Friday, November 9, 2012

Who Are You and Why Do We Care?: Northwestern Wildcats

Is there a rivalry here?
No. Northwestern has not been very competitive in this series as Michigan leads 53-15-2 in the series' seven meetings since 1892.  

When did we see them last?
Last season, Michigan traveled to Evanston, Illinois to face the Wildcats. On Michigan's first possession, Denard Robinson completed a pass to Junior Hemingway for 48 yards to get the Wolverines into the redzone, then threw the ball to Steve Watson for the touchdown. Northwestern responded on the next drive. Dan Persa lead the Wildcats down the field before Kain Colter ran for a 15 yard touchdown. When Michigan got the ball back, Denard threw an interception to Northwestern's Ibraheim Campbell. The Wildcats ran down the field, and Treyvon Green finished the job with a seven yard touchdown run. 

On the first play of the of the second quarter, Denard threw a second interception to Ibraheim Campbell. Northwestern was not able to take advantage, and was forced to punt. Multiple possessions later, the Wolverines ran seven straight rushing plays before Jeremy Gallon found room on a throw back screen and went 25 yards for a touchdown. Again, Northwestern would respond, this time with a drive opposite of Michigan's. Dan Persa threw six straight passes before handing the ball off to Adonis Smith who ran for the touchdown. Michigan got the ball in the two minute drill, and Denard threw a third interception, this time to Brian Peters. Northwestern's Jeff Budzien kicked a field goal, and the half ended 24-10. 

The second half was a different game. Michigan had five possessions, and scored on 4 of them. The only possession without a score ended with Brendan Gibbons missing a field goal. On the other hand Northwestern had the same five drives, and only came close to scoring on the last play of the game. The first possession of the second half included a 57 yard pass from Denard to Roy Roundtree and a Denard 2 yard touchdown run. The second drive was highlighted by a Robinson 25 yard run, a Kevin Koger 19 yard reception, and finally a Devin Gardner 1 yard touchdown run. On the third drive, Michigan started with great field position due to a Brandin Hawthorne interception. The first play of the fourth quarter was Michael Shaw running for a two yard touchdown. Northwestern fumbled and Michigan got the ball for a fourth time. This was the possession that ended with the missed field goal. Michigan's last drive ended with Denard rushing for a 5 yard touchdown. The game ended after Northwestern ran all the way down the field, and Kain Colter was tackled at the Michigan 1 yard line. Final Score: 42- 24. 

What do they look like?
Well for a very long time they looked like purple USC. In 2010, the Wildcats broke out a new set of uniforms, which actually have stripes called "Northwestern Stripes." IMO, purple rarely looks good on a football uniform (even Brandon Graham couldn't make it look good). In addition, black for black's sake looks very bad for the Wildcats, especially since their colors are Purple and White. I actually really liked their old away jerseys, but I did not care for the purple or black. This year, Northwestern came out with a new set of uniforms. I know some people will say these are horrible, but I really like them (even with the purple). We will see the white version of these, which again are much better than the purple and black version. 

What's their coaching situation?
When Randy Walker died in 2006, Linebackers Coach, Pat Fitzgerald took over. Fitzgerald has done everything the Northwestern fan base could ask for. He has gone 37-38 including four straight bowl games (all losses). Before becoming the Wildcat's head coach, Fitzgerald was an excellent linebacker for the same team. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year twice, and won both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award in both 1995 and 1996. After playing one season for the Dallas Cowboys, he became the linebackers coach at Maryland followed by Colorado and Idaho before returning to Northwestern. 

Have they won National or Big Ten Championships?
The Wildcats have never won a National Championship, but they have won eight Big Ten Championships. Three of those championships have occurred in the modern era: 1995, 1996, and 2000. 

Did anyone famous play there?
These are really a stretch... I've only sort of heard of these guys...
  • Mike Adamle: former WWE Raw General Manager
  • Pat Fitzgerald
Do they have a goofy mascot?

It is very difficult to do research on Northwestern's Willie the Wildcat when another purple wearing team, Kansas State, also has their own Willie the Wildcat. Supposedly Northwestern's Willie went through a makeover before the video above. I don't know much about mascots, but this one is worse than Goldy. 

Any cool/weird traditions?
  • Well, they are more pretentious than us and they are proud of it.  Since they are the only private school in the conference, Northwestern fans chant "State School" at the other teams in the Big Ten.
  • I'm sure Fouad would hate this one: during kickoffs, their fans jingle their keys (I'm sure it makes a lot of noise). The keys replaced a much more awesome tradition of throwing marshmallows on to the field and at each other. 
Prediction based on everything but football: Michigan 31 - Northwestern 17. 

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