Northwestern has issues closing out big games

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F. Scott Fitzgerald said, via Nick Carraway, the narrator and moral centerpiece of his masterwork “The Great Gastby” that “you can’t repeat the past.” Unfortunately, Northwestern football is doing exactly that right now.

The #15 Northwestern Wildcats had #3 Ohio State right where they wanted them. NU had the nation’s third-ranked team on the ropes in the 4th quarter, as they led 23-13. We’ve been here before. In 2012, Northwestern held leads of at least ten in each of their three losses. Had they found/gotten the coffee (“because coffee is for closers only”) and closed the deal versus Nebraska at home, Michigan and Penn State on the road, what might have happened?

If 2012 Northwestern went undefeated, would they have given Alabama a better game than Notre Dame did?

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Well, that’s neither here nor there, as history repeated itself once again.

OSU had their way with the Northwestern Wildcats, winning 40-30 and once again, NU blew a double digit 4th quarter lead versus a name brand Big Ten opponent. Pat Fitzgerald is now 5-14 in his career versus ranked opponents.

During the Pat Fitzgerald era at Northwestern, the Cats have blown a 10+ point lead on ten different occasions. This time it was just Ohio State’s turn. Another marquee league program, another blown opportunity for the Northwestern Wildcats to add to their history of program defining wins.

Pat Fitzgerald still has two wins over a top ten team though: #4 and 8-0 Iowa in 2009 (14-10), #9 Nebraska in 2011 (28-25). Of course, both the Huskers and the Hawkeyes ended up the season ranked much lower and with disappointing seasons. Northwestern nipped them at the time that they were ranked the highest, but both teams were overrated.

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In a week in which both the local and national media hyped up Fitz and his program, giving it levels of credibility not deemed since 1995, the Wildcats failed to close the deal. That Rose Bowl team, led by Pat Fitzgerald the two-time National Defensive Player of the Year at Linebacker, was the last time we had a buzz like this for Northwestern football.

But in failing to close, NU let a buzzkill now set in. For all of Fitzgerald’s achievements at Northwestern, he still is 5-14 versus ranked teams and 26-31 in Big Ten play. F. Scott Fitzgerald also said “there are no second acts in American life.” A time-honored phrase that has been proven untrue, time and time again. Pat Fitzgerald is doing right now at Northwestern, he was a star player, now he’s a star coach.

Now he needs a second and better act, as a coach.

Listen to me every Tuesday at 10:30 AM CDT talking Illini and Northwestern 1620 The Zone

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan and 1620 The Zone, he also writes for Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and Facebook

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