Six months. It's been six months since a certain football game was played in South Bend, Ind. And that football game was so amazing, so unbelievable, and so weird that six months later, we can't help but write about it again. As Henry Bushnell described it in his story from South Bend...
What a ride. What a wild, nonsensical, obscene, breathtaking and awesome ride.
Six month anniversaries aren't usually something to celebrate. At least wait for one year, right? But give us any excuse to recall this game, one that will live on in the minds of players and fans forever, and we'll jump at the chance.
On that day, November 15, 2014, we had four staff members in South Bend. Three of them were covering the game. Another was there as a fan, in the Northwestern section. We also had a staff member on campus, we had one watching from home, and another following on his phone hundreds of miles away.
Here are their memories:
Josh Rosenblat: I'll start off like this: I don't remember the game. Like at all. I was at the game, but I have very little to no actual, organic memories of what happened on the field. All my memories have been recreated -- as memories of major events often are -- through public perception or second-hand stories.
I remember the drive to the game and saying something really stupid about being in England once when I was 10 and not really liking it and then saying that, because of the experience, I don't really feel like it's necessary for me to leave this great country. I also remember booking it out of the press box with Jeff Eisenband -- who provided commentary on WNUR's broadcast of the game -- because we had to get back to Evanston that night.
It's weird to cover a close game like that, at least for me. Henry Bushnell, Kevin Trahan and I made the trip for Inside NU and I drew the "gamer duty" straw, meaning that my story would be the one that was published as soon as the final whistle blew. At first, it seemed like the game would follow a pretty simple narrative: Northwestern hangs with Notre Dame early, only to see the more talented Irish pull away to a fairly comfortable victory. I actually had that written midway through the fourth quarter. I just had to plug in some final stats and the score and I'd be done.
Just a few minutes later... my word count was zero, the slate was clean and Northwestern had tied the game. To this day, I can't really remember the sequence of plays that changed the game -- I think there was a botched 2-point play-call and a fumble somewhere in there -- mostly because I wasn't watching. I was deleting, then typing, then re-typing, just looking up when I heard some Notre Dame media gasp when something major happened in the final few minutes (the atmosphere in that pressbox is almost like you're in a boxseat... the pressbox PA announcer had to remind "reporters" multiple times that the pressbox was not for cheering). Somehow, I was able to put together 626 somewhat coherent words that summed up a game that I don't remember. That was the real victory that evening.
Henry Bushnell: I was on the field for the final five minutes of regulation and overtime, so there are a lot of memorable sights and sounds. Whether it was the Notre Dame players and students singing the alma mater in a funereal tone, or a Fighting Irish player just falling to the ground and lying on his back while others just walked around dumbfounded, there are a lot of pictures from the scene on the field after Mitchell's field goal that I can conjure up vividly in my mind.
But there's one thing that still gives me chills remembering it. It was during Notre Dame's possession in overtime. After Golson threw one incomplete pass, then another, the entire stadium fell into this stunned, almost resigned silence -- except for one section in the upper reaches of the opposite corner of the bowl. That was the Northwestern section. And with Fighting Irish fans overcome by nerves, suddenly, "defense" chants -- distant, but crescendoing and strong -- filled the air. You could almost tell they stirred up a sense of uneasiness from everybody wearing navy blue and gold, but there was nothing they could do. Northwestern -- players and fans -- had come to South Bend and conquered everything. At that point, it seemed inevitable. Those chants are a sound I'll never forget.
Kevin Trahan: The scene on the field was incredible, and the fact that it was a really good game was enjoyable, too, since we didn't see a lot of really good football in Evanston. So to cop out, I'm going to say this was my favorite memory.
Daniel Rapaport: I was visiting my sister at the University of Pennsylvania on that fateful November night. I have this vivid memory of walking around a party full of people I didn't know and shoving my phone in their faces, quite obtrusively, to show them the score. I just kept yelling "WE BEAT NOTRE DAME" to no one in particular over and over and over and over again, and I'm pretty sure no one knew that I went to Northwestern. Gotta think those Ivy Leaguers were probably thinking something along the lines of: who is this psychotic kid and why does he care so much about a mediocre college football team? But hey, they don't even know what it's like to care about their school's sports teams at all. Which stinks.
It's nights like that one that make rooting for a non-powerhouse like Northwestern so enjoyable-- there's nothing better than entering a game where you're given no chance and ending up on the right side of an upset. Sure, Notre Dame finished the season miserably, but no one will remember that in five years time. The memory that will stick, at least with me, is that feeling of pure ecstasy. It's everyone's hope that wins over ranked teams will become more routine in the near future for this program, but there's a downside to that; it means less "holy hell, how'd we do that?!" nights like November 15.
Zach Pereles: I was watching in my dorm's lounge with about 15 other people. Most away games only drew about eight kids to the TV, but this game was (obviously) different. I remember Northwestern being down three and the Cam McDaniel fumble that gave Northwestern life as the play that sticks out even more than Jack Mitchell's kick to win it. Before McDaniel fumbled, it looked like a very valiant effort from the Wildcats would come up short. An impressive drive to force OT, a defensive stand and Mitchell's winner proved that wouldn't be the case. When Mitchell's kick went through, the room exploded. In that room of no more than 20 kids, I saw more of a college football Saturday atmosphere than I almost ever did at Ryan Field, and hugging and high-fiving my friends was a memory I won't forget.
Jason Dorow: Lucky for me, this was the one game last year that I attended as a fan, and a bunch of my friends made the trek to South Bend for the game too. From yelling "GO CATS" into the mic -- and dropping said mic -- at an ND karaoke party the night before to singing the fight song with the players after the game, it was an incredible weekend. The moment that still sticks out is when Cam McDaniel fumbled with about 1:30 left in regulation. I was amazed Kelly didn't decide to take a knee. The feeling when NU finally pulled out the victory was unlike anything I had experienced at a sporting event before, so busting my shins by slipping on the wooden bleachers while celebrating was well worth it.
Bushnell: Looking back, the other thing that sticks out to me about the game though is just how many odd things had to happen for it to play out like it did. There was the blocked extra point that Nick VanHoose took to the house; there were the TWO Notre Dame fumbles inside Northwestern's 10-yard line; there was Brian Kelly's laughably appalling decision to go for two; there was, of course, the gut-wrenching pass interference call, but then the fluky fumble when Notre Dame could've just taken a knee; and there was Jack Mitchell making -- remember now -- not one, not two, but THREE 40-plus yard field goals. Incredible. And if any one of those things hadn't happened, we wouldn't be writing this right now.
Ben Goren: I keep trying to figure out where I put this win in terms of "the best NU game I've ever seen." The first game I remember was Kunle Patrick tipping it to Sam Simmons in the corner of the Metrodome end-zone in 2000. My parents put me to bed before NU beat Ohio State in 2004. The Gator Bowl was super cool. But I don't think it's a huge stretch to say that, in a vacuum, taking out the rest of the season, that game was the coolest thing I witnessed. From my TV screen back home, I got to see a school that I've been bred to hate find a way to lose to an undersized, undertalented Northwestern team that was led by a hurt QB and a kicker who might be better at baseball than at football. Was it as good as the ‘95 game in South Bend my parents got to see? No, probably not. But there's nothing like beating Notre Dame.
Notre Dame can kiss my ass.
For more, here is our game coverage, some of which we already linked to above:
- Josh's game story/rapid reaction
- Our celebration thread
- Press conference coverage
- Henry's extended game feature
- Kevin's reflection
- Fitz's reactions, GIFd
Now we want to hear your memories, six months later. Share anything we missed, or your personal anecdotes, in the comments, and we might add the best to the article.