By LaMond Pope
Pat Fitzgerald has defeated Notre Dame as a player and as a coach.
He called Saturday’s 43-40 overtime victory against Notre Dame the more enjoyable experience.
“This is a playoff win,” Fitzgerald said. “Our program is in a totally different place than it was in 1995 before we won that football game. We’ve been in it five of the last six years post-season and a couple wins here and then competing for a championship.”
Fitzgerald made 11 tackles in the 17-15 victory against the Irish on Sept. 2, 1995.
“Obviously the program is in a completely different place,” Fitzgerald said. “It started in ’95 and from a standpoint of renaissance of this program and it’s never been stronger.”
Notre Dame had the ball in Northwestern’s territory and a three-point lead. Brian Kelly said he didn’t consider having quarterback Everett Golson take a knee in that sequence that eventually ended with a Cam McDaniel fumble.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever in my college career taken a knee and then punted the football,” Kelly said. “We would have run the ball once at least and then considered our options from there. It just never entered into my mind to think in those terms.”
Big day in a win
Running back Justin Jackson rushed for 149 yards and one touchdown. The Wildcats finished with 263 rushing yards.
“The contribution by all the guys in the backfield, a big effort,” Fitzgerald said. “The play of our offensive line, our skill guys blocking on the perimeter.”
Big day in a loss
Wide receiver Will Fuller caught nine passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns.
“I strive to be as good as I can,” Fuller said. “I still have room for a lot of improvement.”