Is This Northwestern’s Best Team Since The Rose Bowl?

Today’s column from CBS Chicago

(CBS) I can remember Sept. 2, 1995, like …

Well, not like it was yesterday, but I can certainly remember it.

That afternoon, I was sitting with a pack of buddies in the Block I student section at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, having just started my sophomore year at the University of Illinois.

And as we watched Michigan torch our Illini 38-14 in the season opener, the stadium’s PA announcer clicked on his microphone to announce to the crowd a different game’s shocking final score.

Northwestern 17, Notre Dame 15.

At that moment, everyone inside Memorial Stadium couldn’t have been more stunned if we’d just been told that alien ships were doing loop-de-loops above the Sears Tower. Or if the Cubs had won the World Series.

Seventeen years later, it’s truly impossible to fully quantify just how incredulous that score was to college football fans in 1995. After all, this was a Northwestern football program that had won only 37 games – in the previous 20 years. And this was a Notre Dame team that was a mere two seasons removed from being a late-season Boston College upset away from playing for the 1993 national title.

In the five seasons prior to 1995, Northwestern won a total of only 13 games and hadn’t tallied more than four victories since 1971 (when it won seven). But during that magical Rose Bowl run of Gary Barnett, Darnell Autry and Pat Fitzgerald (as a player, not a coach), the Wildcats went on to win 10 games in ‘95.

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