The drought is finally over for No. 25 Northwestern. The Wildcats are for real.
Northwestern, taking advantage of No. 7 Michigan’s mistakes, rode the arm of Steve Schnur and the kicking of Sam Valenzisi to 19-13 victory Saturday, the Wildcats’ first triumph over the Wolverines in 30 years and first at Ann Arbor since 1959.
“This win is huge for our program,” said Schnur, who completed 11 of 23 passes for 126 yards and one touchdown. “We believe in ourselves more every win we get. We have a confidence about us.”
The Wildcats (2-0 Big Ten, 4-1) opened the season with a 17-15 win at Notre Dame and haven’t been slowed much since. Northwestern’s only loss, to Miami of Ohio, was the result of a botched snap on a punt.
“We all learned our lesson from that,” said Schnur, who flipped a 2-yard pass to fullback Matt Hartl in the fourth quarter for Northwestern’s only touchdown on Saturday. “It’s a shame it had to happen.”
Michigan (1-1, 5-1) turned the ball over four times and had six penalties for 41 yards, several at critical points in the game.
“Turnovers are a part of the game,” Michigan linebacker Jarrett Irons said. “As a defense, no matter where we’re put on the field, we expect to stop the other team. And it’s disappointing that we didn’t stop them.
Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald was outstanding with 14 tackles, including two for losses, and played a key role in stopping Michigan’s last-ditch drive - which ended in Griese’s second interception with 1:31 remaining.
“This is a special group of kids,” Northwestern coach Gary Barnett said. “It was just a great team win. It’s a heck of a way to get to 4-1, beating Michigan and Notre Dame, away. I dream about those things, but it’s hard to pull those things off.”
Barnett ranked this upset ahead of the Wildcats’ shocker in South Bend.
“For me, personally, this is a bigger win, because I was tutored in Michigan heritage by Bill McCartney,” said Barnett, who was an assistant at Colorado before getting the Northwestern job.
Valenzisi, who broke Ira Adler’s school record with his 10th consecutive field goal, was good from 29, 28, 32 and 22 yards as the Wildcats fought back from a 13-6 deficit.
It is the best start for Northwestern since the 1963 team, coached by Ara Parseghian, opened 4-1. Northwestern hasn’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1948, when the Wildcats defeated California 20-14. The loss spoiled Michigan’s best start since 1986.
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