We’ve made it to nearly present day. Here is a list of some of the best Northwestern football games of the last decade. As we move into the most successful stretch of Wildcat football, there are far too many fun games to add, so sound off in the comments for other games that are deserving.
2010 Northwestern vs #13 Iowa
Northwestern once again crushes the hopes of an Iowa squad (something that felt like an annual tradition at this point.) The 13th-ranked Hawkeyes came into Evanston hoping to preserve their shot at a Big Ten Championship. For the fifth time in six years, the Wildcats came out victorious. Northwestern trailed 17-7, but a key interception by Brian Peters served as the comeback catalyst. Quarterback Dan Persa brought the Wildcats within 3 points with 6:21 remaining, and he threw the go-ahead touchdown on a 20-yard completion to Demetrius Fields. Tragically, he tore his Achilles celebrating the score. A nervy defensive stand iced the game for the Wildcats.
Watch parts of the game here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLHdF8FE6wE
2010 Outback Bowl (vs Auburn)
The stats of this game are simply unbelievable. Mike Kafka attempted 78 passes, completing 47 of them and throwing for 532 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t start well, though, throwing an interception on the third play of the game and a pick six on the next possession. Down 21-7 at half, a Northwestern comeback gave the Wildcats a 44-yard field goal attempt for the win at the end of regulation. Stefan Demos missed the kick wide right and suffered an injury in overtime, setting the stage for Fitz’s bold call. Down three points and on the five-yard line, the Wildcats tried a “modern day fumblerooski” and came up two yards short.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpmVhm3rvqQ
2011 Northwestern at #10 Nebraska
The Wildcats went into Lincoln and took down a top-ten Husker team. In the second half, Quarterback Dan Persa went down with an injured shoulder and Kain Colter ascended. The latter ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the 28-25 upset victor. The 17-point underdog ‘Cats did more than cover and kept their bowl hopes alive.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7jzbC6Uxtc
2013 Gator Bowl (vs Mississippi State)
FIRST BOWL WIN SINCE 1949. No other questions allowed. Bask in the glory of a torn-up stuffed monkey. The Wildcats came out firing with a pick six three plays in, and a late interception helped guarantee victory. This game had everything, and four interceptions by NU’s defense played a pivotal role in earning school its first bowl win in 64 years.
2014 Northwestern at #18 Notre Dame
Any win over Notre Dame is fun, but this one is on a whole different level. The buildup to this game alone makes it so much more enjoyable. After not playing since the Rose Bowl ‘95 team upset the Fighting Irish at the start of their magical run, the Wildcats marched into South Bend to take on the 18th-ranked team in the land.
Northwestern did not lead at any point during regulation. After a Will Fuller touchdown catch that extended the ND lead to 11 with 10:34 left, Northwestern had a field goal attempt blocked. It looked look all but over. However, a Northwestern touchdown and two-point conversion after a pass interference call, followed by a late Irish fumble led to Jack Mitchell hitting the game-tying field goal with 19 ticks on the clock.
The Irish had the ball first in overtime, but a 42-yard Kyle Brindza attempt missed, giving Mitchell the opportunity to win on the next possession. A 41-yarder soared through the uprights and finished the second consecutive upset of the Irish.
2015 Northwestern vs #21 Stanford
Eli Karp wrote a great piece featuring the Northwestern-Stanford matchup, which is all the preview necessary to begin the Clayton Thorson era.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyZ6iqukxAc
2016 Pinstripe Bowl (vs #22 Pitt)
I personally enjoy the ability to lend credence to the writers on the site who came before me. Ian McCafferty describes here the joy and emotion of this game, highlighting some of the best plays and key players.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z93aAoxB3gc
2017 Northwestern vs #16 Michigan State
Nate Hall, y’all. In a game that seemed endless, the junior linebacker’s triple overtime interception of Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke iced it. Joe Gaziano stripped Lewerke, who picked up the loose ball and hurled it toward the goal line, where Hall high-pointed it and came down with it just hours after dislocating a finger. This game had fans on the edge of their seats for hours and was the second of an NCAA-record three straight overtime wins for the Wildcats.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCtSRKSVhtQ
2017 Music City Bowl (vs Kentucky)
Countless things went wrong for the Wildcats, Kentucky running back Benny Snell and Paddy Fisher were both ejected, and Clayton Thorson tore his ACL on a trick play that almost jeopardized his 2018 season. It set up the perfect moment for backup quarterback Matt Alviti to have his spotlight moment in his last game. It was also the perfect send-off for other Wildcat stars like Justin Jackson and Kyle Queiro, whose pick six gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead. But of course it wasn’t over then! It required a game-ending denial of Kentucky’s two-point try for the win. Read more from Tristan Jung here.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGFkJNDPXpo
2018 Northwestern at Iowa
It was here where the West was won. Snapshots permanently etched into my brain include Isaiah Bowser’s 34-yard TD scamper, Chad Hanaoka’s third-down draw conversion that set up Bennett Skowronek’s iconic catch, Clayton Thorson’s late-game heroics as well as Paddy Fisher’s and Joe Gaziano’s fourth quarter forced fumbles. Truly there are too many things to focus on. If you want to read more, click here.
Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMJmoWTXpdQ
First 10 Minutes of the 3rd Quarter, 2018 Big Ten Championship vs #6 Ohio State
Okay, so take this one with a grain of salt. This game meant more to myself (and other fans) than any score could ever, and the enthusiasm was palpable. The purple crowd may have been significantly outnumbered in a Lucas Oil Stadium overrun with red, but that section was loud and passionate. The celebration of John Moten’s touchdown run and the third quarter comeback (which would not come to pass) make this loss worthy of my list.
Watch here (begin 24:20): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiB6H0rSpWc
2018 Holiday Bowl (vs #17 Utah)
The perfect roller coaster ending to an incredible roller coaster season. After a rough start, the NU defense buckled down and gave up no points after halftime, forcing six turnovers in total. In arguably the best single quarter in program history, the Wildcats scored 28 points in the third period to turn a 17-point deficit into an 11-point lead. Someone needs to do a 5,000-word breakdown of every movement of the Trey Klock touchdown play, because I could seriously watch that for hours on end. A 31-20 win brought a deserving team one more piece of hardware.
Trey Klock with the last-minute @piesmantrophy bid. Some qualifications:— Davis Rich (@DavisRich1) January 1, 2019
1) Klock listed at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds. Piesman ✅
2 He's grad transfer who appeared in 22 games along the offensive line for Georgia Tech. Piesman ✅.
3) 1ST CAREER CATCH! FOR A TD! Piesman ✅ pic.twitter.com/1nMw1P046Z
Watch here (one-hour version): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndVfDa-b92o&t=2s
Think I missed something? Comment below!