Northwestern is now 3-1 in their last four meetings against SEC teams.
If there was ever a time for Northwestern’s defense to step up, that time was today. And they did just that as they defeated Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl 34-20.
This historic victory ended a streak of nine straight bowl game losses. Before today, Northwestern hadn’t won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl when they defeated California-Berkeley.
Northwestern held a very slim 13-10 lead at halftime. In the second half the Wildcats defense only allowed 10 points while the offense scored 21.
The duel quarterback tandem of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian combined for 281 total yards. It’s a formula that has been the key to success for Pat Fitzgerald’s offense this year.
The Wildcats defense however was the biggest success story in 2012. Today marked the eighth game in which they held their opponents to 20 points or less.
Northwestern has won all eight of those games. Today was also the third time in which the “Cardiac Cats” held their opponents to under 300 total offensive yards.
Northwestern is unbeaten in that category as well. The 2012 season has given the ‘Cats a defensive identity, something that has not happened since the 90’s.
When head coach Pat Fitzgerald played middle linebacker at Northwestern they were one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. When Fitzgerald took over as the head coach in 2006 they were one of the worst defenses in the country.
Over the last couple of seasons the Wildcats have improved on the defensive side of the ball. This year it looks like that improvement has finally paid off as the ‘Cats have finally gotten the bowl game monkey off of their backs.
The offense also achieved a milestone today. Today’s Gator Bowl victory was the sixth time in which they scored 30 or more points this year. Northwestern finishes the season with a 5-1 record when this is accomplished.
Notice a pattern here? Because I sure do. Northwestern finishes the season with a record of 10-3, their first 10 win season of the 21st century. Yes I said century.
As a matter of fact, the last time Northwestern won 10 games was during the magical 1995 season. They finished 10-2 that year, won the Big Ten title, went to the Rose Bowl, and Pat Fitzgerald was the defensive captain.
So today’s victory has made history in more ways than one. Let’s hope that “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” can continue to build from here and have greater success in the future.