The Northwestern Wildcats on Tuesday quenched a 64 year drought when they won the Gator Bowl against Mississippi State 34-20. Mike Adamle reports on their welcome home celebration.
The Northwestern University Wildcats returned to Evanston Wednesday after a huge win at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville -- their first bowl win in 64 years.
The Wildcats a day earlier beat Mississippi State 34-20, snapping college football's longest postseason losing streak.
The victory erased generations of frustrations for players and fans.
"It's been a long time coming. And so many people, we stand upon their shoulders that have been through a lot tougher times than we have, and I think yesterday's win kind of, really, if not anything else, unified our entire football program and university," said head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
A year ago, when the team went to the Meincke Car Care Bowl, they took along a stuffed monkey to get an eight-game bowl losing streak off their back. It didn't work. This year Fitzgerald tried again, and the monkey is now history.
"It was just great. You know, we snuck it down there ... they cracked it out and the guys just ripped the bejeezus out of it," he said. "It was a lot of fun."
With the doubts now gone and the jinx exercised, it's clear what the Gator Bowl victory means to the 'cats.
"We did prove a point. ... We made a statement," said sophomore defensive back Ibraheim Campbell.
Northwestern's last win at a bowl game was January 1, 1949, when the Wildcats beat Cal in the Rose Bowl.
"It was joyous on the field," said University President Morton Schapiro. "I think it's the beginning of a great streak for us."
That may be the case, but it also marked the end of a long wait for fans and former players alike.
"We didn't do it just for the football team. We did this for everybody representing the N," said junior running back Venric Mark.
For Fitzgerald, an All-American player in the '90s, the milestone victory gave him some personal satisfaction.
"Emotionally, there's no question. I felt -- and I think anyone whose ever put on the purple and white -- felt like they won that game yesterday," he said.