Northwestern Complete Bowl History: Cliff Notes Version


mike kafka qb

The beauty of history is that it tells us where we’ve been in order to figure out where we’re going. Illinois took out Baylor in part one of Chicago Big Ten teams in the bowl “Texas Two-Step.” And on New Year’s Day, the Northwestern Wildcats will likewise have an opportunity to defeat a 7-5 Big 12 team in their home state; and a drivable distance from their campus. Just like the Illini did.

But before we get to previewing college football’s Ticket City Bowl vs. Texas Tech, let’s look back at where NU has been in the postseason. Well, it started nice…in 1949. But a half-century later, the holidays haven’t exactly been very happy for the Wildcats.

Let’s Review. Years denote the season, not date of game.

By Paul M. Banks

darnell autry

1948 Rose California 20-14 W

This happened decades before I was born, so I won’t expound on it much. But it looks nice on paper: the ‘Cats only postseason victory in history.

1995 Rose USC 32-41 L

It really is a shame that Pat Fitzgerald didn’t get to play in this game. The only two-time national defensive player of the year in college football history might have made a difference in this game. Keyshawn Johnson had 216 yards receiving for the Trojans. This team came out of absolutely nowhere to be bigger in ’95 than the sitcom Friends and/or the band Hootie and the Blowfish. (I just couldn’t decide which reference jokes I wanted to make). The team’s star player, Darnell Autry, had 32 carries and 3 TDs in this game. D’Wayne Bates had 145 yards receiving, but it just wanted enough.

1996 Citrus Tennessee 28-48 L

Year two in the history of NU football brought another Big Ten title, and another New Year’s Day bowl loss, as Peyton Manning lit ’em up for over 400 yards passing.

2000 Alamo Nebraska 17-66 L

To NUs with a N on their helmet showed up for this one; but only one packed their defense. Hint it wasn’t the team that gave up 636 yards of total offense. The less said about this the better.

2003 Motor City Bowling Green 24-28 L

Some guy named Josh Harris went 38-50 passing, and some dude named Cole Magner has 12 receptions and 2 TDs versus a very mediocre Wildcat defense. On the plus side, Jason Wright had had 237 yards rushing, and the Cats put up 357 on the ground as a team.

2005 Sun UCLA 38-50 L

This time, it was QB Drew Olson’s turn to light up the Wildcats in a bowl game. Noticing a trend here? Do you see why NU is sort of like the college football version of the Chicago Cubs?

2008 Alamo Missouri (OT) 23-30 L

The Cats entered as the biggest overall underdog of the bowl season- more than two touchdowns. Yet they were one stray Amado Villareal kick from pulling the upset. Although Mizzou’s kicker provided a couple favors to keep the Cats in it. Northwestern’s secondary picked off Chase Daniel, the greatest 5-9, fat guy to somehow land a QB roster spot in the NFL. Nonetheless the drought continued.

2009 Outback Auburn (OT) 35-38 L

Perhaps the most exciting and interesting bowl game of the season; and in school history. Another kicker (Stefan Demos), another errant kick- just oh so close yet again to breaking the drought. Mike was “Kafkaesque” going 47-78 for 532 yards, 5 INTs and 4 TDs. Yes, almost 80 passes, 621 net yards, and tons of school and bowl records. Including a 77 yarder to Drake Dunsmore.

Considering where Auburn is today versus a year ago at this time, and how closely the Cats hung with ’em, this is impressive.

Anyways, here’s to 2011 and making the eighth time the charm.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular weekly segment on

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