B1G Media Days: Pat Fitzgerald Keeps On Chugging

B1G Media Days: Pat Fitzgerald Keeps On Chugging

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B1G Media Days: Pat Fitzgerald Keeps On Chugging

Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald enters his 13th season as the head coach in Evanston.  He’s poised to keep the train chugging – and, perhaps, turn another corner for the program.

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For some of us who are old enough to remember when we could ride our bicycles around the track inside of Northwestern’s Dyche Stadium during Wildcat games that were played in front of a smattering of people who were simply taking a break from raking the leaves, the following fact is almost hard to believe:

Pat Fitzgerald has led Northwestern to three 10-win seasons since 2012.

If Northwestern can get to ten wins in 2018 – a daunting task considering a loaded schedule – that would be three 10-win seasons out of the last four, with a 7-6 season mixed in there that Fitzgerald capped off with a Pinstripe Bowl win in 2016.

One of the very first things Fitzgerald mentioned when he addressed the media during today’s Big Ten Media Days in Chicago was his team’s 2017 grade point average.

“We earned a 3.2 GPA – that’s a team record.”

I don’t know if the Northwestern football players take American Midwestern Geography 101 either.

The next thing Fitzgerald said during his remarks?

“We currently have the longest FBS winning streak at 8 games…”

I sort of sat up and said to myself, “Did he really just say that Northwestern has the longest winning streak in all of FBS?”

I looked it up.

Fitzgerald was not lying to us.

Perhaps we could quibble and make a reference to the fact that an 8-game winning steak isn’t going to make anyone feel like Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners’ 47-game streak from 1953-1957 is in jeopardy – but, let’s remember – this is Northwestern and Fitzgerald should tout the streak appropriately.

Here’s a bit of a run for Northwestern that doesn’t get any play, particularly in Green & White locales:

Northwestern has beaten Michigan State three out of the last four seasons, including last season’s triple overtime thriller.

Fitzgerald’s 87 overall wins and 48 Big Ten wins are both Northwestern records.

It seems like a lifetime ago when Fitzgerald was thrust into the head coaching job after the tragic death of Randy Walker.

In 2018 and with all due respect to Kirk Ferentz, Pat Fitzgerald is pretty close to having “dean of Big Ten coaches” status.

And, his accomplishments were once considered unthinkable.

He’s turned Northwestern into a consistent winner.

It’s worth repeating – Fitzgerald has led Northwestern to three 10-win seasons since 2012.

Northwestern has more double-digit win seasons over the last six years than Penn State, UMAA, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Fitzgerald spoke with his typical staccato enthusiasm at the podium and, as is the case with each passing year, he seemed even more comfortable than he did the last time he was getting his program ready for the season.

In a Big Ten West that is far more “manageable” than the Big Ten East, is this the season when Fitzgerald gets his beloved alma mater to the Big Ten Championship game?

More specific questions include:

Can Clayton Thorson come back from the injury he sustained in the bowl game?

With or without a healthy Thorson, can Northwestern match last season’s very respectable 29 points and more than 400 total yards per game?

Can Paddy Fisher carry the defense after a monster of a freshman season?

Can Paddy Fisher cover receivers?  Northwestern finished last in the Big Ten in pass defense in 2017 – can the Cats improve here even slightly?

If the answers to some of these questions are even “sort of, yes,” then maybe Fitzgerald will be speaking with that familiar rat-tat-tat enthusiasm at the Big Ten Championship Media Day in December.

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