advantage of the weak Irish to score an easy 35-6 win. The non-conference win didn't surprise anybody or help Northwestern’s quest for the Rose Bowl berth, but it vaulted NU into No. 1 spot in the nation for the first time since 1936.

The Wildcats almost found fame to be fleeting the next week. Despite outgaining Indiana 504 to 245 in total offense, NU squeaked out a 26-21 win to hand the Hoosiers their 17th consecutive Big Ten defeat. The victory wasn't impressive, but it was enough for the Wildcats to retain their top ranking and set up the biggest showdown of the Big Ten season.

The following week, NU’s dreams of an undefeated season and a national championship were shattered by Wisconsin. The Badgers used a potent passing combination of their own, Ron VanderKelen to Pat Richter, and a stifling defense to register a 37-6 victory.

The loss dropped Northwestern into a tie with Wisconsin and Minnesota for first place in the conference. But the Wildcats had a disadvantage in the race for the Big Ten title: they were scheduled to play six conference games while Wisconsin and Minnesota had seven.

But the schedule inequity proved to be meaningless as Northwestern took itself out of the race the next week with a 31-7 loss to Michigan State.

"Michigan State's strong, aggressive line and its fast, elusive backs yesterday delivered the final hammer blows to Northwestern’s hopes for a distinguished Big Ten campaign." Barry wrote in the Tribune.

The loss also dashed all NU hopes for a bowl bid. Until 1975, Big Ten teams could not go to bowls other than the Rose Bowl, a rule that kept the Wildcats out of post-season play.

NU rebounded in the final game of the season to beat Miami of Florida, 29-7. The 7-2 record was the school's finest since 1948.

Although they didn't make it to the Rose Bowl and they didn't win the national championship, the 1962 Wildcats can say something that no other Northwestern football team of the past 50 years can say:

“We were ranked No. 1 in the nation.”

Flatley makes an improbable catch vs. the Irish
NU Archives

1963: Sports Illustrated Covers NU

In 1962, Ara Parseghian's Wildcats briefly held the top of the national football rankings.  The following fall Sports Illustrated published (in the November 4, 1963 issue) an article about the Big Ten's linemen, and featured the still-strong Wildcats on its cover.  It was the first time NU football appeared on SI's cover, and it would be the Purple's only appearance until Darnell Autry burst onto the cover in 1995.  Forty years after it was published, here is the text from the Sports Illustrated Big Ten piece which relates to NU:

....The man in the Big Ten who is perhaps most preoccupied with linemen is Northwestern's Ara Parseghian, who has more trouble getting them than anyone else.  Lack of depth goes with Parseghian and Northwestern, the only privately endowed school in the conference, like wind goes with Chicago's streets.  Worse still, every time it appears that Parseghian has done something to solve his problem, Northwestern's line cracks in the middle, and late season opponents run through it as merrily as ducklings in an animated cartoon.

Parseghian thought all might be different this year.  Although he does not get the marginal recruits who go to the state-supported schools, he came up with some fine line prospects to go with the passing of slender Tom Myers.  Even injuries, primarily to Guards Cvercko and Larry Zeno, which cut down the strength of his interior, had not dimmed his hopes as he approached last week's game against Michigan State with four victories and only a 10-9 loss behind him.

A Late Fader

Unfortunately, when a gorgeous, cloudless day greeted 51,013 for Northwestern's homecoming at Evanston, the results for Parseghian were sadly the same as in the past.  Northwestern got off to a 7-0 lead, but in the second half the Wildcat line was torn open for one bolting 87-yard run by Michigan State's Sherman Lewis.  At the end the Spartans' Duffy Daugherty celebrated the announcement of a new five-year coaching contract with a 15-17 victory.

Facing a variety of storming defenses, including a safety blitz that Northwestern could not pick up quickly enough, Tom Myers had one of his worst days.  He completed only nine of 26 passes and had two intercepted.  He was thrown for 61 yards in losses by the swarming Spartan rushers.  Some of Myers' slowness in avoiding the rush had him throwing badly off balance. . . .

"I know you don't hear it said that a passing team doesn't play the real tough defense," said Parseghian.  "But we played well.  Lewis was the difference.  He's been the difference against a lot of people.  We don't think of ourselves as a passing team.  We like balance.  But you do what you can do best.  What are we going to do with Myers?  Make him a split T runner?"

Northwestern is not the only Big Ten team that passes.  The conference average is about 20 throws per game.  But there is a paradox.  They are making fewer points.  As Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan State moved into a tie with 2-0-1 records, each was averaging a fraction more than two touchdowns a game.

"I guess they're scoring less because of the tougher defenses," says Parseghian.  "But the season's only half over.  I think you'll see some scoring."

Northwestern is now, at a very early date, almost out of the championship race after being the favorite.  While most Big Ten people believe that Northwestern will never win a championship because it cannot recruit enough of the quality interior linemen it needs to last through the rugged season, Parseghian refuses to agree.  "I've seen some good line play for us this year," he said.  "Certainly if we had Cvercko, people would see a great one.  But we have two or three players who have a chance to be really good.  Kids like Cerne, Szczecko and Mike Schwager.  We've been close to a championship two or three times, but have lost out late in the season.  Because injuries have hurt us, we got hit early.  In the past five years it was our schedule that got us.  For example, in that time, the first six teams we've played each year have won 48% of their games, and the last three have won 68%."

Doc Urich, Northwestern's end coach, probably put it better than anyone else when he said, "About the best we can hope for is that every three or four years we can get a group that can make a good run, like some of those others do all the time.  And we'll need some luck."

It took NU over thirty years, but it finally proved "most Big Ten people" wrong by winning three championships in the span of six years.  Critical to those conference titles, especially the ones claimed in the nineties, was the Wildcats' superior line play.

After this issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands, Ara Parseghian would coach the Wildcats in only two more games, ending with a Northwestern victory over Ohio State in Columbus.  Parseghian then left for Notre Dame.

1971: The Wildcats Beat OSU

The following column, describing Northwestern's last win against the Ohio State Buckeyes, was written by The Daily Northwestern staff writer Brian Hamilton and appeared in the October 23, 1998 Gameday edition prior to the '98 OSU game.

Recalling a '71 shocker

--by Brian Hamilton: Gameday Staff

Woody Hayes swallowed losses like teaspoons of castor oil.  He coached 28 years at Ohio State, about 27 longer than those who dealt with him would've preferred, amassing 205 victories and spewing at least that many expletives at the officials each game.  Once, as an opposing player dashed unimpeded toward the end zone, Hayes leapt out from the sideline and tackled him.  Ohio State faithful wondered why the player got in coach Hayes' way.

Greg Strunk didn't see who was on his tail, at least not until he got the film.  On a November day that would make Robert Frost swoon, Northwestern had just surrendered a touchdown to vaunted Ohio State and Strunk, a Wildcat cornerback, received the ensuing kickoff.

Ever hear 80,000 hosannas suddenly cease?  If you're curious, look Greg Strunk up.  He's listed in Phoenix, and he's got the original America's Funniest Home Video stashed away.  Down a touchdown and a ton of confidence, Strunk cradled the kick and started to his right.  He hugged the sideline all the way, for 93 yards, and the only guy close to him was a graying, irascible ball of Buckeye fury named Woody, chugging ever so hard, but failing to record his first career tackle this day.

"I've got the film of it," Strunk says.  "Woody Hayes was running down the sidelines after me, throwing his hat.  It did get a lot quieter after that."

If there were two things that wouldn't happen under Woody Hayes' watch in Columbus, both of them were losing to NU at home.  Hayes might have had his players put their hand on the playbook and swear as much.  But for one Saturday in 1971, NU got Woody, a 14-10 win special only because it hasn't happened again since.  Which makes keepsakes like Jerry Brown's something of a collector's item.  Sitting unobtrusively in his home, still there to this day, is the game ball each and every Ohio-native NU player received after the shocker.  Brown is now [1998] NU's co-defensive coordinator, but what he'd get most defensive about in 1971 was the smack his high school buddies laid on thick and heavy during summers back home.

Three of Brown's teammates from Roosevelt High in Kent, Ohio, went to Ohio State.  Brown received a polite "Thanks but no thanks" from Hayes and the parting gift of a scholarship to NU.  For two years, the Buckeyes got the better of the 'Cats.  Brown got the worst of the trash talk.

"Each summer we'd get together and talk, and they had two on me, so I owed them one," Brown says.  "They always throw it at me now that they beat me two out of three, but I always say, 'Isn't it the last one that counts?" [ed. note: Notre Dame fans, in particular, should pay attention to that last quote...]

From practices that week in '71, you'd think this was the only one that counted.  Countries mobilize for war with less intensity than NU displayed before the Ohio State game.  NU was 5-4 heading in, but it might as well have been 5-400, as long as it was Woody Hayes and Ohio State.  With 24 players from the Buckeye State on the roster, the term "light practice" meant one in which only smaller bones were broken.

Larry Lilja probably hates Ohio State more than anyone, if only because the assorted nicks from that week haven't healed yet.  Lilja, now NU's strength and conditioning coach, was a freshman tight end in 1971.  Since freshmen were ineligible to play then by NCAA mandate, Lilja had the envious task of mimicking Ohio State's offense on the scout team.  He may have gotten his current job on the merits that he survived the week with four limbs intact.

"I just remember getting the shit beat out of me that week," Lilja says.  "Players were just so intense.  I remember thinking, 'Geez, I hope they play like this during the game."

Says Strunk: "Kids from Ohio were in the locker room, standing up and giving speeches.  The coaches realized the magnitude of the game.  They were really grinding on us.  They worked real hard, and they made us work real hard."

What Strunk started, fullback Randy Anderson finished with a one-yard dive in the fourth quarter, erasing a 10-7 deficit.  While the world's largest funeral procession ensued outside-- the Buckeye's slim Rose Bowl hopes were dashed by the loss-- a virtual Mardi Gras flooded the visitors' locker room at Ohio Stadium, which was sort of like holding a Fourth of July bash at Buckingham Palace.

For all the scarlet and gray in the stands, the prevalent colors on the field were black and blue.  "You could hear the hitting," Strunk says.

Although the game soundtrack featured more snaps, crackles and pops than a bowl of Rice Krispies, the visitors' lockers got the worst.  Anything that made a loud noise when punched would suffice.  Of course, after beating Ohio State on ground more sacred than Jerusalem, it was clearly necessary roughness.

"To be able to do that in front of their fans was a big thrill," says Barry Pearson, the leading receiver for that NU squad, who had three catches on the day.  "The guys from Ohio were really going nuts, because they could go home and hold their heads up.  I guess it just means so much to get that one, you could just lose all the others as long as you got that one."