Nadkarni: Wildcats, fans will always have Saturday

Rohan Nadkarni, Columnist

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Gameday


Early in the first half of Saturday’s upset of Notre Dame, senior quarterback Trevor Siemian floated a beautiful pass toward the left sideline, perfectly placed in between a safety and a cornerback. The ball was so softly thrown and landed gently in the welcoming arms of a wide-open Tony Jones and … he dropped the ball.

It was deflating. Coach Pat Fitzgerald couldn’t even be angry. When Jones, a senior, walked off the field, Fitzgerald pulled him aside, smiled, gave him a hug and reminded Jones how important he was to the team and told Jones he loved him.

I remember writing after the Gator Bowl that NU fans didn’t have to feel crazy anymore. We’ve been conditioned to accept losing in an increasingly ridiculous fashion, yet we keep watching. I’ve seen so many crazy games happen in just my four years here — a late Hail Mary that allowed a team to tie the game and win in overtime, a field goal team run on the field in the final seconds with a running clock and hit a long field goal, a quarterback literally fall down with the game on the line — and those were only in games against Michigan.

There were so many times against Notre Dame that things looked bleak. The Wildcats played far from a perfect game, and made some huge mistakes at extremely inopportune times. Even senior safety Ibraheim Campbell admitted, before the Fighting Irish fumbled on their second-to-last drive of regulation, it was going to take something crazy to happen for the Cats to win.

Somehow, inexplicably really, our faith, our hope, was rewarded. This was a signature win for the program, and easily the most joyous moment since the Gator Bowl win on New Year’s Day in 2013. On the 683rd day after that win, NU fans finally had a day to remember again.

Of course, the scene on the field after the game was much more special for the players. Whether it was the postgame meal of Chick-fil-A, the relief of ending a losing streak or winning on the road as an 18-point underdog in one of America’s most famous venues, it was the happiest this group of players had been in a long time.

Players like Siemian, who has been the target of criticism every day this year, who had to sheepishly say he was unathletic after the game last week, were now the heroes. Players like kicker Jack Mitchell, who made people openly pine for the graduated Jeff Budzien, were now being treated like rock stars. And they deserved it.

Fitzgerald, whom I have a new complaint with almost every week, and his coaching staff, also earned a reprieve from the hailstorm of negativity. Everyone deserves to enjoy this victory.

Inevitably, the criticism will come back. This is a 4-6 team that, if anything, proved how much better it should be. And of course, the deflating moments will return as well. Nobody can predict the next crazy, gut-punching way NU will lose; we can only predict with 100 percent certainty that it will happen again.

But now, we already know we’re not crazy for still watching. In spite of that impending doom, we also know what this program is capable of. What we can do the next time this team walks off the field after a deflating loss is smile, remember days like Saturday and remember how much we love them.

Email: rohannadkarni2015@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @MiamiRohan

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