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Oklahoma, Not O.K.
Christian Stone
October 14, 1996
The Sooners aren't even the best team in their state these days, Northwestern still has the magic touch
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October 14, 1996

Oklahoma, Not O.k.

The Sooners aren't even the best team in their state these days, Northwestern still has the magic touch

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Nearly an hour after Saturday's game, Bosworth stood in a corridor inside the cramped brick compound that houses the Sooners' football offices. "Maybe the only people who believe in this program are those of us standing under this roof right now," he said. "But that's enough to build this thing back up again."

Cinderella Is Back

After playing Cinderella last season, Northwestern was determined to prove that its gridiron resurgence is genuine, not the stuff of fairy tales. Still, there was something charmed about their latest comeback, which resulted in a 17-16 win over Michigan in Evanston, Ill., last Saturday. Trailing 16-0 entering the fourth quarter, the Wildcats scored on their last four drives, winning with 13 seconds remaining when junior placekicker Brian Gowins booted a 39-yard field goal—not once but twice. (The referee ruled that he made the first attempt while time was out.) "I've coached a lot of big games," Northwestern coach Gary Barnett said after the game. "But right now there doesn't seem like there's one that's bigger or better or sweeter than this one."

Although Wildcats players and coaches are loath to admit it, beating Michigan has become their obsession. It was last season's 19-13 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor—not the season-opening 17-15 upset of Notre Dame—that they feel established them as a major power. Barnett, not given to inordinate displays of emotion after a victory, confessed in his book, High Hopes, to "briefly dancing with [former center] Rob Johnson" after last year's win in Ann Arbor.

Northwestern (4-1) pulled off this latest stunner using basically the same formula it did last season, when it emerged from the depths to win the Big Ten title and finish 10-2: the gritty running of Darnell Autry, who rushed for 107 yards, his 18th straight 100-plus-yards game; the concise, interception-free passing of Steve Schnur; and an opportunistic defense that caused a crucial fumble and held Michigan to 28 yards in the fourth quarter. "If [the Wolverines don't] respect us now," said senior linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, "I don't know what else they need us to do to them."

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