The Final Chapter

Northwestern's senior class will be forever remembered as the group which brought consistent success to the NU football program. However, it is that group which carries the daunting task of ending the program's 63-year bowl drought. In their final chapter, the Wildcats' storied seniors carry the pressure of winning Northwestern's first bowl game since 1949.

While meeting the media after Northwestern's loss in the 2011 TicketCity Bowl, head coach Pat Fitzgerald called out the junior class—the current seniors.

Frustrated by yet another bowl loss, Fitzgerald demanded more from the group that would become the winningest class in Northwestern history.

"There are starters across the board and it is time that they step up," Fitzgerald exclaimed. "If we want to win championships, if we want to win these kind of football games, that class has got to step up. They've got to start making more plays. They've got to start leading."

A six-win regular season withheld the Wildcats from most team goals, but one still remains attainable. I, of course, am referring to that 63-year-old monkey which Northwestern players are carrying around Houston.

With 36 wins and four consecutive bowl appearances serving as evidence, the Northwestern senior class has changed the culture of the football program, making NU a consistent winner.

Quarterback Dan Persa, better known as "PersaStrong," has brought national attention to the football program.

Tackle Al Netter has helped Northwestern keep its positive reputation, by being nominated to the AFCA Good Works Team—the fifth consecutive season which a Wildcat was given the honor.

Running back Jacob Schmidt (along with junior tackle Patrick Ward) continued the tradition of academic excellence, being named an Academic All-American.

There is absolutely no disputing, Northwestern's senior class has been a special group, which has helped take the NU football program to a new level. However, there is still one unaccomplished goal for the group.

"We're so sick and tired of people outside of our program talking about (the bowl drought)," Fitzgerald said after a recent bowl practice. "It's getting old. The only way to get it fixed is to take care of our business."

Prior to Northwestern's Senior Day game with Michigan State, Fitzgerald said, "The pen is in (the senior's) hands, let's see what they write."

The class's final game at Ryan Field didn't go as the group hoped—a 14-point loss to Michigan State. The winningest class in NU history had their special day spoiled. In what will be their last collegiate game—for many, last football game ever—the seniors want to get a win, and make history.

It would be a storybook ending for Northwestern's program-changing senior class to erase 63 years of anguish.

The 63-year-old monkey is on the back of Dan Persa, Al Netter, Ben Burkett, Drake Dunsmore, Bryce McNaul, Brian Peters, and the rest of the senior class. The pen is in their hands. Will their final chapter be one to remember?


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