Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Game Preview: Badgers face Wildcats in contest with bowl implications

A quick glance over the resumé of Northwestern’s senior class says a lot. Not only did the Wildcats beat a top-five team for the first time in 50 years, they took down in-state rival Illinois four of the past five years. The group’s 33 wins are the most in a five-year span in more than a century. The fifth-year seniors are also the first group to be bowl-eligible for four of their five years.

“We’re laying a foundation for the future,” senior defensive lineman Adam Hahn said. “The program is getting stronger and stronger, and you can see each year where the program is going.”

The seniors’ hard work has paid off in bowl berths and one of the most successful runs in school history. They have proven NU can achieve consistent success.

“We look up to the precedent they’re setting,” sophomore running back Jacob Schmidt said. “They’ve carried this team this year.”

The group is trying to add one more line to its resumé this weekend against Wisconsin.

The Badgers arrive in Evanston ranked 16th in the country and on the heels of a three-game winning streak.

“It’s going to be one of those Big Ten slugfests, and it’s going to come down to who plays more physical, who executes and who finds a way to make big plays,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

In the past five years, NU has defeated four nationally-ranked teams, starting with 14th-ranked Wisconsin in 2005. The Cats put up 647 yards of total offense in that game, squeaking by the Badgers 51-48 to earn their first Big Ten win of the season.

This game may not be as high scoring, but many expect it to be another offensive showcase. Wisconsin is led by star running back John Clay. The sophomore leads the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 112 yards per game. A perfect fit for the Badgers’ power running game, Clay has rushed for 12 touchdowns.

NU is led by star quarterback Mike Kafka. The senior is third in the Big Ten in passing, throwing for 234 yards per game. A perfect fit for the Cats’ spread offense, Kafka has thrown for 10 touchdowns and run for seven more.

“This is a huge game for (the seniors) and for our entire football program,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re playing a very good Wisconsin team. They’re an outstanding football team, and it’d be a great way to honor our seniors.”

The Cats have played the Badgers close in the last 10 years, splitting the series 5-5. But the rivalry dates back much further. Wisconsin was NU’s first Big Ten opponent when the teams met for the first time in 1890. Since then, the Cats have played the Badgers 91 times, more than any other team except Illinois. [email protected]

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Game Preview: Badgers face Wildcats in contest with bowl implications