Football: Biggest upsets in NU history

Danny Daly

Under coach Ara Parseghian in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Northwestern was one of the premier football programs in the country, beating nine top-10 teams. The magical 1959 season was the height of Parseghian’s success in Evanston – NU won its first six games, including victories over No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 5 Iowa to begin the year, and was ranked as high as second in the country. In 1962, the Wildcats topped the polls for two weeks after a 6-0 start.

Then Parseghian bolted for Notre Dame after 1963, having defeating the Irish four consecutive times, and the Wildcats soon deteriorated into one of the worst teams in Division I. Big upsets have been few and far between during the past 50 years, but here is a list of some of the other stunners:1967 – Miami (FL)This was not a very good NU team, and it only won three games all season. One of those was in the first game of the year, a 12-7 victory over No. 8 Miami (FL). The Hurricanes went on to notch seven wins, including a 58-0 blowout of Pittsburgh, after finishing 8-2-1 in 1966. NU would not beat another top-10 opponent for almost 40 years.1993 – Boston CollegeMost remember Boston College in 1993 for shocking top-ranked Notre Dame 41-39, costing the Irish a national title, and finishing the season No. 13 in the country. But the Eagles also lost to the Cats in the second game of the year, falling 22-21 in Evanston. NU was headed for a 2-9 record, though the win over then-No. 22 Boston College was significant because the Cats had dropped 50 of their last 51 games against ranked foes. The victory foreshadowed the magical 1995 run to the Rose Bowl.1995 – Notre Dame / MichiganA pair of gripping road victories propelled NU to Pasadena, as it won 17-15 at No. 9 Notre Dame to start the season and 19-13 at No. 7 Michigan to prove the triumph in South Bend was no fluke. The Cats had not beaten either team in more than 30 years, but a strong defense led by junior linebacker Pat Fitzgerald helped break both of those losing streaks.2000 – WisconsinThe Cats only scored seven points in the first half, but they ended up on the winning end of a 47-44 double-overtime thriller on the road against No. 6 Wisconsin. Quarterback Zak Kustok threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while tailback Damien Anderson added two more scores on the ground. Like for Ohio State four years later, the loss was the first of three in a row for the Badgers.2004 – Ohio StateFresh off a 26-point loss at Minnesota that dropped its record to 1-3, NU beat No. 7 Ohio State for the first time in 33 years. The Cats won 33-27 in overtime, having blown a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter but finding the end zone on their first possession in the extra period. Running back Noah Herron scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner, for NU, who also won three of its next four contests but did not go to a bowl.

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