Northwestern Wildcats football

Northwestern Wildcats football
Northwestern Wildcats football
Current season
First season 1876/1882
Athletic director Jim Phillips
Head coach Pat Fitzgerald
6th year, 36–30  (.545)
Home stadium Ryan Field
Stadium capacity 47,130
Stadium surface Natural grass
Location Evanston, IL
Conference Big Ten
Division Legends
All-time record 476–619–44 (.437)
Postseason bowl record 1–8
Conference titles 8
Heisman winners 0
Current uniform
Colors Purple and White            
Fight song Go U Northwestern
Mascot Willie the Wildcat
Marching band Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band
Rivals Illinois Fighting Illini
Purdue Boilermakers
Wisconsin Badgers
Iowa Hawkeyes

The Northwestern Wildcats football team, representing Northwestern University, is a NCAA Division I team and member of the Big Ten Conference, with evidence of organization in 1876. The mascot is the Wildcat, a term coined by a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1924, after reporting on a football game where the players appeared as "a wall of purple wildcats." Northwestern achieved an all-time high rank of #1 during the 1936 and 1962 seasons, then plummeted to extended levels of futility from the mid-1970s to 1994.

Recent years have been far kinder to the Wildcats, who have won three Big Ten championships or co-championships since 1995, and have been "bowl eligible" (a status that requires at least a .500 regular-season record) seven out of the last eight seasons. Northwestern consistently ranks among the national leaders in graduation rate among football teams, having received the AFCA Academic Achievement Award four times since 2002.[1] Despite the stricter academic standards, Northwestern has produced many notable athletes, such as former first-round draft picks Luis Castillo and Napoleon Harris.

The Wildcats have played their home games at Ryan Field (formerly Dyche Stadium) in Evanston, Illinois, since 1922.



Conference Championships

Northwestern is a charter member of the Big Ten Conference and has competed in the league since the conference's establishment in 1896. The Wildcats have won eight Big Ten titles.[2]

Year Conference Coach Record Conference Record
1903 Big Ten Walter McCornack 10–1–3 1-0-2
1926 Big Ten Glenn Thistlethwaite 7–1 5–0
1930 Big Ten Dick Hanley 7–1 5–0
1931 Big Ten Dick Hanley 7-1-1 5–1
1936 Big Ten Lynn Waldorf 7–1 6-0
1995 Big Ten Gary Barnett 10–2 8–0
1996 Big Ten Gary Barnett 9–3 7–1
2000 Big Ten Randy Walker 8-4 6-2
Conference Champions 8


1876-1921: Beginnings

Football made its debut at Northwestern University on February 22, 1876 during an exhibition game between NU students and the Chicago Football Club.[3] Despite the fact that there was no organized league, there was a growing interest for football on Northwestern's campus.[3][4] Until Northwestern's first intercollegiate game against Lake Forest in 1882, football was played entirely as an intramural sport.[4] From 1882 to 1887, the team mostly practiced and did not play teams outside of NU.[5] In 1891, with the popularity of football increasing, Sheppard Field—complete with a grandstand—was built at Northwestern and dedicated in 1892.[6] Also in 1892, the university chose royal purple as the school's official color, and the team recorded its first significant win, beating Michigan 10-8.[7] In 1896, along with six other schools, Northwestern became a charter member of the Western Conference, the predecessor of the Big Ten. NU's first conference season was a huge success, posting a 46-6 win against then-powerhouse University of Chicago and finished second to Wisconsin.[6]

The team's success in 1896 carried through the turn of the century. From 1899-1902, the Wildcats were 25-16-4 under Coach Charles Hollister.[8] In 1903, Walter McCornack replaced Hollister and led NU to its first Big Ten title, losing just once in 14 games (10–1–3). Of note, the season included scoreless ties against Chicago and Notre Dame NU would add Carlisle great Jimmy Johnson as a graduate student in 1904, a season in which Northwestern posted eight shutout wins.[9]

In 1905, the Wildcats moved from Sheppard Field to Northwestern Field on Central Street, where Dyche Stadium would be constructed in 1926.[10] During the season, a special investigative committee had studied the brutality of early-era football. Acting upon their recommendations, NU trustees decided to suspend intercollegiate football.[11] The school did not field a varsity football team in 1906 or 1907. Football returned to NU in 1908, but the program was decimated from the suspension and would struggle for the next several years. Promise returned with the arrival of Northwestern's first true star, John "Paddy" Driscroll in 1915. Driscoll was a triple threat player: a decent passer, a spectacular runner, and could drop kick and punt with precision. Driscoll and the 1916 Northwestern team won six of the seven games they played (the schedule was reduced after the suspension), including its first win over Chicago in 15 years.[11] Northwestern was undefeated until its seventh game against Ohio State, a highly anticipated match between Driscoll and Buckeyes star Chic Harley. Ohio State won 23-3, costing NU a Big Ten title. After Driscoll's career, the team declined during the World War I years.

1922-1926: The Glenn Thistlethwaite era

Following a winless 1921 season, Northwestern set up a committee to investigate the problem with Northwestern's football team.[12] The committee recommended for the school to promote athletics, and for alumni to actively recruit high school football players to attend NU and join the team.[12] Equally important, the committee took the steps to hiring a full-time head coach for football, instead of a coach who also served as a NU faculty member or employee.[12] Glenn Thistlethwaite became the head coach for the 1922 season and helped change the culture of the program, as the Wildcats' depth and quality improved. Another key factor to NU's gridiron improvement was the leadership of NU President Walter Dill Scott [13] Scott, who was a guard on NU's football team as an undergrad during the 1890s, was a strong supporter of athletics. Of importance, Scott helped raise money for a new football facility, Dyche Stadium.[14]

The 1924 team, led by center Tim Lowry and triple threat halfback Ralph Baker, was very competitive and finished with a 4–4 record. In fact, the team's performance against Chicago earned NU the nickname "Wildcats" after Chicago Sun-Times writer Wallace Abbey wrote that Chicago was stopped by a "wall of Purple Wildcats." [15] In 1925, Northwestern pulled off a huge upset against Michigan, winning 3-2 at Soldier Field. The three points were the only points scored against the Wolverines who posted shut out wins in every other game that season. The following season, the Wildcats celebrated their inaugural season at Dyche Stadium by sharing the 1926 Western Conference Title with Michigan.

1927-1934: The Dick Hanley era

Richard E. "Dick" Hanley was the head coach for the Wildcats for eight years, starting in 1927. Through these eight years, he complied a record of 36–26–4, which is a winning percentage of .576. This ranks him third at Northwestern in total wins, sixth in winning percentage, and first in winning percentage out of coaches with at least five years.[16] The Wildcats were able to win a share of the Western Conference title in both 1930 and 1931, tying with Michigan and Michigan/Purdue, respectively. In both seasons, NU finished fourth in the final Dickinson rankings.

1935-1946: The Pappy Waldorf era

Lynn O. "Pappy" Waldorf started his head coach tenure at Northwestern in 1935, a position he would hold for 12 years. The 12 years are the most of any Northwestern head coach. During these years, NU complied a record of 49–45–7, which ranks Waldorf first in total wins and total ties.[16] In his very first season at Northwestern, Waldorf was named college football's first national coach of the year. In his second season, he took Northwestern to the Western Conference crown and a #7 ranking in the final AP poll. While at Northwestern, Waldorf also convinced future legend Otto Graham to try out for football.[17]

1947-1954: The Bob Voigts era

Robert W. "Bob" Voigts became the head coach of NU starting in 1947. The lone highlight of Voigts' coaching career at NU came in his second season, in which he led the Wildcats to a 8-2 record. Northwestern finished second in the conference and played in their first bowl game, the Rose Bowl. The Wildcats defeated California, 20–14. As of the 2011 season, this remains Northwestern's only bowl win. NU finished 7th in the final AP poll. During these years, Northwestern compiled a record of 33–39–1.

1955-1963: The Ara Parseghian era

In Lou Saban's only year as head coach, the Wildcats had a winless season with a 0–8–1 record. The following year, Ara Parseghian was named head coach. During his tenure, NU compiled a record of 36–35–1, with winning seasons from 1958 to 1960 and 1962 to 1963.

1964-1972: The Alex Agase era

Alex Agase's head coaching career at Northwestern did not begin well, with the Wildcats finishing no higher than 6th in the conference in his first five years, and compiling losing records in his first six. In the 1970 and 1971 seasons, Northwestern finished second in the Big Ten, with overall records of 6–4 and 7–4. However, the following year, Northwestern would begin a streak of failure, achieving a record of 2–9. Agase would finish his career at Northwestern with a record of 32–58–1, which ranks first in total losses.

1972-1994: Years of futility

Northwestern's decline began in 1972, with a 2–9 season, and the Wildcats failed to win more than four games through 1975.[18] After Northwestern beat Wyoming on September 15, 1979, the Wildcats began a streak of notority, and lost their remaining games on the season.[19]Following a winless 1980 season, Northwestern president Robert Strotz dismissed athletic director John Pont and head coach Rick Venturi, who finished 1-31-1 in three seasons.[20]

During the offseason, Stanford offensive coordinator Dennis Green was hired to replace Venturi, becoming the first black coach in the history of the Big Ten [21] Green was unable to prevent the team from setting the NCAA Division I record for consecutive losses during the 1981 season. A 61-14 loss to Michigan State was the Wildcats' 29th loss in a row, breaking its shared record with Kansas State and Virginia .[22] At the close of the game, Northwestern students rushed the field to "celebrate," and chanted "we're the worst!".[23] Finally, on September 25, 1982, "the Streak" ended at 34 consecutive games with a win over Northern Illinois. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, NU students rushed the field, tore down the goalposts, and heaved them into nearby Lake Michigan.[24]

Northwestern's former woes were in part due to the indifference of the school's administration in the 1970s and early 1980s, which resulted in a lower level of talent than that found at larger, public institutions. Northwestern is the lone private school in the Big Ten, and at 8,200 undergraduates, it is by far the smallest (by comparison, the second smallest school, Iowa, has almost 21,000 undergraduates).

1995-1998: The Gary Barnett era

During the 1995 season, under head coach Gary Barnett and the trio of quarterback Steve Schnur, running back Darnell Autry, and linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern accomplished one of the most dramatic one-season turnarounds in college football history. "Expect Victory" was the motto, even as Northwestern began the season as 28-point underdogs. A shocking 17-15 season-opening win over the heavily favored Notre Dame Fighting Irish, along with other unbelievable wins over Michigan (19-13) and Penn State (21-10), catapulted the team into the national spotlight and made them media darlings. Northwestern achieved a ranking of #3 in the nation and their first Big Ten title since 1936. The span of 59 years between titles is the longest in the history of the Big Ten Conference. They faced off against USC in the Rose Bowl--only the second bowl appearance in school history. The Cinderella season came to an abrupt halt with the Wildcats losing 41-32.

The subsequent 1996 season lived up to expectations, with the Wildcats repeating as Big Ten Champions (sharing the title with Ohio State). The team was nicknamed the "Cardiac Cats" for many dramatic, last second victories, including a 17-16 comeback over the University of Michigan. Down 16-0 entering the fourth quarter, the Wildcats scored 17 unanswered points, culminating with heart-stopping fourth down conversions and a last second field goal to complete the comeback. They earned an invitation to the Citrus Bowl, only to come up short against the Peyton Manning-led University of Tennessee, 48-28.

Due to Barnett's success at Northwestern, he became a hot coaching commodity. Barnett rejected interest from such legendary college programs as Notre Dame, UCLA, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas. [25] He was also a leading candidate to replace Wayne Fontes as head coach of the NFL's Detroit Lions. [26] Following two disappointing seasons, including a winless Big Ten slate in 1998, Barnett decided to leave Evanston to take the head coach position at Colorado. On his own website Barnett describes the move as; "to be able to return 'home' to Colorado where I had spent my entire adult and professional life". [27]

1999-2005: The Randy Walker era

After Barnett was signed away by the Colorado Buffaloes following the 1998 season, Coach Randy Walker (formerly of Miami University in Ohio) was called to lead the team. Coincidentally, it was Coach Walker's Miami Redhawks, who handed NU their only regular season loss during the miracle 1995 season. Coach Walker, a former standout tailback at Miami University, placed special emphasis on developing Northwestern's offense, especially at the running back position. Walker ran a conventional pro style offense during the 1999 season, which resulted in a 3-8 record. Following the season Coach Walker and offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, visited Rich Rodriguez and Tommy Bowden at Clemson to learn from the offense that they were running. He also made a trip to meet with Mike Martz from the St. Louis Rams to pick up ideas. Coach Walker adapted the more passing based spread offenses to implement his desire to run the ball effectively.[28] The 2000 season, fueled by Damien Anderson, saw the Wildcats emerge with an exciting no huddle, "spread offense." The spread offense employed many wide receivers to spread out the defense, thus allowing more cracks in the defense for running or passing plays. A 54-51 shootout victory over the University of Michigan led commentators to dub it "basketball on grass." That game became an ESPN Instant Classic and was representative of the season, which saw frequent high scores and dramatic finishes. The high-scoring offense usually was enough to overcome the porous defense, and the Wildcats earned their third Big Ten title in six years (co-champions). Anderson also finished second nationally in rushing yards (behind LaDanian Tomlinson). However, the Wildcats were blown out by the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Alamo Bowl 66-17. Coach Walker's offense revolutionized college football. In 2001, after being named head coach at Bowling Green, Urban Meyer, had his staff visit Evanston to learn from Walker and Wilson. There is little that Meyer is running at Florida in 2008 that Northwestern was not already running in 2000.[29] The 2001 brough high expectations for the Wildcat program. The offense returned 10 of 11 starters. The untimely death of defensive back Rashidi Wheeler, during preseason workout drills, cast a cloud over the season.[30] The Wildcats suffered a number of close losses in route to a disappointing 4-7 record. The Wildcats did not make the postseason again until December 26, 2003, when they lost to Bowling Green by a score of 28-24 in the Motor City Bowl. In 2004, the Wildcats beat then-ranked #6 Ohio State in overtime to garner their first win over the Buckeyes since 1971, but that victory was the season's only national highlight. The 2005 season was Northwestern's best since 2000, finishing 7-5 and ending up ranked #25 in the BCS poll. The team appeared in the AP and Coaches' polls for the first time since October 2001. The Wildcats earned an invitation to the Sun Bowl, only to lose to UCLA, 50-38.

2006-Present: The Pat Fitzgerald era

Quarterback C.J. Bacher on the cover of KoreAm, October 2008

Randy Walker died unexpectedly on June 29, 2006 of an apparent heart attack at the age of 52. Pat Fitzgerald (seen by many before the tragedy as Walker's eventual successor once his contract expired) was promoted from linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator to head coach on July 7, 2006. Walker's death was not the team's only loss; the Wildcats also had to replace their offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, and Brett Basanez, the team's former four-year starter at quarterback and holder of dozens of school records. Hence, the 2006 season was a departure from the previous years' successes. The season began with a win at Miami University, Walker's alma mater, an emotional game that featured several tributes to the late coach.[31] However, the season went downhill from there. The low point was the October 21 home loss to Michigan State, in which the Spartans staged the largest comeback in Division I-A history. A win against Illinois in the final game gave the Wildcats a 4-8 record for the year and saved them from finishing last in the Big Ten.

Before the beginning of the 2007 season, Northwestern showed potential for improvement upon last year's record.'s Mark Schlabach stated that Northwestern had the 7th-easiest schedule in college football,[32] and's Steve Megargee claimed that Indiana was the only Big Ten school with an easier schedule.[33] Running back Tyrell Sutton was one of 64 players in college football to be put on the Maxwell Award watch list for the nation's best college football player.[34]

The Wildcats began the season with their first shutout since 1997 in a 27-0 win against the Northeastern Huskies.[35] On October 7, quarterback C.J. Bacher broke Brett Basanez's school record for single-game passing yards by throwing for 520 yards in a victory over Michigan State. Bacher went on to be named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week, as well as the Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Week.[36] Another strong performance in a win against Minnesota earned Bacher Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for the second week in a row.[37]

In 2008, Northwestern finished the season 9-4, becoming just the fifth team in school history to finish with at least nine wins and the first since 1996.[38] The Wildcats were invited to the 2008 Alamo Bowl to play the Missouri Tigers. However, they lost 23-20 in an overtime thriller. Northwestern finished the 2009 season 8-5. Having finished 9-4 the season before, the 'Cats won eight games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995 and 1996.[39] The Wildcats were invited to the 2010 Outback Bowl vs. the Auburn Tigers. It was their first January bowl since 1997. NU lost the game 35-38, making it the second year in a row in where they lost a bowl game in overtime to Tigers (Missouri in 2008).

Current Coaching Staff

Name Position
Pat Fitzgerald Head Coach
Jerry Brown Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Backs Coach
Mick McCall Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
Mike Hankwitz Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach
Adam Cushing Recruiting Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach
Randy Bates Linebackers Coach
Bob Heffner Superbacks Coach
Marty Long Defensive Line Coach
Matt MacPherson Running Backs Coach
Vacant Wide Receivers Coach

Northwestern football traditions

  • Northwestern Stripes

In 1928, Northwestern added a unique sleeve-stripe pattern to its jerseys: a narrow stripe, over a wide center stripe, over a narrow stripe. The jersey was considered one of the first modern football uniforms, and was soon replicated across football. The sleeve striping was such a fixture of the program that the pattern eventually became known as "Northwestern stripes."[40] Northwestern stripes have not always appeared on NU football jerseys, though the team's current uniforms sport the pattern.

Even before the Wildcats became the official school nickname for NU, a caged live bear cub named Furpaw was the team's mascot.[41] In 1923, however, the team had a bad season and decided the mascot was bad luck. During the following season, the nickname Wildcats was officially adopted by the university after the teams defense was described as a "wall of Purple wildcats" by Chicago Sun-Times writer Wallace Abbey.[41] Previously, the team was either known as the Purple or the Fighting Methodists.[15] In 1933, the NU athletic department and an ad agency, created the first image of Willie the Wildcat, though he did not come to life until 1947 when Alpha Delta fraternity members dressed up as the mascot.[41]

  • Camp Kenosha

Since 1992, when Barnett decided to move the team's preseason practices off-campus, NU has conducted Camp Kenosha, its preseason camp on the campus of University of Wisconsin–Parkside in Kenosha, WI.[42]

  • Laking the Posts
  • The Marshmallow Toss
  • The Purple Clock

Starting with the 1995 season, the clockface of the Rebecca Crown Tower on the NU campus would change from white to purple following an NU win .[43] Since the 1997 season, if the Wildcats win their final game of the season, the clock will remain purple for the entire off-season. In the past few years, the tradition has been expanded to honor championships in other NU varsity sports including lacrosse and tennis.

The students and the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band generally sit in one section near the goal line. The cheerleaders and marching band lead the students with certain cheers, such as "Go U, NU," and "Let's go 'Cats!" In a tradition called the "Growl", started by the marching band in the 1960s, the students extend their arms and make a claw with their hands like that of a wildcat while screaming to intimidate and confuse opposing teams' offenses. Northwestern students also sing the fight song after scoring. The "Alma Mater" (the traditional school song, different from the fight song, "Go U Northwestern") is usually sung at the end of the game and played by the marching band at halftime

  • Push-ups

Cheerleaders, along with Willie the Wildcat and the marching band's "Spirit Team", perform push-ups after every touchdown, equal to Northwestern's cumulative score. While lots of mascots do push-ups after touchdowns, the unique aspect at NU is that the student section will follow suit, usually hoisting selected fellow students up into the air while in the stands, counting out the number of NU points on the scoreboard.[41]

  • Keys at Kickoff

Other notable traditions include the jiggling of keys before every kickoff. This action plays on Northwestern's academic rigors, and is meant to symbolize that regardless of how the game turns out, the opposing school's graduates will eventually be parking the cars of the Northwestern students.[41]The generic "State School" chant is also employed.

  • Put your hands up in the air

Before the 4th quarter of Northwestern football games a video screen plays the song "Put Your Hands Up in the Air" by Danzel, preceded by an announcement by a local celebrity. Celebrity announcers have included Pat Fitzgerald, Brian Urlacher, Mike Ditka, and Patrick Kane.[44]


Current Rivalries

University of Illinois

The Illinois Fighting Illini are the Wildcats' most natural rival. The series dates back to 1892 and the two schools have played annually since 1927, with the Illini holding a 46-52-5 overall advantage.[45] In April 2010, a deal was reached for the annual rivalry game to be played at Wrigley Field on November 20, 2010.[46]

Since 2009, the schools have competed for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.[47] From 1947 through 2008, the teams competed for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Trophy, since retired as part of a ruling by the NCAA requiring Illinois to purge Native American imagery from their athletics. The origins of the trophy derived from a wooden cigar store Indian named Sweet Sioux, which was stolen and replaced by a tomahawk.[48] The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk permanently remains in Evanston.

The NU-Illinois rivalry was protected during the Big Ten divisional alignment and the two schools will continue to meet as a protected crossover on an annual basis, similar to Michigan-Ohio State.[49]

Inactive Rivalries

Notre Dame

Starting in the 1920s, Northwestern and Notre Dame played for a Shillelagh until the mid 1970s. The trophy game was created at the behest of Knute Rockne, who wanted a rivalry in the Chicago area to help build Notre Dame's fan base in the area.[50][51] NU and ND stopped playing regularly after the 1970s, though the rivalry was renewed from 1992-1995. When NU stunned Notre Dame as a 28-point underdog in 1995, the Chicago Sun-Times billed it as the "Upset of the Century.".[52] The two schools have not met since; Notre Dame holds the all-time advantage 37-8-2.[53] The two schools will renew their rivalry in a two game series beginning with Northwestern traveling to South Bend in 2014 followed by Notre Dame traveling to Evanston in 2018.[54]

University of Chicago

From 1897-1926 Northwestern forged an intense rivalry with the University of Chicago during the early years of the program. Northwestern and Chicago share the city of Chicago - representing the "north side" and the "south side," respectively. They were also the only two private institutions in the Big Ten and are both considered elite universities [55] with especially strong academic and professional rivalries in economics, business, medicine, and law.

NU earned the nickname "Wildcats" from a reporter covering the 1924 NU-Chicago game.[15] The final game of the series, a 38-7 NU win, helped transfer the Chicago football focus from the Maroons to the Wildcats, where it remained until the Chicago Bears gained popularity in the mid-1950s [56]

Logos and uniforms

Northwestern's uniforms worn from 2007 to 2009

Bowl games

Season Game Opponent Result
1948 Rose Bowl California W, 20-14
1995 Rose Bowl USC L, 32-41
1996 Citrus Bowl Tennessee L, 28-48
2000 Alamo Bowl Nebraska L, 17-66
2003 Motor City Bowl Bowling Green L, 24-28
2005 Sun Bowl UCLA L, 38-50
2008 Alamo Bowl Missouri L, 23-30 (OT)
2009 Outback Bowl Auburn L, 35-38 (OT)
2010 TicketCity Bowl Texas Tech L, 38-45

Awards and achievements

National and Big Ten awards as per the Big Ten Conference.[57]

College Football Hall of Fame Members

Name Position Years at NU Inducted
Otto Graham Quarterback 1941-43 1956
Alex Agase Coach 1964-72 1963
Lynn Waldorf Coach 1935-46 1966
Jimmy Johnson Quarterback 1904-05 1969
Paddy Driscoll Halfback 1915-16 1974
Charlie Bachman Coach 1919 1978
Pug Rentner Halfback 1930-32 1979
Ara Parseghian Coach 1956-63 1980
Ralph Baker End 1924-26 1981
Steve Reid Guard 1934-36 1985
Jack Riley Tackle 1929-31 1988
Edgar Manske End 1931-33 1989
Ron Burton Halfback 1957-59 1990
Alex Sarkisian Center 1946-48 1998
Pat Fitzgerald Linebacker 1993-96 2008
College Football Hall of Fame Members 15

List of All-Americans

List of First Team All-Americans

List per NU Athletics [58]

  • 1925: Tim Lowry (Center)
  • 1926: Ralph Baker (Halfback)
  • 1926: Bob Johnson (Tackle)
  • 1929: Henry Anderson (Guard)
  • 1930: Frank Baker (End)
  • 1930: Fayette Russell (Fullback)
  • 1930: Wade Woodworth (Guard)
  • 1931: Dalls Marvil (Tackle)
  • 1931: Ernest Rentner (Halfback)
  • 1931: Jack Riley (Tackle)
  • 1933: Edgar Manske (End)
  • 1935: Paul Tangora (Linebacker)
  • 1936: Steve Reid (Guard)
  • 1938: Bob Voigts (Tackle)
  • 1939: John Haman (Center)
  • 1940: Alf Bauman (Tackle)
  • 1943: Otto Graham (Halfback)
  • 1943: Herb Hein (End)
  • 1945: Max Morris (End)
  • 1948: Art Murakowski (Fullback)
  • 1948: Alex Sarkisian (Center)
  • 1950: Don Stonesifer (End)
  • 1952: Joe Collier (End)
  • 1958: Andy Cvercko(Tackle)
  • 1959: Ron Burton (Halfback)
  • 1959: James Andreotti (Center)
  • 1961: Larry Onesti (Center)
  • 1962: Jack Cvercko (Guard)
  • 1962: Tom Myers (Quarterback)
  • 1970: Mike Adamle (Fullback)
  • 1971: Eric Hutchinson (Safety)
  • 1982: Chris Hinton (Tackle)
  • 1983: John Kidd (Punter)
  • 1995: Sam Valenzisi (Kicker)
  • 1995: Pat Fitzgerald (Linebacker)
  • 1996: Pat Fitzgerald (Linebacker)
  • 2000: Damien Anderson (Running Back)
  • 2005: Zach Strief (Offensive Tackle)

Individual national honors

National coaching awards

AFCA Coach of the Year, Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, the Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year, the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award, Woody Hayes Trophy, Paul "Bear" Bryant Award, The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award, and the George Munger Award

Individual Big Ten honors

Chicago Tribune Silver Football

Five players from Northwestern have won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football [57]

Big Ten Players of the Year

Big Ten Coach of the Year

  • 1982: Dennis Green
  • 1995: Gary Barnett
  • 1996: Gary Barnett
  • 2000: Randy Walker

Academic awards and achievements

American Football Coaches Association

Academic Achievement Award

presented to the top FBS football program for graduation rate: 1998, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007

(Only Duke, Notre Dame, and Boston College have received more awards)[1]

CoSIDA Academic All-America

Academic All-Americans as determined by the College Sports Information Directors of America [59]

  • 1956: Al Viola (Guard)
  • 1958: Andy Cvercko (Tackle)
  • 1958: Gene Gossage (Tackle)
  • 1961: Larry Onesti (Center)
  • 1962: Paul Flatley (End)
  • 1963: George Burman (Tackle)
  • 1970: Eric Hutchinson (Defensive Back)
  • 1970: Joe Zigulich (Center)
  • 1972: Mitch Anderson (Quarterback)
  • 1975: Randy Dean (Quarterback)
  • 1976: Randy Dean (Quarterback)
  • 1979: Kevin Berg (Linebacker)
  • 1980: Jim Ford (Offensive Tackle)
  • 1986: Mike Baum (Offensive Tackle)
  • 1986: Bob Dirkes (Defensive Guard)
  • 1986: Todd Krehbiel (Defensive Back)
  • 1986: Brian Nuffer (Running Back)
  • 1987: Mike Baum (Offensive Tackle)
  • 1988: Mike Baum (Offensive Tackle)
  • 1990: Ira Adler (Kicker)
  • 1995: Ryan Padgett (Offensive Line)
  • 1995: Sam Valenzisi (Kicker)
  • 1997: Barry Gardner (Linebacker)
  • 2002: Jason Wright(Running Back)
  • 2003: Jason Wright (Running Back)
  • 2003: Jeff Backes (Cornerback)
  • 2004: Jeff Backes (Cornerback)
  • 2004: Luis Castillo (Defensive Tackle)
  • 2008: Phil Brunner (Long Snapper)
  • 2009: Zeke Markshausen (Wide Receiver)
  • 2009: Stefan Demos (Kicker)

National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame

National Scholar-Athlete Award [60]

  • 1976: Randy Dean
  • 1998 Barry Gardner

Notable alumni

Current NFL players

Other alumni

Earning the nickname "Cardiac Cats"

The Wildcats have been nicknamed the "Cardiac 'Cats" after several seasons with highly contested games, with games decided in the final seconds or in overtime. The team first earned the nickname during the 1996 season, and would go on to apply during the 2004 season, when four of the Wildcats' games went into overtime.

Opponent Location Date Game
Michigan Evanston, IL October 6, 1996
  • Northwestern beats #20 Michigan 17-16
  • NU scores all 17 points in 4th Quarter.
  • PK Brian Gowens 39 yard FG with 8 seconds remaining, but an official's whistle nullified the kick.
  • Gowens nailed the kick again with 8 seconds remaining.
  • Box score
Wisconsin Madison, WI October 19, 1996
  • NU beats Wisconsin 34-30
  • Wisconsin had ball with a 30-27 lead with time running out.
  • Rather than taking a knee, they hand off to Ron Dayne who fumbles.
  • NU recovers the fumble and Steve Schnur throws a 20 yard TD pass to D'Wayne Bates with 37 seconds remaining for the win.
  • Box score
Michigan State Evanston, IL October 18, 1997
  • NU beats #11 Michigan State 19-17 by blocking a 28 yard FG on the final play of the game.
  • Box score
Duke Durham, NC September 18, 1999
  • NU beats Duke 15-12.
  • Sam Simmons 27 yard TD pass in OT.
  • Box score
Iowa Evanston, IL October 16, 1999
  • NU beats Iowa 23-21.
  • Betts give Iowa a 21-16 lead with a TD with 3:30 to play.
  • NU converted two 4th down plays on the final drive .
  • On 4th and goal from the 2 with 8 seconds remaining in the game Zak Kustok ran a sweep to the right for the score to win the game.
  • Box score
Wisconsin Madison, WI September 23, 2000
  • NU beats #6 Wisconsin 47-44 in double OT, scoring 40 points after halftime
  • Damien Anderson's 12 yard TD run was the game winner
  • Box score
Minnesota Minneapolis, MN October 28, 2000
  • NU beats Minnesota 41-35, coming back from trailing 35-21, 5/5 on 4th down conversions
  • NU was on the 50 yard line with 4 seconds to go, needing a FG to tie
  • Coach Walker called "Victory Right". While being hammered by the D-lineman, Kustok unleashed a bomb to the end zone. Kunle Patrick jumped for the ball among 4 gopher defenders and intentionally tipped the ball over to Simmons who caught the ball for the game winning TD with no time on the clock.
  • Box score
Michigan Evanston, IL November 4, 2000
  • NU beats #12 Michigan 54-51. With Michigan's defense fresh off back to back shutouts; NU rolled up 654 yards and 54 points.
  • Box score
Michigan State Evanston, IL September 29, 2001
  • NU beats #24 MSU 27-26.
  • Trailing 26-24, NU muffed the kickoff and had to fall on the ball at the 15 yard line with 15 seconds remaining. Kustok completed a 54 yard bomb to a sliding Schweighardt Jon Schweighardt which was tipped by Patrick. This set up a game winning 47 yard FG by Wasielewski at time ran out.
  • Box score
Indiana Evanston, IL November 2, 2002
Iowa Evanston, IL November 5, 2005
  • NU beats Iowa 28-27
  • Trailing 27-14 with 3:27 left in the game, NU drove 77 yards for a TD leaving 2:10 on the clock. NU recovered the onside kick and scored the game winning touchdown.
  • Box score
Indiana Evanston, IL October 24, 2009
  • NU beats Indiana 29-28
  • The 25 point comeback is a school record.
  • Trailing 28-3 midway in the second quarter, NU completed the comeback by scoring a FG with 21 seconds left.
  • Box score
Auburn Tampa, FL January 1, 2010
  • NU loses to Auburn 38-35
  • After falling behind in the first half, NU scored 4 TD's, including 2 in the last 4 minutes, but missed a last second FG and went to OT.
  • Chasing Auburn's OT field goal, NU seemingly lost three times. Auburn recovered a Mike Kafka fumble which was reviewed and ruled as a down instead. This set NU up for a re-tying field goal which hit the upright but was then recalled after a roughing penalty (removing kicker Stefan Demos from the rest of the game). On the third attempt, with their replacement kicker, NU tried a fake FG but was ultimately stopped at the 2 yard line, finally ending the game for real.
  • Box score


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Further reading

  • Larry LaTourette (2005). Northwestern Wildcat Football. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-3433-1. 

External links

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