Following Northwestern’s shocking 43-40 overtime victory over Notre Dame at South Bend tonight, Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald responded very calmly in his postgame comments:
“This is not an upset”.
Back in 1995, Northwestern defeated Notre Dame in the first week of the season 17-15, and then Head Coach Gary Barnett instructed his team not to carry him off the field or act surprised after they beat Notre Dame. It was a pretty ballsy move by Barnett, who took over a program that had not had a winning season since a 7-4 mark in 1971. Until that point, Northwestern had exemplified bad football. Their resume included 31 straight defeats in the early eighties, and four winless seasons in that time period.
Pat Fitzgerald was a linebacker on that 1995 team, and I’m sure he was channeling Barnett with his comments.
In my opinion, the result of this game was much more surprising than of the 1995 game. The 1995 game was the first game of the season, so Northwestern had more of an opportunity to sneak up on Notre Dame. This game was on the final stretch of the season, and Northwestern was 3-6 going into today. Everybody already had tangible proof that Northwestern was going nowhere this year, and that Notre Dame was bound for a high-level bowl game.
Notre Dame is probably still bound for a relatively good bowl game, and Northwestern is probably still facing the lack of any postseason, but this game still raises serious questions about the future of Notre Dame’s program. The list of Irish miscues for this game include, but are not limited to:
- Two lost fumbles inside Northwestern’s 10-yard line
- A lost fumble with 1:30 left on first down with Northwestern being out of timeouts
- Two missed field goals
- A blocked extra point returned for two points
- 547 yards allowed, including 263 rushing yards to the 115th-ranked rushing team
These are errors of focus and concentration, not talent and recruiting. These errors should not have come from a team that was within four points of beating the number one team in the country last month. Northwestern should have been a get-well opponent for the Irish, not a team to escort them into the realm of underachievement.