They had not won a bowl game since the 1948 Rose Bowl. Now the Northwestern Wildcats will bring home the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl trophy to Evanston, IL after a convincing 34-20 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs today.
The Wildcats relied on their ground game and their defense to overcome a tenacious but ultimately outclassed Bulldog squad. Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell kept things close with two touchdown passes, but his four interceptions cost the Bulldogs dearly, including one that was run back by Northwestern's Quentin Williams in the opening minute of the game.
The Wildcats never looked back, splitting three offensive touchdowns among three running backs and stopping the Mississippi State counterattack.
For Northwestern fans, this was sweet redemption, and confirmation that the Wildcats belong among college football's elite. They dominated in non-conference play this season; their three losses all came at the hands of Big Ten teams.
The Wildcats will also savor the end of a bowl game losing streak that goes back sixteen years, where coach Gary Barnett took the team to the Rose Bowl, only to lose to a USC Trojan team that featured flashy wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. The next year, they made the Florida Citrus Bowl, only to be torched by future NFL Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning.
Though the Barnett era restored the Northwestern football program to respectability, and the team has enjoyed several successful seasons since the storied 1995-6 run, the Wildcats had not proven their worth on the national stage.
That is, until today.
Image credit: Bleacher Report