7. NORTHWESTERN

August 25, 1996

They have 13 starters back from a team that was 10-2, won the
Big Ten and finished No. 7 in the country. They have a Heisman
Trophy candidate at running back, a Butkus Award candidate at
linebacker and, at quarterback, a fifth-year senior who threw
just five interceptions last season. So why aren't more experts
picking the Wildcats to return to the Rose Bowl? "It's that
Cinderella thing, I guess," says senior safety Eric Collier.

Yes, the Cinderella label continues to stick to the Wildcats
eight months after their dream season ended in a hard-fought
41-32 loss to USC in Pasadena. If any other defending Big Ten
champion had as many players returning as Northwestern does, it
would probably be picked in the Top 10 by every prognosticator
in the business; but most of the pundits have not placed the
Wildcats above 15th. Why? Because Northwestern is Northwestern,
which means the Wildcats will have to prove themselves all over
again.

The Wildcats have one of the best running backs in the game in
junior Darnell Autry, who rolled up 1,747 yards on the ground
and finished fourth in Heisman voting last season. They also
have senior inside linebacker Pat Fitzgerald, who was Big Ten
defensive player of the year, and senior quarterback Steve
Schnur, who hardly ever makes a mistake. Then there's senior
punter Paul Burton, who had a 90-yard boot against Indiana last
year, and junior wideout D'Wayne Bates, a game-breaker with
speed. Northwestern does have to plug a few holes: Junior
fullback Matt Hartl was found to have Hodgkin's disease and will
not play. There are two new starters on the offensive line, and
the defensive secondary is inexperienced--Collier is the only
returning starter.

The skeptics say that everything went right for Northwestern
last year, and they are correct when they say that the Wildcats'
opponents will be focused on knocking them down a peg this
season. "We hear that one-year-wonder stuff, but it really
doesn't bother us," says Fitzgerald, who has recovered from the
broken left leg that kept him out of the Rose Bowl. "We know
it's going to be a lot tougher this year. But we also know we
didn't use smoke and mirrors to beat people last year."

--M.B.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)