Wildcat History
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Part Three
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.

1982: The End of "The Streak"

The column below comes from the Chicago Tribune's September 26, 1982 issue, the day after Northwestern beat Northern Illinois and ended a tragic 34-game losing streak.  While the 1973 - 1991 period in NU history-- known as the Dark Ages-- might not be the happiest topic to face (especially the 1979 - 1982 Streak), it is an important part of NU's story, and this game was especially important.  It was the first feeble ray of hope, one of only a few for the next decade.

The account below was written by Roy Damer.

Dream Come True!  NU Ends 34-Game Nightmare, by Roy Damer, Chicago Tribune

The Wildcats won.  Those are merely three little words.  But, oh, how Northwestern fans have longed to hear those three little words for more than three years.

The long nightmare finally came to an end in Dyche Stadium Saturday, when the Wildcats beat Northern Illinois 31-6 to end their 34-game losing streak, the longest in major-college football history.  You have to go all the way back to Sept. 15, 1979, to find the Wildcats' last victory, a 27-22 decision over Wyoming.

Northwestern's triumph was a dream, Ricky Edwards' dream to be precise.  Edwards, a senior running back from White Plains, N.Y., had neither started nor scored in his Wildcat career.

He celebrated his first start by scoring four touchdowns to tie the school record shared by Otto Graham and Mike Adamle.  Edwards gained 177 yards on 29 carries for a team that had minus-44 yards rushing in its first three games.

"I knew we were going to win," said Edwards.  "I dreamed it last night.  I also dreamed I scored on a 90-yard run."

Edwards' dream was just a little off.  His fourth TD came on an 80-yard jaunt in the third quarter.  "There was a big hole over the center," he said, "and once I got into the secondary, nobody was going to catch me.  I was really hungry today.  This is a relief because it's something we've wanted for three years."

The Northwestern fans in the crowd of 22,078 started celebrating before the game was over.  With 34 seconds left, they poured onto the field and tore down the north goal posts.

Fortunately, the action was at the south end of the field, and the officials wisely allowed the clock to run out.  The fans got around to ripping down the other goal posts later.

"I love it.  I love it," said offensive tackle Chris Hinton in the jubilant Wildcats' locker room.  "This is the beginning of a winning streak."

Hinton, who opened numerous holes for Edwards with his powerful blocking, could be excused for his exuberance.  He is one of the few players on the current team who played in the last NU victory-- and suffered all the grief in between.

"The last victory was no comparison to this one," said the senior from Chicago Phillips.  "This is the highlight of my athletic career."

Although Northwestern is on a high, the Huskies now face some dog days.  Northern will be known as the team against which Northwestern stopped its wrong-way streak. 

"Our kicking game stunk," said NIU coach Bill Mallory.  "Our offense stunk.  Our defense stunk.  We just stunk.  But Northwestern was really hungry.  They were like a pack of wolves looking for something to eat."

The Wildcats scored the first three times they had the ball to take the lead in a game for the first time since they played Wisconsin in 1980.  Linebacker Alex Moyer intercepted a Tim Tyrrell pass at the NU 25 to stop an early Northern drive.  Northwestern immediately marched 75 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown, which came on a 13-yard pass from Sandy Schwab to Edwards.

Schwab, a freshman quarterback, was brilliant in the first half, when he directed the Wildcats to a 21-0 lead.  In the first 30 minutes, he completed 12 of 17 passes for 153 yards.  He cooled off in the second half, and finished with 16 completions in 28 attempts for 212 yards.

"We had success early," said Schwab, "it sure changed a lot of things.  The offensive line made it easy for me to throw and for the backs to run the ball.  Everybody did his job."

Schwab completed his first eight passes before missing.  Edwards scored on two short runs in the second quarter, and the worst chapter in NU history was about to end.

Tyrrell, subbing at quarterback for the injured Rick Bridges, scored on a 3-yard run for the Huskies in the third quarter.  But on the first play after the kickoff,  Edwards took off on his 80-yard scoring run.

It didn't take him long, either, because he's also a track athlete.  He finished fourth in the long jump in the last Big 10 indoor meet.

Edwards was used mainly as a return specialist last year.  He set a Big 10 record he'd just as soon not have: 30 kickoff returns in one season.

Northwestern also has a record it doesn't want, but at least the counting has stopped.

"There was a big load on our shoulders for so long," said Edwards, who was the first Wildcat to rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Jeff Cohn got 103 against Minnesota in 1980.  "This feels so good."

"We created a monster," said Mallory.  "They got out on top of us quick and gave us a good, old-fashioned whipping.  We made every mistake in the book.  But take nothing away from Northwestern.  They played hard and won.  They deserved it."

That last sentence comprises three more little words Northwestern fans have long awaited.  But one thing can be said for the Wildcats: They set some record for teams to shoot for.  It may stand for quite a while.

[....Unfortunately, it stands to this day, at least in Division I-A.  In 1982, Northwestern's Streak was the record for all of Division I; however, Columbia (Div. I-AA) was generous enough to relieve NU of that burden by racking up a 44-game losing streak that stretched from 1983-1988.  The Division I record currently belongs to Prairie View and its infamous ten YEAR losing streak.]

1992: Barnett Debuts at Soldier Field

The next installments are from High HopesNU fans view Gary Barnett as a scoundrel, as one of the greatest heroes in the program's history, and-- with many fans-- as both.  The heroic side of Barnett will be remembered with selections from his (out of print) book, including an account of preparing for and playing the 1992 Notre Dame game, the first game of the Expect Victory Era.

"When we began our workouts at Northwestern, many of the players were in disbelief at what we expected from them in our workouts [this sounds... familiar].  They were nowhere near ready for the physical practices we wanted.  I guess we knew that in the spring, though.  They hadn't even done live contact drills in the previous few springs.  [Barnett wrote in his journal] 'A beer sounds real good right now, but I'm afraid I've alienated all my coaches and none of them will ask me to go out with them.  I'm probably as low as I've ever been. . . .'

"We were up in Kenosha at this time, and I really needed an outlet.  I wasn't doing a very good job with crisis management.

"We were probably the worst team in Division I.  I mean, it is unbelievable how pitiful this group of athletes really was.  But they believed in me.  Most of them.

[Again from his journal] "'It's almost negligence to put our players on the field with Notre Dame for that period of time.  I told our defense to never flinch, that we were going after Notre Dame.... I'm nuts, but I'm thinking we'll find a way to win.  I guess that's why I'm a coach!' 

"When I looked at our team and said we were terrible, part of that was so I could reach rock bottom.  Because I knew we were going to climb up from there.

"We sprung the black jerseys on the players, and I think they liked them.  On game day at Soldier Field I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be.  It was a beautiful day for  a game.  The kids looked great in their black jerseys.  We came out and Lou Holtz told me what a tough job he had.... We took the opening kickoff and marched to the 17.  It was a thing of beauty.

"We lost 42-7 and got outrushed 261-1 in the second half.  But I felt okay.  Glad it was over.  As for the black jerseys, well. . . .

". . . When I took [the idea] to an administrator who hired me, he said, 'If you've got the guts to wear them, I'll back you.'  I actually was apprehensive about the design and figured we'd eventually go back to purple.  We kept the black a secret before the season and even had our team picture taken in white jerseys.  In fact, we warmed up in purple jerseys before [the Notre Dame game].

"When we hit the field in black just before the game I think everybody over the age of 40 gasped and almost had heart attacks.  But everybody under the age of 40 loved them, and every recruit that's walked in here has, too.

"After looking at the game film, I was fuming.  I didn't get on the defensive coaches because I knew they were embarrassed.  As the day went on, the defense just kept eating at me.  Then as we went through kickoff and kickoff return, the kids were all out joking around and I lost it.  I told them they didn't care enough to win.  Didn't hurt them enough to lose.  I swore and felt bad later. . . .  I just didn't think they were investing enough of themselves. Lack of ownership was the issue.  It was somebody else's fault.  I remember losing it, but part of it was by design.

"I was demanding a standard."

1995: THE Game

This selection is also from High HopesIt gives Barnett's account of  the 1995 Notre Dame game, possibly the single most significant game in NU history.  Most fans will probably be able to recall much of the passage below from memory, since this game has now been branded into the Wildcat mythology.

On Monday before the game I gave out the scouting report.   The cover page said, "Belief Without Evidence."  I told the team, "We're healthy.  We're rested.  We're prepared.  We're focused, anxious and hungry."  And we were.  Practice that week was clean, crisp and businesslike.  These players had a sense about themselves.

Notre Dame, as Lou [Holtz] pointed out, was thinking more about its entire season than its opening game.  "We don't have the luxury" of just concentrating on Northwestern.  I played that part of the interview for the team-- and rewound it and replayed it a time or two.  . . . We went right to Notre Dame Stadium for a light workout.  The place has an aura that I wanted to dispel immediately.  So the first thing I did when we arrived was to assemble the kids and walk off 100 yards, to show them the field was regulation length.  Then we walked off 53 yards, to show them it was regulation width.

"What do you know-- same as ours," I said.  Then I said, "Now, look at the grass.  Do you see any ghosts here?"

That must have made for quite a sight, 120 people looking through the grass for ghosts.  Nobody saw any, though, so we began practice. . . 

We met as a team before we left for the stadium in the morning.  I got out scales and put 19 pennies on each side.  It was balanced.  "We assume Notre Dame did everything it could," I said.  "and we've earned our 19."  Then I took out a penny Jeff Genyk found [at the last practice at Notre Dame Stadium], and I said, "But we practiced the Sunday before we left for Kenosha, and that was actually one more time than they did."  I put that penny on our side, and the scales tilted to us.

Then I said, "I do not want you to carry me off the field after this game.  I want you to act like you've been here before, like you've done this before and you're used to this."

When we took the field, we were absolutely ready.  Right away our defense was dominant, and our offense went according to script.  We went ahead 7-0 on [Steve] Schnur's perfect six-yard pass to wide receiver David Beazley, who punctuated the touchdown by crashing into the Notre Dame band.

The game went back and forth a little, but we never felt like we weren't in control.  We led 10-9 at halftime because they missed an extra point, and then Schnur hit another one of our receivers, D'Wayne Bates, for a touchdown early in the third quarter.  Notre Dame scored with 6:16 left but failed on a two-point conversion attempt when their center stepped on the quarterback's foot coming out of the snap.

At least officially that's what happened.

After the game a lot of our kids thought Ron Powlus had been tripped by someone else: Marcel Price, our defensive back who had been killed in a shooting over the summer.

Notre Dame still had plenty of time to score again, though, so we needed to run out the clock.  We gave the ball up quickly after we got it back but held them on a fourth and two when Matt Rice, one of our defensive tackles, stuffed their running back.

When we got the ball back this time, we had a third and about seven to deal with.  Steve wanted to throw "660 X Firm," which was basically a curl route.  That wasn't necessarily what I thought was the play to go with, but what mattered was it was the one that Steve was the most confident in executing.

Sure enough, he fired it in to D'Wayne, who made a great catch.  Then running back Darnell Autry ran about 30 yards, only to be ridiculously called for taunting.  But the first down was what mattered.  The clock ran out, and we had won, 17-15.

No one tried to carry me off the field, and-- out on the field-- the guys acted like we had won just another game.  It wasn't like it was the end-all, although I later found out that [Sam] Valenzisi had scooped out some Notre Dame grass as a souvenir.

1995: NU vs. Michigan:
A Renaissance's Confirmation

Here is another passage from High HopesThis section recalled the '95 'Cats taking on the Wolverines, a team NU hadn't beaten in Ann Arbor since 1959.

     "Michigan was up next for us and somebody remarked to me, 'You're playing with the big boys, huh?'
     "I said, 'No, we are the big boys.'
     "I wasn't going to let my guard down or compromise on those types of belittling statements.  Part of our faith and belief in ourselves depended on not tolerating that kind of thinking.  Trouble was, I could tell our players were a little uptight, maybe a little awe-struck by what we were doing.  We were ranked 25th going into the game and Michigan was No. 7 and 5-0.  Michigan is a special, special place to play, with more than 100,000 people at every game.   None of us had ever coached in that stadium, and only one player on our team had ever been in there.  So our audio-visual people put together some highlights, including shots of the full house in the Michigan stands, the band, and all the pageantry, and we set it to Michigan's fight song, 'Hail to the Victors.'
     "'First of all,' I told the team, 'I want you to know what you're getting into, okay?  Let's just get used to it right now.'  I wanted them to have been there; I wanted them to feel like it was familiar territory.  Then I gave out our scouting report on Michigan, and the theme was, 'Eagle or Oyster?'
     "'When God made the oyster,' the report started, 'He guaranteed its absolute economic and social security.  He built the oyster a house, its shell, to shelter and protect it from enemies.  When hungry, the oyster simply opens its shell and the food rushes in.  The oyster has freedom from want.
     "'But when God made the eagle he declared, "The blue sky is the limit; build your own house!"  So the eagle built on the highest mountain that storms threaten every day.  For food, the eagle flies through miles of rain and snow and wind. . .'
     "Then I said, 'You know that Michigan is the oyster.  They don't have to struggle for anything. . . We are the eagle. . . We're the ones who have had to meet all the adversities.'
     "At the beginning of the game, we fell behind 6-0, but Sam Valenzisi kicked two field goals-- the second with one second left in the first half-- to tie it. . . Michigan executed a beautiful drive early in the third quarter and went ahead 13-6 on Brian Griese's bootleg run.  Even though replays showed he was down before he got in, it was clear they weren't having much trouble with our defense.
     "But Sam kicked another field goal to keep it close and Eric Collier came up with a huge interception early in the fourth quarter by hanging back and lulling Griese to sleep.  It was time for the gadget play.
     "On first down at the Michigan 35 [Steve] Schnur lateraled to D'Wayne Bates, whom we originally recruited as a quarterback.  D'Wayne threw a perfect pass to Darren Drexler, our tight end.  First and goal.  Two plays later Schnur threw a two-yard touchdown pass to our fullback, Matt Hartl.
     "[Pat Fitzgerald] sacked Griese on their next series and momentum was with us.  Sam made another field goal and it was 19-13.  Biakabutuka, who finished with more than 200 yards, ran Michigan to around our 30 with two minutes left, but then the Wolverines decided to throw and got themselves into a fourth-and-long predicament.  William Bennett intercepted, and we ran out the clock.
     "I remember William saying afterward what a beautiful noise it was to hear 100,000 people be so quiet."

1995: NU Beats Penn State and Returns
to the Cover of Sports Illustrated

NU's football team first made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1963.   It would take it thirty-two years, and a media-drenched dream season, to make it again.  The Wildcats returned on November 13, 1995, following their stunning victory over Penn State on national prime time television.  What follows is the article, written by Tim Layden, that SI chose as its cover story for that week.

The Cats' Meow
By beating Penn State, Northwestern Proved it's more than a good story-- it's a good team.

By Tim Layton, Sports Illustrated

They rushed the field last Saturday evening at Northwestern, undergraduates flowing from the bleachers under a full November moon and moving onto the plastic grass in the hollow of Dyche Stadium.  It was an orderly rush, but a rush nonetheless, because they have learned how to celebrate the sweet high of an upset: You wobble the goalposts, you make silly faces while waving index fingers in the air for any soul with a minicam, and you act as if all this is very much a surprise, even though it has become ordinary.

And so the most enduring story of the fall continued, with cute naiveté still attached.  In the moments after Northwestern wrapped up a 21-10 victory over Penn State, completing a spectacularly improbable hat trick that included wins over Notre Dame in September and Michigan in October, not only did students cover the field in a human blanket, but also Cinderella references accrued like 12% interest.  Question to Northwestern coach Gary Barnett: "Coach, how did it feel to coach against Joe Paterno?"  And so on.

But did you see the Northwestern players?  Even as the giddiness surrounded them, they treated their eighth win in nine games-- a victory that moved them to No. 5 in the country-- as if it were a 10-minute oil change.  Presented with a chance to punch in an extra touchdown in the final 90 seconds, Northwestern instead took a knee twice, having acquired class in two months.  (Nebraska, on the other hand, has been dominant for 30 years but can't resist hanging 70 on the likes of Iowa State.)  At the finish, the Wildcats ambled off the field as if this were the annual loss to Iowa.  When two female fans mauled Northwestern wide receiver Brian Musso, he said, "Well, thank you," and moved on through.

The Doormat Makes Good theme is dead now.  If you had laid down a parlay bet in August on Northwestern beating the Big Three on its schedule, you could now buy Delaware, but by the time the Wildcats beat Penn State, a five-point favorite, the word upset no longer should have applied.  "People keep waiting for us to just break some weekend and lose 50-0,"  said sophomore running back Darnell Autry.  "That's not going to happen."

What has happened in Evanston is more than magic and charm and serendipity, though it is partly each of those things.  The Wildcats have improved every week, climbing higher in the nation's rankings and expunging their own wonderment in the process.  When they beat Notre Dame on Labor Day weekend in South Bend, the Wildcats celebrated madly.  They have grown calmer with each successive victory.  "Actually, we're just on an emotional plateau right now," said junior linebacker Pat Fitzgerald.

"This team believed in itself even before Notre Dame," said Barnett.   "That win just verified it."  True, said fifth-year senior Rob Johnson.  "Notre Dame was an incredible high, because nobody gave us a chance, " said Johnson.  "That game proved something to us; it was an awakening.  But since then we've tried to keep a level head.  Every Saturday we're just playing a different face and a different jersey.  We're very businesslike about it."

If that concept is baffling, consider that there are concrete reasons for Northwestern's success: sound defense; depth and execution on the offensive line; and Fitzgerald and Autry, two starters who are playing as well as anybody in the country at their positions.  No less an authority than Paterno, who was visibly peeved after Saturday's loss, said "We're a good football team.  Northwestern is an outstanding football team.  They're my kind of football team."  Translation: tough, sound, lacking stars.

Well, almost lacking stars.  Last Saturday, Fitzgerald demonstrated that he is clearly one of the best linebackers in the country and that his absence from the list of 10 semifinalists for the Butkus Award is deplorable (memo to voters: think write-in).  Fitzgerald had 20 tackles and a sack of Penn State quarterback Wally Richardson.  This season he has 123 tackles, with no fewer than 10 in any game.  Fitzgerald was part of Barnett's first recruiting class, typical of the high-quality athletes now arriving in Evanston.  "It's the whole difference," said Fitzgerald.  "All of us bought into Coach Barnett's message [summary: No more 0-11 seasons, dream of Roses], and it shows on the field."

Autry-- who scored all three Northwestern touchdowns last Saturday and, more significantly, carried the ball 36 times for 139 yards on a cold, windy day when passing was problematic-- was a member of Barnett's second recruiting class.  He is perhaps the best athlete in the program, the type of explosive, durable back that one would expect to find at, well, Nebraska.  It was Autry who sealed this win with a 23-yard carry to the Penn State one and a touchdown run on the next play, giving the Wildcats their 21-10 lead with 11:03 to play.

When asked what it was like to block for Autry, Johnson said, "Easy."  It was not easy getting Autry to come to Evanston, because he was the sort of elite recruit who wouldn't have returned phone calls from the Northwestern programs of the 1980s.  "It was a coup to get him," said running backs coach John Wristen, who recruited Autry out of Tempe (Ariz.)  High in 1994, beating out Colorado in the process.  Autry has rushed for a school-record 1,339 yards, majors in theater and soaks up the applause as much as his elders.  "I'm enjoying this as much as any of the juniors and seniors," he said.

Five of those juniors and seniors start on the offensive line, which not only blocks well for Autry but has also allowed just five sacks of quarterback Steve Schnur (none by Penn State).  Although the line is very solid, it continues to be stung by weekly pronouncements that it is less talented than its opposition, that it survives merely on grit and pluck.  Cornerbacks Rodney Ray and Chris Martin are also seniors, and Northwestern routinely leaves them in single coverage on wideouts, which allows Fitzgerald to roam more freely.  "We put them on an island all the time," said Barnett.  On Saturday they held reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Bobby Engram and Freddie Scott to a combined eight catches for 85 yards, with no gain over 19 yards and no touchdowns.

"People say we're not talented," said Schnur.  "It's true, we do have a great work ethic and we do believe in each other."  He paused and smiled.  "But it sure doesn't feel like we're less talented out there."  There's more talent on the way.  Northwestern hosted a large group of recruits for the Penn State game, and as Barnett said afterward, "Having them at a game like that can't hurt."

It is more than a little sad that all of this blossoming talent and good fortune probably will not land Northwestern in the Rose Bowl.  The Wildcats (8-1) and No. 2 Ohio State (9-0) are both unbeaten in the Big Ten and do not play each other this year.  If they finish tied for the conference title, Ohio State goes to Pasadena on the basis of a better overall record, a Big Ten rule that has been in effect since 1974.  Northwestern's best shot is to win the rest of its games and hope Michigan beats Ohio State on Nov. 25 at Ann Arbor.  In the meantime, Fitzgerald says, the Wildcats' mantra is, "Somewhere warm on January 1st.  Somewhere warm on January 1st."

That somewhere will most likely be Orlando, where Northwestern would play a Southeastern Conference team, possibly Tennessee, in the Citrus Bowl.  (Even so, the permutations of the bowl alliance and its domino sisters remain myriad.) "But  I'm not worried about who we play in a bowl," said Schnur.  "We've already played a lot of good teams, haven't we?"

At least three.  Three that hadn't been beaten by the same team in the same fall since Michigan State did it 30 years ago.  Last Saturday night, in the John C. Nicolet Football Center next to Dyche Stadium, Northwestern's coaches and players' parents milled about in small groups, replaying what had happened that day.  Barnett leaned against a counter, wearing a jacket and tie, talking to his wife, Mary.  In his fourth year as the Wildcats' coach, he now watches as his team grows beyond his teachings, maturing on its own.

Earlier, Barnett had begun his postgame press conference by feigning shock.  "We must be pretty good," he had said, eliciting the desired laughter.  Now he shook his head in amazement.  "It was meant to be humorous," Barnett said.  "But I am learning about them as I go along.  They beat Notre Dame, they beat Michigan, and ever since then, they've faced a challenge that none of them has ever faced before.  Normally this type of thing has to evolve with time, but we've just skipped first and second grades and gone right on with it."

Barnett paused as defensive backs coach Jerry Brown walked past, leaving for the night.  "Great game, Jerry," Barnett said, commending the planning that contained Engram and Scott.  "One hundred twenty-nine yards passing, that's it," said Brown.  He was followed by George and Peggy Price of Nashville, whose son Marcel, a freshman last year, was accidentally shot and killed in July.  Northwestern players wear a patch on their jerseys in tribute to Marcel, whose parents still occasionally go to Northwestern games.  "Nice going, Coach," said George Price, pumping Barnett's right hand.

Many parents remained, lingering and talking and sharing the pride they all felt.  "This is a special group of guys," said Barnett.  "There are things you don't have to teach them, things they know how to handle.  And right now, they don't want to taste losing again."

Around him the room hummed softly in quiet celebration.  Restrained.  Routine.  Businesslike.

1996: The Cardiac 'Cats
Earn Their Name

The 1996 championship season might have  been played in the sprawling shadow of NU's wild and storied Rose Bowl season, but it provided its own share of eventual Wildcat legends and storied moments.  Supreme among them has to be Northwestern's 17-16 win over Michigan.  The Wolverines took a 16-0 lead into the fourth quarter at Dyche Stadium.  NU stormed back, scoring a touchdown and two field goals before having the ball at midfield with just over one minute left.  Facing fourth down and out of field goal range, Steve Schnur fired a wild pass to Brian Musso, who made a miracle catch for first down.  Brian Gowins executed a perfect kick to win, but it was recalled by the referees, who weren't ready to restart the clock for the play.  Forced to kick again, Gowins repeated flawlessly, giving NU the win with just over eight seconds left.

For an account of this game, I decided to take a different approach and offer an article from Michigan's viewpoint.  The following column was written by Steve Kornacki, and appeared October 7, 1996 as part of the Detroit Free Press' U. of  M. coverage.  It is followed by a second article, the standard Associated Press account of the game.


Loss to Wildcats especially
painful for U-M's Irons

Free Press Sports Writer

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Michigan had just lost to Northwestern in a game that could deny Jarrett Irons his last opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl. The injured Wolverines middle linebacker exited the locker room and limped toward his father outside Dyche Stadium.

I'm proud of you," said Gerald Irons, putting an arm around his son. They hugged.

"Hang in there," Gerald said.

Jarrett nodded and hurried to the team bus. He stepped gingerly on the injured right toe that kept him out of the entire fourth quarter -- when the Wildcats scored all their points Saturday in a 17-16 comeback.

Irons hurt the toe Thursday during a punt-protection drill, suffering what has been termed turf toe. Then he jammed the same toe during pregame practice.

However, the captain started and made five tackles. The pain became too much in the second half and his mother, Myrna Irons, said her son took a cortisone shot. His foot froze up after the injection and his day was over.

"It was tough," Irons said, "but it's no excuse. I played as hard as I could. We had enough points to win the game and just didn't."

The 17 points were the first fourth-quarter points U-M had allowed all season.

Northwestern passed for 128 yards in the fourth quarter after throwing for 118 in the first three quarters. The Wildcats rushed for 44 yards, equaling their total for the first 45 minutes.

Quarterback Steve Schnur was 7-for-9 on third and fourth downs in the final 15 minutes. Michigan had countless chances to stop his relentless comeback, but never could.

Schnur made third-and-long look easy, hitting D'Wayne Bates and Brian Musso time after time.

How did he do it?

"They went into max protections," Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "They knew they were not going to keep us out, and so they kept everyone but one receiver in to block. They sent one man out, and he kept hitting those one-man routes.

"We knocked the crap out of that quarterback (with four sacks and constant pressure), but he's a tough kid. A good quarterback. They made the plays and we didn't. Somebody had to come up with a big play for us, and nobody could."

The Wolverines had only 28 yards in total offense and one first down in the fourth quarter.

But they didn't need a big play. All quarterback Scott Dreisbach needed was six yards on third down with two minutes remaining. But his pass to Tai Streets came up one yard short, and U-M punted.

"If I could have any play back," Dreisbach said, "it would be that play. They were in the perfect defense to protect that route and played it perfect."

Schnur then drove the Wildcats 58 yards to set up the game-winning, 39-yard field goal by Brian Gowins with 13 seconds remaining.

"We made some key mistakes," Wolverines defensive end Glen Steele said. "We did not have the attitude we had before."

"Not having Irons," Mattison said, "it hurts you. Will Carr and Glen Steele were banged up, too. But Northwestern also had guys hurt. That's football."

Eleven members of Irons' family hugged him, one by one. His parents, brother Gerald Jr., grandmothers, aunts, cousins and uncle came to the game from Texas and Gary, Ind.

Gerald Sr. wore the white game jersey Jarrett wore on the sidelines at the 1993 Rose Bowl. He was redshirted that season as a freshman, and figured his time surely would come.

But one horrible fourth quarter, one in which Irons never played, and that dream hangs by a thread.


EVANSTON, Ill. (Oct 5, 1996 - 18:01 EST) -- Northwestern, the miracle team of college football last season, pulled off one of its greatest comebacks Saturday.

Brian Gowins kicked a 39-yard field goal -- not once but twice -- with 13 seconds remaining as the No. 22 Wildcats rallied from a 16-0 fourth-quarter deficit to stun No. 6 Michigan 17-16.

Gowins, who booted three field goals in the final quarter, initially knocked the 39-yarder through the uprights, but officials ruled that the play had not been whistled to start.

So Gowins had to try it again.  This time his kick was just as true, and once again Dyche Stadium becamea sea of purple celebration after yet another amazing victory for a program that was once the doormat of college football. Trailing 16-14, Northwestern started at its own 20 with 1:53 left and moved to the Michigan 22 behind the passing of Steve Schnur. Schnur's biggest pass was a 12-yarder to Brian Musso on a fourth-and-9 from the Michigan 46 with a minute left.

Two more passes, one to Musso and another to D'Wayne Bates, and a short run by Darnell Autry -- who finished with 100 yards for an 18th straight game-- gave the Wildcats a first down at the 22 with 17 seconds to play.

From there the Wildcats decided to kick on first down and Gowins responded. He also hit from 23 and 33 yards in the final quarter.

Northwestern (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) also rallied to beat Michigan last season, 19-13, in its improbable drive to the league championship.

But a comeback Saturday didn't look possible against the Wolverines (4-1, 1-1) and their aggressive defense that pressured and hurried Schnur.

Michigan drove 80 yards on the first series of the second half to take a 16-0 lead behind the passing off Scott Dreisbach, who completed 20-yarder to Russell Shaw and a 27-yarder to Tai Streets, who caught 12 passes in the game.

When Northwestern's Paul Burton couldn't handle a low punt snap and his knee hit the ground, the Wolverines were ready to add to the lead late in the third quarter.

But Streets fumbled after a catch at the Northwestern 29, Barry Gardner recovered and the game turned.

Schnur, who had fumbled at the 9 to kill a second-quarter drive, then hit passes of 19 yards to Bates and 24 and 26 yards to Musso for a first-and-goal at the 7.

Levelle Brown's 3-yard touchdown run capped the 71-yard drive and made it 16-6, and Schnur hit Bates with a two-point conversion pass. That cut the lead to 16-8 with 13 minutes remaining.

Northwestern got the ball right back when Chris Howard fumbled and Kevin Buck recovered at the Michigan 20. Autry's 10-yard gain helped the Wildcats to a first-and-goal at the 7. But the Wildcats managed just one more yard and after two incompletions, Gowins kicked a 23-yard field goal with 10:46 left.

After a Michigan punt, the Wildcats moved to the Michigan 15 as Bates had catches of 14, 18 and 12 yards and Gowins hit a 33-yarder to make it 16-14 with 5:25 to go. Bates finished the game with eight catches.

Michigan managed one first down on its next series but couldn't kill enough of the clock and had to punt. From there, Northwestern moved to its winning field goal.

Remy Hamilton kicked three first-half field goals as the Wolverines took their 9-0 lead.