Northwestern’s Five Biggest Wins of the Pat Fitzgerald Era


pat fitzgerald

With the 28-25 upset of the ninth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers this past Saturday, Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald gained sole possession of second place on NU’s all-time coaching wins list. Fitzgerald stands at 38 wins, one more than his predecessor Randy Walker and 11 behind Lynn Waldorf’s school-record of 49.

Fitz is inked to be at the school till 2020, so it’s safe to say he’ll have the record all to himself soon enough. He appears to be a “lifer” at the school, like Bobby Bowden was to Florida St.

The win Lincoln, a game in which the ‘Cats entered as 17 point underdogs, turned Northwestern’s season entirely around; it breathed life into their once near fatal bowl hopes. Where does it rank among the greatest hits of the Fitzgerald era?

5.) 11-21-09 Wildcats 33, Wisconsin Badgers 31

Watch the video I shot above of the fans celebrating the win on Ryan Field. You’ll see the man who ends all his tweets and Facebook updates with “GO CATS!” walk right by the mosh pit. Watch the video below of the marching band playing the school fight song in celebration for more fun facts on this game

 4.) 11-13-10 NU 21, #13 Iowa Hawkeyes 17

Cats bagged a thriller by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats led in the first two periods, but the Hawkeyes scored twice to take the lead in the third quarter. On the deciding play, franchise QB Dan Persa ruptured his achilles, and he’s never been the same since. It’s sad that a huge, exciting win like this will forever be associated with the play that destroyed the end of their season, and ruined Persa’s chances at the Big Ten MVP award. When Persa went down, the Cats went 0-3 and gave up 163 points in those three games

3.) 11-5-11 NU 28, the other NU #9 Nebraska 25

Fitz’s comment on the game at Yesterday’s press conference.

I’m just happy for the guys. They’ve worked hard; they’ve finally figured out the kind of preparation it takes to be successful. We’ve done it now two weeks in a row. We haven’t been perfect but we’ve been consistent, and it all goes back to our preparation. They all count for one win, so I think they’ve all been pretty special that I’ve been part of.

For more on this game go here

2) 8-31-06 NU 21, Miami of Ohio

Fitzgerald assumed the reigns of the program under the most tragically dire of circumstances. Then coach Randy Walker shockingly died of a heart attack at age 45, and Fitzgerald, 31, soon became the youngest coach in the nation at the time. With Walker’s wife Tammy in the stands, NU beat Walk’s alma mater. Fitz’s very first game was quite possibly the most emotionally important game in school history. They won by 18, but even if they lost, just playing would have been a victory.

1.) 11-7-09 Northwestern 17, #8 Iowa 10

Two years ago yesterday, Fitz got his first “signature win” as the Cats handed the Hawkeyes their first loss of the season, and it derailed their very-real-at-the-time conference and national title hopes. And they did it with Mike Kafka at half strength, since injuries left him nearly immobile. The triumph in Kinnick signaled that indeed Fitz really knew how to beat Iowa, no matter the disparity in record.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports, a Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports.

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; he’s also a member of the FWAA, USBWA and SPJ. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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