Pat Fitzgerald is Northwestern Top Cat, Hits Century Mark on Caturday

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In a 43-3 season opening blowout of Maryland, Pat Fitzgerald won his 100th game as Head Coach at Northwestern University tonight. NU has won 540 games in their history, meaning Fitzgerald has 18.5% of the program’s victories. As a player, he was a part of 24 wins with the Wildcats.

He also 26 wins as an assistant coach with the Cats, so when you add it all up, 150 triumphs, Fitz is involved in 27.8% of all time Northwestern Wildcats football victories. Let it all sink in and it’s clear, he’s the top cat of all time in Evanston.

“It’s an honor. It’s humbling,” Pat Fitzgerald about the milestone. “It’s about our players. It’s about our staff. It’s about our players’ families. It’s about our staff’s families…I’m so proud of those guys and I’m honored to be their coach and I’m just sorry it took so long for us to get to 100.”

Northwestern’s dominant 30-3 showing in the first half was the best they have played in a very long time. See the tweet above for more factoids about it. It was NU’s most third most points in a half since 2015, and the first time they have scored 40 in a Big Ten game since 2017.

Speaking of 2017, it was also the last time NU held a

Coming off the worst season, by some margin, of the Pat Fitzgerald era, seeing NU hit the ground running like this was suprising to say the least. Last year brought argubaly the worst offense in the entire history of the program, which was a shame because the defense was actually pretty solid.

This year it’s a brand new offense, with a new system, an upgrade at coordinator in Mike Bajakian, a better quarterback in Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey, and the return of their injured RB1 in Isaiah Bowser.

In other words, a new look offensive backfield, aided by a new play-caller and better line play, and thus the result was a 180 degree shift from last year’s disaster. It also helps that Maryland is a dumpster fire right now, and it’s going to take a long time until Mike Locksley can actually try and fix that mess.

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The Cats jumped on the Terrapins early, and made sure to step on their throats and close the deal. The ballgame was 24-3 a little over 20 minutes in, and there was no way the Terps were coming back from that.

“Setting the tone early is something we talked about all week,” said Ramsey.

“We want to start fast, and then after that you want to keep the pedal down and that’s what we did.”

“I think that’s a credit to the preparation we had this offseason. Even when we weren’t able to practice, getting those extra throwing sessions in, and extra time in the meeting room some of the guys about small nuances in our schemes, that comes with guys who have played a lot of football and have a lot of experience.”

Said Bowser of the new look offense: “Leaders are getting young guys going and the young guys are making plays, so we just got to keep on going with that.”

With 212 yards passing and 325 yards on the ground, Northwestern found the sort of balance that was missing last season. Okay, to be more accurate, they were somewhat “balanced” on offense last season, as both dimensions were bad…but the passing game was obviously much worse.

There is one thing that has changed about the offense that you might miss however. There are no more superbacks, now they’re just called tight ends. The superback was basically a tight end/full back hybrid.

“We changed the name for a reason,” said Fitz.

“Super back was great to us, put a lot of guys in the NFL. We tried to keep John (Raine, the starting TE) really quiet, but he’s a really good player and an unbelievable teammate. Him and Peyton coming in and making an impact like they have speaks not only to their skill set but also to the team, welcoming those guys with open arms.”

“Charlie Mangieri played really well too, helping us run the ball with two tight ends out there. I thought our offensive line was outstanding.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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