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One Last Look at the ’09 Football Season

But First a Word...

Before I take one last look at the ’09 Wildcat Football season, I have to say one thing...

Basketball (Men): NU-72, Purdue-64.

With the win over the #6 Boilermakers, the bball ‘Cats are 12-4 and potentially headed for their first NCAA Tournament. Go ‘Cats!

I’m more of a football guy than a basketball guy. But I’m always a Wildcat - Way to go!

The ’09 Football Season.

The final record is 8-5. That’s about what I thought before the beginning of the season. I was hoping for better - who doesn’t hope for 13-0 and a national title?

Getting to 8-5 was a long story. The ‘Cats of the first half (or so) of the season were often difficult to watch. The near loss at Eastern Michigan which slid into the actual loss at Syracuse and another loss against Minnesota. Frankly, I was despairing of even getting to a bowl game. And then the first 25 minutes against Purdue…

I was told that I should turn off the game and give it up. “No way! I’ve seen worse!” I replied. (And I had, back when I was in NUMB and NU was in the throes of the “Bad Times.”)

I didn’t give up, and neither did the Wildcats. They pulled it out 27-21.

It was a crazy first half of the season. I wondered week to week which team was going to show up for the game - the solid winners or the guys who gave up a win at Syracuse.

Fast forward a few weeks to the Indiana game (which followed another heartbreaking loss (Michigan State) and the second half of the season. Once again, it was painful to watch the beginning of the game as the Wildcats get behind by 25. It was looking like a train-wreck. But the Wildcats showed a lot of fortitude and stormed back for the 29-28 win. In retrospect, I think that game broke the spirit of the ’09 Hoosiers - they went 0 for rest of season.

The Penn State game started great and finished badly. Although the game was much closer than the 34-13 final score, it was a loss. And Kafka was felled. The last few games were not looking so good. I was wondering if NU would go 6-6 and have to sweat out being on the bubble for a bowl game.

Then the Iowa game (at Iowa) with The Hit Heard Clear Back in Evanston. I truly believe that Wootten’s smackdown changed NU’s fortunes for the rest of the year. And Persa stepped up big. Frankly, the game wasn’t as close as the 17-10 score would indicate. NU just plain dominated the game.

After a win against Illinois, NU again dominated a nationally ranked foe in defeating the Badgers 33-31. NU sprinted to a big lead and hung on to finish the regular season 8-4.

The Wildcats got some love and leapfrogged Wisconsin into the Outback Bowl. You’ve already read my column about NU’s combination of misfortune and never say die attitude. While NU lost the game, Auburn knew that they were in a fight. And for the record, Coach Fitzgerald was right to go for the win.

8-5 is a good season. It could easily have been 5-7 or even worse. It could also have been 10-3 or better. I could go on about how far the Wildcats have come since the “Bad Times” but I’m biased. Then again, I think anyone can see that Wildcat football is a different animal now.

I think that the best words about the current Wildcat football era came from some of my fellow Big Ten alums (Ohio State, Penn State, and Purdue) who by the end of the season noted simply and sincerely:

“We can’t take Northwestern for granted anymore.”

It will be a long 9 months waiting for the new football season...

Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)




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