Purple porn, coooooooome and get it. These are Northwestern’s best wins against every Big Ten team this century:
Coming off a 3-win season, 2000 was a magical year for the Purple, ending with a surprise co-Big Ten championship. It all started with a thrilling double overtime upset of the #7 Badgers in Madison, Brooks Bollinger and Michael Bennett bested by Zak Kustok and Damien Anderson, who scored on the game-winning run in the second overtime, 47-44.
Victory Right: it’s the most celebrated play in Northwestern history, a half-field Zak Kustok heave through the stale air of the Metrodome that got tipped into Sam Simmons’ waiting hands, capping a thrilling, 21-point comeback and keeping the Wildcats’ Big Ten title hopes alive. Northwestern went 5 for 5 on 4th downs, including a ridiculous 4th and 20 conversion late in the 4th. “You feel like your guts have been ripped out,” said Minnesota coach Glen Mason at the time, though that’d never actually happened to him.
The week after the Minnesota miracle, Northwestern found itself ranked, hosting #12 Michigan. It was a 54-51 orgy of offense: 1,189 yards on 171 plays. Damien Anderson ran for 268 yards and 2 scores but dropped the wide open, potential game-winning touchdown pass. Michigan’s Anthony Thomas ran for 199 yards and 3 scores himself, but fumbled in the final minute to give Northwestern a second chance. In the final seconds, Zak Kustok hit Sam Simmons for a second-straight game winner to continue a charmed year. Many pundits credit the game with helping to popularize the spread offense, though not with Lloyd Carr.
Northwestern secured their share of the 2000 Big Ten title and kept their in-state rivals out of a bowl with a 61-23 dumptrucking of the Illini in Evanston. Damien Anderson ran 39 times for 179 yards and 4 TDs to cap the best offensive season in Northwestern history to that point.
Michigan State, 2001
Northwestern loves East Lansing lately, winning 4 of the last 5 games in Spartan Stadium. But none of those tops the 27-26 thriller in Evanston in 2001, when David Wasielewski hit the game-winning field goal as time expired after 3 lead changes in the final 30 seconds.
Joe Tiller’s #19 Purdue outfit led 10-7 with a minute left in Evanston, but beautiful Brett Basanez painted a game-winning drive capped by a Noah Herron TD run. Kyle Orton’s Hail Mary at the buzzer fell out of Boiler hands.
Ohio State, 2004
One of the most memorable games of my youth and one of the biggest wins in program history. Ohio State was #6 in the nation, Northwestern was 1-3, but played out of their minds and beat the Buckeyes in overtime when #33 Noah Herron scored a touchdown on his 33rd carry for Northwestern’s 33rd point to end a 33 drought against Ohio.
It’s the biggest comeback in Northwestern history, a classic Bill Lynch choke job. Down 28-3 in the second, Mike Kafka led the Cats all the way back and Stefan Demos hit the game winning kick.
Ricky Stanzi’s Hawkeyes were 9-0, ranked #4. They took a 10-0 second quarter lead, but wouldn’t score again, Northwestern’s defense forcing 4 turnovers. The Wildcats won 17-10. It’s the highest-ranked opponent they’ve ever beaten on the road.
Bo Pelini’s Huskers were ranked #9 in their first Big Ten season when a 3-5 Northwestern squad came to Lincoln and stunned em 28-25. Kain Colter scored 3 times, including an 81 yard, 4th quarter bomb to Jeremy Ebert and a TD run with under 2 minutes left to seal the huge upset. Taylor Martinez surely weeped in the locker room.
Penn State, 2014
1-2 Northwestern was a big underdog going into Happy Valley, but Trevor Siemian (often known as “the throwing quarterback”) ran for three scores, the Wildcats defense dominated Christian Hackenberg, and the Wildcats blew out the Lions 29-6 for their first Penn State win in a decade.
NOTE: Northwestern plays Maryland for this first time this season. They’re 0-3 against Rutgers, but haven’t played since 1991. Anyway, the headline says Big Ten teams.
Image via West Point / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0