For Notre Dame fans over the age of 25, the mere mention of Northwestern is likely to awaken past demons that they have been attempting to bury since 1995.
It had been 47 years since the Wildcats had been to a bowl game, but in the 1995 season opener, Northwestern launched a miraculous run to the Rose Bowl with a 17-15 upset of the Fighting Irish in South Bend.
One of the stars of that Northwestern team was Butkus Award-winning linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, now entering his ninth year as the head coach at his alma mater. Fitzgerald guided the Wildcats to five straight bowls from 2008-2012, but after a 4-0 start last season, Northwestern dropped seven straight en route to its first losing season in seven years.
Notre Dame and Northwestern have not meant since that fateful day 19 years ago. That will change on Nov. 15 when the Wildcats return to Notre Dame Stadium. Fitzgerald has a veteran team that is hungry to prove last year’s two-month meltdown was no more than a fluke.
Northwestern kicked off spring practice Wednesday. Let’s take an early look at the 2014 Wildcats.