September 9, 2007

Too close IS comfort for Cardiac Cats

EVANSTON - If you're a Northwestern beat writer, it doesn't take long for you to learn not to write your story before the end of the game. Ryan Field has become the place where leads go to die, where wild games and desperate comebacks have become commonplace.

Saturday's rollicking 36-31 Northwestern victory over Nevada was just the latest in a long string of improbable finishes for the Wildcats in recent years. So, even though it was a rollercoaster ride - with the Cats twice coming from behind in the fourth quarter and scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 21 seconds left - it was still somewhat routine for veteran Wildcat observers. There's rarely a dull moment on Northwestern's home turf.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald has only had a couple hair-raising experiences as a head man, but he's been on Northwestern's sidelines for quite a few of them as an assistant coach from 2001-2005, and as a player, going all the way back to 1994-96. And Fitzgerald said that his team never gave up in its belief that they were going to pull it out on Saturday, even when they were down by four points and taking the ball over on their last possession with 1:12 left.

"There was hope the whole game," he said not long after Ross Lane caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Bacher to clinch the game for Northwestern. "We believe we can win any football game we're in."

The truth is that, for whatever reason, Northwestern plays in a lot of these helter-skelter kinds of games. And the Wildcats have done quite well in them, winning far more than they've lost.

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