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« Footballic Ramblings: "Once More With Feeling" Footballic Ramblings: Bears Win Finale, Questions Remain »

Football Sat Jan 02 2010

'Cats Run Out Of Lives

When it comes to college football, the Northwestern Wildcats may be the Chicago Cubs of the Big Ten. While they've managed to make it to the top of the Big Ten standings as recently as 2000 (although they had to share that honor with Michigan and Purdue), they haven't managed to win a bowl game (their closest equivalent to a World Series) in 61 years, when they beat California in the 1949 Rose Bowl. Since then, it was a loooooong drought of winning season followed by a brief period of glory. But still, no bowl wins.

That streak didn't change yesterday as the Wildcats fell 38-35 in overtime to Auburn in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., but great play and a little luck brought NU tantalizingly close to getting over the hump.

The Wildcats trailed Auburn for much of the game, behind by as many as 14 points late in the fourth quarter, but NU fought back and converted three fourth downs during a 15-play, 58-yard touchdown drive. Northwestern kicker Stefan Demos' extra-point attempt was blocks to hold Auburn's lead to eight. On Auburn's next possession, NU stripped the ball from a Tiger runner and recovered the fumble. That set up a series of wild miscues on both sides of the ball that kept NU in the game and, indeed, seemed more like fate and destiny than human error.

A facemask penalty. Missed field goals. A roughing the kicker call. Forced into overtime. Whether actually at the game or sitting in a bar in Evanston, Northwestern fans had to believe in miracles.

You can argue whether NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald made the right decision in opting to go for the touchdown rather than the field goal in the final play of overtime. But whether or not their heart got them to that final play in the first place? Well, the 'Cats out of the bag on that one.

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