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How to Watch: Best Northwestern football games of the 1990s

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A semi-complete viewing guide of the top Northwestern football games of the 1990s.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

While we are all stuck at home trying to flatten the curve, and sports have effectively been taken away from our daily lives, InsideNU has begun a look back at some of the best football games of the past three decades (that we could find video of). We recognize the incomplete nature of this list as we were unable to find online footage of some of the most important games. However, please feel free to comment games that you feel worthy of being on the list.

First up, we have the greatest moments of the 1990s.

Northwestern at Notre Dame, 1995

Here we have one of the greatest games in the history of Northwestern football. This game established the tone of Gary Barnett’s legendary 1995 Northwestern Wildcat team. While this is not the only iconic game featured from the ‘95 season, this matchup in particular sent shockwaves throughout all of college football and prevented Lou Holtz from earning his 200th college football win against the Wildcats. It was the Wildcats first victory over the Fighting Irish since 1962, ending a 14 game losing streak. Before 1995, the Wildcats had not had a winning season since 1971. With four minutes remaining, Matt Rice and other ‘Cats combined for a massive stop on 4th and 2, which allowed the team to run out the clock and clinch a massive victory.

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ejmb2Qj5YbA

Northwestern at Michigan, 1995

After toppling Notre Dame, the ‘Cats came crashing back down to earth with a loss to Miami (OH) due to a botched punt. Entered the matchup with a 3-1 record, Northwestern then traveled to take on seventh-ranked Michigan. The Wildcat defense stood strong, forcing four turnovers. Pat Fitzgerald had 14 tackles (including two for loss) and played a significant role in the final Michigan offensive drive.

Watch (an abridged version) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwM_jsHhBMo

Northwestern vs. Penn State, 1995

The miracle ‘95 season continued as the sixth-ranked Wildcats hosted a talented Penn State team and tried to extend their undefeated Big Ten record. This game was one of the many impressive performances by Darnell Autry that played a massive role in getting him on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Despite being the sixth-ranked team in the nation, the Wildcats entered the clash as the five-point underdogs. However, clutch late-game defense helped the Wildcats hold on.

Watch (an abridged version) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ai3gg2st6rI

Rose Bowl: Northwestern vs. USC, 1996

While the outcome wasn’t what the ‘Cats had hoped for, this game was the culmination of an incredible odds-defying season that took Northwestern football to a new echelon. Facing off against five future NFL players including legend Keyshawn Johnson, the purple invaded Pasadena. Missing the Nagurski and Bednarik award-winning linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, the Wildcats fell short, yet the consequential nature of this game and what it represented (and still represents to decades of Northwestern fans) made it a key part of this list.

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm7LsTcjcOs&t=208s

Northwestern vs. Michigan, 1996

The Wildcats battled to keep their conference win streak alive, hosting the sixth-ranked Michigan Wolverines who had amassed a 16-0 lead entering the fourth quarter. What ensued was one of the best comebacks of the decade where the Wildcats scored 17 unanswered points. Quarterback Steve Schnur orchestrated the final 58-yard drive, which set up a game-winning, 39-yard Brian Gowins field goal. This game kept the hopes of back-to-back trips to Pasadena alive for the Northwestern faithful.

Watch the comeback here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqcfdtM3ygM

Northwestern at Wisconsin, 1996

This game gave an entirely different meaning to the term “Cardiac ‘Cats.” After Northwestern missed a field goal, Wisconsin led by three with 44 seconds remaining. The Badgers had the opportunity to end the game with a first down, but the Northwestern defense found lightning in a bottle, forcing a fumble before scoring a game-winning touchdown two plays later. Quarterback Steve Schnur excelled in the second half and threw the game-winning touchdown to D’Wayne Bates.

Watch the final minutes here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3akQbYci5_0&t=3s