The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian


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The Field of Broken Dreams | Episode 2: The Team

Note: This podcast is designed to be heard. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio if you are able, which includes emotion and emphasis that’s not on the page.

Mack Jones Heading into their game against Purdue on Nov. 18, 1995, Northwestern was undefeated in conference play. It was their final Big Ten game of the year, and what a year it had been for the Wildcats.

The ‘Cats started the season as four-touchdown underdogs against Notre Dame and won. They played top-ten Michigan at the Big House in Ann Arbor as underdogs– and won. They played ranked Wisconsin and Penn State squads and beat both teams by multiple scores. 

Purdue was the Cats’ last regular-season test before heading to a bowl game, their first in nearly fifty years. It wasn’t going to be easy. Northwestern was without locker-room leader and kicker Sam Valenzisi and one of the best defensive players in the country, linebacker Pat Fitzgerald.

But the message was simple for the Wildcats. Win this game, win the Big Ten. Take the Purple to Pasadena. Accomplish the goals of Head Coach Gary Barnett, the rest of his staff and every single player on the team. 

Don Holmes No, the nerves, the nerves will go on. It was my first official start, but there was so much on the line.

Mack Jones This is linebacker Don Holmes, who filled in for Fitzgerald after the future coach got hurt in a game against Iowa.

Don Holmes You know, I came from high school being the captain of the team and so the excitement, anxiety and opportunity to seal the Big 10 championship against one of the best running backs in the Big 10.”

Mack Jones The team had the motivation. But translating that to the on-field product is easier said than done. 

Don Holmes As a team, we did a phenomenal job. As a middle linebacker, you’re going to be responsible for stalking, stalking Mike Alstott all day. I mean, I’m getting charged right now just thinking about betting the whole several times and I got the best of him many times. I think he probably got me once or twice. So as a defense, we felt like we did our job. Remember Chris Martin running a fumble back for a touchdown? I remember my stats: 12 tackles and assist in a sack.

Mack Jones Northwestern concluded its almost-perfect season up until that point with an almost-perfect game, a comfortable 23-8 win over the Boilermakers, and the perennial cellar dwellers were guaranteed to win at least a share of the Big Ten title. Here’s star wide receiver D’Wayne Bates, who had a long catch-and-run touchdown in the game.

D’Wayne Bates We can only control what we can control. We knew this was not going to be easy, but we were so dialed in. It’s one of those things, you can see the finish line. You got to dig deep. And I think we all collectively dug deep on that night.

Mack Jones It wasn’t over yet. Despite a lack of historical success, one of the Wildcats’ mottos was “Expect Victory.” No one else might have thought the ‘Cats would go this far except the team itself. The ‘Cats’ goals weren’t just a perfect conference record or a share of the Big Ten title. They wanted respect. They wanted the Granddaddy of them all. 

They wanted the Rose Bowl.

Standing in their way, The Ohio State Buckeyes, the only other undefeated team in Big Ten conference play. After Northwestern’s game wrapped up, they needed help from an earlier foe, Michigan. 

Some might have questioned Michigan’s motivations in helping the team that essentially ruined its own shot at a Rose Bowl birth, but the animosity shown in The Game needs no introduction. Michigan wanted Ohio State blood, and Northwestern fans were all for it.

Northwestern players gathered around a television in the team room at the Nicolet Football Center. Quarterback Steve Schnur stayed at his home in St. Louis and had a broadcast crew watching him watch the game. Holmes went to watch the game with his fiancee. Wide receiver Toussaint Waterman had to stay in West Lafayette because of an injury, so he saw the game from Indiana. Watch parties engulfed all of Evanston.

Ohio State started the game with a three-point lead, but it didn’t last. Michigan never trailed after tailback Clarence Williams’ touchdown catch with around five minutes left in the first. At one point, the Wolverines were up by 16, and they held on after that for a 31-23 win. 

Cheers erupted on Central Street—hugs, tears, screaming, high-fives, fist-bumps and roses everywhere. The expectation of heading to the Arroyo Seco did nothing to dampen the celebration when it finally happened. The team was overjoyed. For many players, it was like a dream come true. 

Cars honked in the streets, and roses were placed on the doorsteps of Barnett and Schnur. The commitment of ‘Cats fans in these times is often questioned, but there was no doubt how much they were behind this ‘95 team. 

But the Wildcats still needed one more win.

The story of Northwestern football that year was one of a glass slipper. It’s been called one of the greatest underdog stories of its time. It united a community often against Northwestern football in raucous support of the Wildcats. Now, the work of everyone in the organization could be validated in one game on New Year’s Day, which famed broadcaster Keith Jackson put perfectly. 

Keith Jackson As it is called a Cinderella story, well, we’ve had all the romance, now let’s find out if she can dance.

Mack Jones I’m Mack Jones, and this is The Field of Broken Dreams. 


Keith Jackson ABC Sports College Football presents: the fiftieth Rose Bowl game matching the Big 10 and the Pac 10. The Southern California Trojans and the Northwestern Wildcats. Purple and white everywhere in the Arroyo Seco, and theirs is a very special story.


Mack Jones At the start of every sporting event in the country, the national anthem plays in honor of those who have fought and sacrificed for us. The sound of it is synonymous with sports, and on Jan. 1, 1996, it filled the Rose Bowl for the 82nd time. Big 10 – Pac 10, Northwestern – USC, and offensive lineman Paul Janus was absorbing every second of it.

Paul Janus The minute the national anthem kicks off, you want to run through a brick wall. You feel it from the tip of your toes to your head. I still get worked up, I’m ready to go. Looking over the mountains, the Rose Bowl, such history, so many players and teams that have played there.

(Music ends)

Keith Jackson So the warm sun shines down on the old oval in the city of Pasadena as the University of Southern California Marching Band directed by Arthur Bartner is out is out in the center of the stadium rearranging their formation now to present our national anthem.


Mack Jones Not only did the anthem get the players into the game, but it got the 100,102 fans in the stands raring to go too. Northwestern wasn’t worried, though. They’d been in situations like this all season. 

When the Wildcats played the Wolverines in the Big House in early October, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone predicting a Northwestern win. Michigan was ranked #7, with two top-25 wins, and they hadn’t yet lost a game.

Quality of the team aside, Michigan has one of the best home-field advantages in all of college football since Michigan Stadium seats 107,000. It’s intimidating to play in front of a hundred thousand hostile fans, so even if Michigan had a down year, the Wolverines would likely still be heavily favored at home against Northwestern.

ESPN Broadcast Team Gary Barnett and a resurgent Northwestern team 3-1, the first time they’ve had a 3-1 record since 1963 and you can see the last time they won at Michigan, Elvis was just starting to swivel his hips.

Mack Jones All these things meant that maybe the only people expecting a Northwestern victory were, again, themselves. 

Paul Janus The slogan ‘Expect Victory’ wasn’t hope for victory. It wasn’t attempt to feel good with moral wins. What are you going to do to make sure that that happens? Whether you’re a scout team player preparing the number one squad, everyone was part of the piece of the puzzle.

Mack Jones That was Janus again, and the team had a special way of preparing to play there that increased their confidence, too. 

It was all down to Coach Barnett.

Paul Janus Coach was big into visualization. We would watch videos in the big house, we listened to the victors being played constantly, we would see the fans. He put us into those situations where when you get to the game, it was no big deal.

Mack Jones Barnett was a very psychological coach. In the week leading up to the game, he brought loudspeakers to practice and turned them past ten with crowd noise. Every play, every drill, every break in the action. It was loud for hours. Many of the players hadn’t played in Ann Arbor, so they didn’t know how loud it got– but after that week, they had an inkling.

Holmes and the rest of the team needed to adapt, and they used that week to do it.

Don Holmes When we actually got into the fight with Michigan, outside of seeing the people that we hadn’t seen, the noise wasn’t a factor. We already knew you have to raise your voice. If you can’t raise your voice, sign language. Just make sure that you’re able to communicate. It really prepared us for that environment and just driving up to Michigan Stadium in our buses, there’s so much blue and gold. So many people outside I just remember being inundated by oh my god, look at all these people. We’ve got work to do. And it was an exciting environment to play and I think that my teammates kind of capitalized on that.

Mack Jones Northwestern and Michigan started the game in a quintessential Big Ten battle. Northwestern needed a big play from its defense late, and DB Eric Collier stepped up.

Eric Collier So they were doing a play, and it was a deep curl. And I get under that and out the corner, and he let me and boom, interception. I also called up my own punt fake, and apparently, I could have scored but I hadn’t run the ball in almost a year.

ESPN Broadcast Team A knee for Schnur, and Schnur who came back from being banged up early in the game. Gary Barnett’s 25th-ranked Wildcats will move up in the national polls. They go to 4-1. They have beaten the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

How about what he said to his players? I don’t want any Gatorade, and I don’t want to be carried off. We think we can win the football game, let’s act like we expected to win. He’s still dry and he’s still on his feet, and boy, this Northwestern program is on its feet.

Mack Jones The Wildcats came out with a 19-13 victory, paying off the week of ear-splitting practices.

The Rose Bowl should have been a home game for USC, too. The Trojans’ campus and the stadium were only about 15 miles from each other. Things were shaping up to be another Michigan game in terms of decibels. 

But Northwestern supporters filled at least half of the stadium, and some reports say it was even two-thirds. They were, at that moment, America’s team. 


Mack Jones Kickoff.

Keith Jackson Keyshawn Johnson and Chris Miller and gonna return this opening kickoff, one or the other if Brian Gowins can knock it down there to them. Brian is the young man from Birmingham, Alabama, wearing the purple of Northwestern, and he hits it solid and drives it a yard deep into the endzone to Johnson. And the great Wide Receiver from from USC is taken down at the 17 yard line.

Mack Jones USC opened up the game with Brad Otton at quarterback. The Trojans had a two-QB system, and intended to start the game with Otton before moving on to Kyle Wachholtz. They would flip for the rest of the game unless one got going early. 

Otton didn’t just start hot. He started on fire. On third and four, he completed to a target called a lot for the rest of the game, Keyshawn Johnson. Seven-yard catch, first down.

Next play, Otton escaped the pocket with no contain set on him. He had all the time in the world to fire a 30-yard shot to Johnson. The coverage wasn’t bad, but the connection between QB and wide receiver was impeccable. Caught. First down. 

Otton started the game 6/6 for 82 yards, most of them to Johnson. The run game was getting stuffed by Holmes, who tried to set the tone with a TFL on the first play of the game, but it didn’t matter.

Don Holmes I missed the initial tackle, but I kept hold of his jersey and then just to see Eric, coming over to Powell making a play that stands out to me because for me that play set the tone like, that’s how I used to play in high school, they couldn’t stop my blitzes. To be able to do this on the Rose Bowl field and just kind of get through I’m like, Okay, this is gonna be a fun game. I also remember a play where they faked. They did, we’re on the goaline, and they do a fake handoff to the running back similar to that Michigan play. And so I met him in the air, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I stopped you.’ But it was a fake. They didn’t give him the ball.

Mack Jones USC scored on that last play Holmes talked about. It was one of few first-drive touchdowns the Northwestern defense had allowed all season. With the quality of USC’s offense, Northwestern needed a solid response to prevent the game from getting out of hand.

All year, Northwestern had relied on its run game. While the pass wasn’t bad, running back Darnell Autry was better. The ‘Cats started the offensive series with a handoff to Autry, who only got a couple. Most of the run plays on that drive got stuffed.

So Northwestern then turned to its own dynamic receiver, Bates. 

D’Wayne Bates We went to our usual pound rock, a couple play action. We made a couple plays in the passing game to continue to move the chains. We just want to get a first down, get another first step into that line, and kind of figure out how we’re going to dominate the O line D line matchup. You know, figure out how we can create some mismatches and then let Schnur do his magic he’s done all season.

Mack Jones There were six minutes and 46 seconds left in the first. It was 2nd and 9, right after a run play. Barnett lined up a play-action shot.

D’Wayne Bates I might have had some crazy one-hand grab. Shoot, today, when I look at that how the heck I caught that.

Mack Jones Bates caught a dart from Schnur with his left hand on a slant. He spun and lost the last defender on him, now free to run for yards after the catch.

D’Wayne Bates But no, I unfortunately got caught at the three yard line, and then 24 ran in there for a touchdown. So that was a response, and we kind of knew, ‘ Ok, we’re we’re good now, right?’ We could tie the game up. This is a zero-zero game. We started slow, now let’s finish off the season.

Mack Jones Momentum had shifted in favor of the Wildcats, and the Trojans were reeling from the sudden smashmouth to west coast offensive shift. The next USC drive was over quickly, ending with a Holmes sack. Otton limped off the field as John Stonehouse punted back the ball to Northwestern.

The Wildcats’ second drive started with a good gain from Autry. Both teams had settled into the game, but Northwestern was passing the ball more than they had all season.

It didn’t work. Schnur went 2-for-5 on the drive, but when it got to 4th and 2, the ‘Cats showed they would go for it with an Autry run. Delay of game and illegal procedure penalties pushed them back and stopped any thoughts of converting. 

Back-to-back punts for both teams. USC had 127 pass yards and -16 rush yards at that moment. During this drive, they started running the ball better with Delon Washington, which forced the ‘Cats to be more honest on defense. In turn, the passing game opened up for the Trojans even more than it already was. 

Keith Jackson 21 yard line, first down. Otton, got all day, now throws man wide open, touchdown. Terry Barnum. He got lost in the man.

Bob Griese Well here’s Barnum right here as I draw this circle right here, he’s gonna go down the sideline, the tight end is gonna go down the middle, but he loses sight of him. Barnum is gonna clear right, right, now he’s gonna come open, and the quarterback comes off of him, then he scrambles a little bit, then he sees him again, and a nice catch by Barnum.

Keith Jackson Trojan band is forming down there in that corner, and I think he kind of got lost in all the colors. And the kick is good.

Mack Jones It was another chance for Northwestern to respond, but they couldn’t after a missed field goal by backup Brian Gowins. The next USC drive led to a field goal and ten-point lead with 3:29 left in the first half. The situation wasn’t ideal for Northwestern, but a comeback wasn’t out of the question. 

That is until the Wildcats completely unraveled. 

It was 3rd and 5. Schnur passed to Brian Musso on a slant, who ran right past the 50 for a first down and a big gain. 

And then he fumbled.

Keith Jackson That ball is thrown into the hands of Brian Musso, aaaand he fumbled as he goes down! It’s picked up by the Trojans, and on the way is Daylon McCutcheon! And it’s a touchdown for the freshman.

Mack Jones 24-7 in USC’s favor. Northwestern got the ball back but went three-and-out. The Wildcats were reverting to their old ways, the 34 straight losses from ‘79 to ‘82, the decades of not making a bowl game. 

The team needed to dig deep. They had worked too hard for too long to give up now, down three scores with a half left to go.

Earlier the previous summer, the football team at Northwestern University had undergone one of the most brutal practices anyone on the team ever had or has had since. Amid the 1995 heat wave in Chicago, one of the worst on record, the Wildcats were training and training hard.

Mount Trashmore, an Evanston sledding staple and probably the tallest point in Illinois, was a landfill before being converted into a 65-foot hill in James Park. During the summer, it was the home of Northwestern football and D’Wayne Bates. 

D’Wayne Bates Our strength and conditioning coach at the time, Larry Lilja, had this brilliant idea that we would drive to the south part of Evanston. At that point, I didn’t know Mount Trashmore. We pulled up in our cars. And I was like, ‘What is it about, and I see all the upperclassmen looking at me, like, ‘You gotta find out?’ It was like 95, probably well over 100 with the heat index. That was probably one of the hardest workouts I went through, and I probably could speak for a lot of my teammates.

Mack Jones Barnett forced all the players to sprint up Trashmore, over and over, all day. Every Evanston resident who has gone sledding on that hill knows how difficult it is to walk up there, let alone sprint. Everyone was suffering, including Janus.

Paul Janus We were out there running on Trashmore. Coach Lilja would have a Rose Bowl sign at the top, and we run up. You saw this sign of Rose Bowl, and you’re racing up, and you were cramping up coming down laying in there. It was fighting through being uncomfortable, obviously making yourself a better athlete.

Mack Jones It was intense. Here’s Waterman.

Toussaint Waterman I remember working so hard that I remember driving home after that workout. I remember my vision getting foggy driving and having to pull over the car because I couldn’t [drive]. That was one of the workouts where it’s some of the toughest work that we did.

Mack Jones The workout broke down the players, but it mentally bonded them in a way that had probably never been done before that moment. 

The Wildcats were struggling in the Rose Bowl, but they had climbed their Mount Trashmore and now could come down full speed.

The Northwestern defense forced a fumble with 12 seconds left, deep in USC territory. The ‘Cats capitalized with a field goal, cutting the lead to 14, and they would get the ball back to start the second half. In an instant, the stadium went from demoralized to louder than Death Valley.

At halftime, Northwestern was down 24-10. They had built up momentum but needed to sustain it and not lose focus. 


Mack Jones During the same summer as the Trashmore workouts, the Wildcats went to Camp Kenosha, a training camp around an hour north of Evanston and as difficult as any. 

But one of the most important moments from Camp Kenosha wasn’t the workouts. It didn’t involve athleticism at all. This is Holmes.

Don Holmes Barnett was a phenomenal, inspirational speaker himself, but he brought a guy named Steve Musso, over to us in Kenosha. I don’t know if you can envision this, but he had the whole team sit in a room one day and envision the whole 95/96 season, start to finish, and walked us through potentially winning a national championship and ask us, ‘How do you feel right now?’ I don’t know if any other players would tell you that, but that exercise, it gives me butterflies thinking about it. I remember my teammate, Ryan Padgett. Steve Musso asked him, ‘So, how did you feel? You guys just won the Big 10, how do you feel?’ And Ryan’s response was, ‘I don’t know, I’m excited, I accomplished my goal!’

Mack Jones Everything that Northwestern visualized up until that moment had come to pass. All they needed now was the Rose Bowl. With the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band wrapping up its halftime performance, it was time to finish making the vision a reality.


Mack Jones Northwestern started the second half on-point in a no-huddle offense. They got the ball down to the nine-yard line but couldn’t punch it in and had to settle for a field goal. 

Then there came a choice. They could do a regular kickoff and give possession to the Trojans’ offense, which, remember, had been on fire in the game. Or they could do an onside kick and risk field position for the ball back. They had a choice on Sept.17, 1995, too.

That was the day after Northwestern had lost in its second game of the season to Miami (OH). The Wildcats were coming off the big win at Notre Dame and completely overlooked the Red Hawks.

Northwestern had a big lead going into the second half and completely blew it. The ‘Cats’ Rose Bowl challenge could have been over before it even began, according to Waterman.

Toussaint Waterman So, you’re at this point where you go from the highest high to the low. Then you’re doubting. Did we get lucky? Are we not as good as we thought we were? It’s getting kind of doubting and questioning. And then I think the main thing is we’re just tired of losing. That was one thing that drove everybody. We’re tired of being like the old Northwestern. Getting a taste of that again, Miami giving us a taste of that. You reached this point where it’s just a fork in the road.

Mack Jones From that Miami (OH) game until the Rose Bowl, Northwestern rattled off nine straight wins. 

Toussaint Waterman There’s two different teams showed up, this team that beat Notre Dame, and then this team that lost the Miami of Ohio. So again, establishing our identity and deciding what you want to be all about. Which team are we going to be?

Mack Jones If they were the team that lost to Miami (OH) in the first half, they needed to be the team that beat Notre Dame in the second. 

So Northwestern took the risk and decided to do the onside kick. The team lined up like a normal kickoff, and USC bought it completely. Gowins doinked it just past the ten yards needed, and the Wildcats fell on it. The play was perfectly executed. 

Northwestern ball.

The Wildcats were driving in classic Big Ten fashion, returning to the run-first offense that had previously served them so well. Handoff Autry, handoff Autry, play-action, handoff Matt Hartl.

But it was the Hartl carry that hurt them the most. The play went for a few yards, but senior guard Ryan Padgett, who was on the All-Big Ten team, went down injured. 

The Northwestern Wildcats had only lost one game on the year and were about to lose a fantastic player for much of the rest of this one, but in reality, the team had lost much more. Over the previous offseason, most players stayed in Evanston to train. One player who didn’t was Marcel Price. 

Price had started the summer with the team and was one of the best-recruited players from his class. He was a natural athlete. But he got homesick and went to Nashville for a week to be with his friends and family. 

Price and some of his friends were hanging out, just messing around, when someone decided to start playing with a gun. Thinking the chamber was empty, he pointed the gun at Price and pulled the trigger. Price, who redshirted freshman year and hadn’t yet played a down, never returned to Evanston.

The team was devastated, especially Collier.

Eric Collier Marcel was supposed to be my roommate. My junior year, whatever the year going into the Rose Bowl would have been his sophomore year. I had worked something out the year before. So my freshman year I lived at Bobb-McCulloch. I think on the McCulloch side. Sophomore year, I had a friend Steve Yeager, who played baseball. He’s like, all right, you know, because the baseball players show up early, like the football. And, you know, so whenever I took a shine, we got to be real good friends.

And I was like, Alright, next year, we’ll just room together. And so whatever you do, though, I’m not joining a fraternity. I’m out. So, he ended up joining a fraternity. So I’m gonna get a new roommate. And he’s like, talk to him. And they’re gonna let you stay in the frat. But you don’t have to join. And so I was like, okay, so psi you so I ended. You know, I got to do all this stuff, but I wasn’t a part of the fraternity.

And so that next year, I was like, Alright, I’m gonna get my own room with Marcel. So it’s gonna be two, non frat guys living inside. And I remember it was getting close to time to go back to camp, and I came home and my mom said, ‘Hey, you got a phone call. Marcel’s dead.’

Mack Jones The team chartered a jet for everyone to go down and visit. Barnett and some of the captains organized a meeting. There, they decided to honor Price with patches on their jerseys reading “Big Six,” in honor of his number. 

Eric Collier It was like, how are we going to carry Marcel with us into the season? We wore that the entire time I was there.

Mack Jones Whenever a close play went Northwestern’s way that season, the Wildcats said it was Marcel making it happen. 

This entire Northwestern drive could have been down to Price. 

With USC beginning to make some of the mistakes that the Wildcats were in the first half, an opportunity opened up to bully them on the ground, with Janus dictating play. 

Paul Janus Darnell ran around the edge I had, where I was getting the edge contain. I got the guy locked up and pancaked him, and then I saw Darnell run past and score.

Mack Jones With another Northwestern touchdown, the lead was down to five. 

The Trojans hadn’t had the ball yet in the second half, and this time, no trickery would prevent them from possessing it. 

Chris Miller returned the kickoff and got leveled at the 20-yard line. Otton, who was still in at QB, would have to lead USC 80 yards to try and swing the pendulum the other way.

Of course, that’s a lot easier when you have Keyshawn Johnson on your team. Johnson took over that drive and was already over 100 yards on the day. 

While Collier wasn’t tasked with covering Johnson as a strong safety, he still had to deal with him.

Eric Collier He was what became the prototype NFL wide receiver. He was that first guy you know with maybe a Michael Irvin before him. But you know, what the NFL evolved to you know, taller, bigger, stronger and faster.

Mack Jones USC had the ball close to midfield on a 3rd and 11. Make the stop here, and Northwestern could take the lead on their next drive. The Wildcats were in a zone defense, and Johnson was running a slant. Otton saw the Northwestern coverage and recognized how little help there was over the top. He threw to Johnson, who took off. No one was back, and he was gone for a 56-yard score. 

Eric Collier I had people telling me this all the time. Oh, I watched the Rosebowl and Keyshawn torched you. And I was like, torched me? I didn’t give up on that play. I’m the only one still chasing them. We were using Hudhaifa [Ismaeli] and a double team on the inside. But you know, Keyshawn give-me-the-goddamn-ball Johnson and he broke the record for the Rose Bowl game.”

Mack Jones It was Johnson’s tenth catch for 199 yards, a record already in only three quarters. Northwestern needed to be persistent.

Bob Griese All they have to do is stop Keyshawn Johnson.

Mack Jones Easier said than done, but this team had embraced tenacity in every game. Holmes, who backed up Fitzgerald for most of the season, knew the benefits of never giving up as much as anyone.

Don Holmes Coach Barnett one day in the summer hosted a team meeting. We were trying to decide what we were going to stand for for this 95/96 school year. And Mike Senters, he used to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, I think he’s about a few years older than me, Mike Senters actually came up with us using an acronym. Coach Barnett was like, ‘Yeah, I like that idea. So what acronym would you guys use?’ And the A.R.T. So I think that it may have been Will Bennett, or Rob Johnson that may have come up with the word, or it might’ve been Senters, relentless. So Coach Barnett was like, ‘Okay, what does relentless mean?’ So he went around the room and talked about what a relentless effort meant. What this team would look like. And everybody agreed to that. So A.R.T. meant a relentless team.

Mack Jones The Wildcats put the letters A.R.T. on t-shirts and drilled what it stood for into the minds of every player. And at that moment, those words needed to be put to good use.

The kickoff was deep inside the endzone, but Hudhaifa Ismaeli returned it close to the 30, another good return in what was becoming a day of them for the defensive back. 

Earlier that year, Barnett had been named coach of the year for his efforts in building the Northwestern Wildcats into contenders. This next play call is why.

It was 1st and 10, with exactly six minutes left in the third quarter. Northwestern had come back into it but still hadn’t led all game. Time was running out, and the Wildcats needed a big chunk play to control their destiny. They turned to Bates for it.

D’Wayne Bates One particular play we did was double fake reverse. Hail Mary type pass, you know, we worked on that all year, believe it or not. It was one of those trick plays you work on just in case you’re gonna call it. And I remember going to the huddle and I came out like, we’re about to call that play off. Because we knew early in the downs, USC was creeping because Darnell Autry. They were gonna stay with us. They were focused on stopping our run game, they were gonna make us beat them over the top. That was their defensive strategy. So our call to play and Steve read it out, man, we’ve been working on his play all year, and he has a lot has to happen. Got to have great protection up front. You got to sell the first fake to Darnell and then reverse fake to Beasley, you got to make the different things to reverse.

Mack Jones But Bates had been too good in the game up until that point for USC to ignore him.

D’Wayne Bates While I can creep down the field, so everything looked great on paper when we ran it. The problem is the safety didn’t bite. And on the field, I was double-covered, safety and corner. I’m thinking Schnur is not gonna throw this pass because I have two people on me. Sure enough, Steve throws the ball. Nice little heave of 50-60 yards. And it was just one of those like, listen, based on where we are at, based on, wasn’t it, I gotta make a play. So I just jumped up some kind of way and wasn’t able to go over to defenders and come down.

Mack Jones Bates miraculously caught the ball, and then a flag came out for roughing the passer, which turned an already huge gain into a massive one. Most remember the game for Johnson’s performance, but Bates was matching him stride for stride. At that point, he had six catches for 134 yards, on pace for the record if it wasn’t for Johnson.

The ‘Cats punched it in a few plays later on a Schnur QB sneak from what felt like the one-inch line. The kick was good, and just like that, the Johnson touchdown had been erased. The lead was back down to five.

The next drive for USC was a disaster for the Trojans. It started with a hold, then an illegal touching call. They were pushed back to their own five when Otton handed off to Woods, who got stuffed. 

The Northwestern defense was hyped up. 

An incomplete pass on the next play sealed the three-and-out stop. USC had to punt it out of their endzone. The Rose Bowl was rocking. 

(ABC’s broadcast of the 1996 Rose Bowl)

Mack Jones 1st and goal from about the two for the Wildcats, and Autry punched it in up the gut for his third touchdown of the game. Northwestern took the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter. The ‘Cats didn’t get the two-point conversion but were in control, regardless. 

USC started their ninth drive with 13 minutes left in the game, down by one point. Otton threw the ball quickly, but it got batted down by Holmes, who’d had a huge game.

Don Holmes We dominated them in the run game, I don’t think they got over 50 yards. But I guess if you pass them for 400+, you probably don’t need to run.

Mack Jones USC had 368 passing yards but only 10 on the ground. Northwestern’s defense did what they did best and stopped the run, but they weren’t able to stop Otton and Johnson.

USC got it to 3rd and 10 from the 40, and Johnson got just enough for the first down. Coverage was good by Ismaeli but not good enough to stop Johnson’s 11th catch and 210th yard.

Eventually, though, the ‘Cats’ defense came up with a stop, forcing USC to kick a 46-yard field goal from the right hash. They hit it, kicker Adam Abrams’ longest ever. 

Abrams’ kickoff went down to the one, and Ismaeli was going to have a tough time turning nothing into something. He pulled it off, bringing the ball out to the 38-yard line, but a personal foul on Northwestern brought it back to be 1st and 25. Those were the kind of plays that the Wildcats got away from in the third, but they returned at one of the least opportune moments.

Northwestern had scored every time they had the ball in the second half, and it was going to be difficult with their field position, but they were still only down by two. With Autry averaging 32 carries a game, it was within reason they could run out the clock and kick the game-winning field goal as time expired. 

Schnur completed a pass to Bates, his 7th catch for 145 yards. Throw for throw, stride for stride. Northwestern was doing their best to match the quality of the best offense in the PAC-10.

Play action on 2nd down. Schnur rolled out to his right and, on the run, tried to go across the field to a wide-open receiver. 

The ball was overthrown. Badly. 

(ABC’s broadcast of the 1996 Rose Bowl)

Mack Jones USC scored a touchdown with the excellent field position, but they did it quickly. They were up, but there were still around three minutes left. Northwestern would get the ball back, and they had already converted one onside kick.

The squib was returned just beyond the 40. Field position was in the Wildcats’ favor. 

1st and 10, Schnur’s pass was incomplete off the hands of Beasley. 

2nd and 10, Schnur’s sacked.

3rd and 10, he scrambles for the first down. Then a checkdown to Autry got around six yards. 

2:09 left to play.

Northwestern goes no-huddle on 3rd and 1, Schnur pump fakes and gets almost everyone, but the ball, intended for Autry sandwiched between two defenders, fell to the ground incomplete. 

There’s no question that the Wildcats are going for it. An Autry handoff’s enough for the first down, but the clock kept running. 

The next play is a pass to Autry, who got five yards but couldn’t quite make it out of bounds. 

So it’s 2nd and 5, from the 26, time ticking down.

(ABC’s broadcast of the 1996 Rose Bowl)

Mack Jones Northwestern still only needs a field goal, and then they can get the onside kick and score on the next possession. There’s still time. The 49-yard try is up.

Doinked. Off the upright. Barnett looks like he wants to cry. 

There’s 35 seconds left. Northwestern has no timeouts. USC just needs to take a knee. That does it. Final score USC 41, Northwestern 32.

(Purple Reign in Pasadena Postgame Show)

Mack Jones It was 40 degrees on Oct. 21, 1995, the day of Northwestern’s homecoming game against the Wisconsin Badgers. Winds cut through Dyche Stadium, and low, dark grey clouds made rain feel inevitable. A sharp whistle from wind gusts fell between the metronomic drip-drop of rain as the Wildcats made their last preparations for the Badgers in their steel cage of a locker room. Any jitters were more likely to have been caused by the cold rather than the occasion. 

The sky was spitting on Northwestern as much as the college football community had been, but the driving rain was no fluke. Water puddled inside the still-empty stadium. The beating rain sounded like a snare drum on the bleachers, and the metallic clanging could be heard more than almost any crowd. 

A grey veil cascaded over the structure, bringing emptiness to the formerly colorful field. Fog replaced dashes of purple and beige with silver. Intermittent sleet at least brought variation to the whipping rain. 

Around 90 minutes before kickoff, the gates opened, and raincoats flooded the stadium. Fans brought in the earthy smell of rain and mud. Character returned to the field, and so did noise. The lifeless, desolate stadium turned into a sea of purple as the sell-out crowd of Northwestern fans stood for their team.

Evanston’s team. 

D’Wayne Bates One of the best decisions I ever made was coming to Northwestern.

Kevin Vedder That whole series of wins was just incredible.

Jared Tucker I wish I was there in 1995 for the Rose Bowl.

Tom Suffredin That was a special year.

Mack Jones Forever and always.

But since, it’s been a field of broken dreams in more ways than one. That’s next time.


Mack Jones The Field of Broken Dreams is a podcast from The Evanstonian, the student newspaper at Evanston Township High School. It’s advised by John Phillips with executive editors Jilian Denlow, Clara Gustafson and Sophia Sherman. The Field of Broken Dreams is reported and produced by me, Mack Jones, with help from Isaac Suarez Flint. Our theme music is by Sam Persell. 

The final mix of this episode was done by me. 

We have eight more episodes coming. You’ll be able to find them all on our website,, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can find more stories about Northwestern and other events pertaining to Evanston there, too. Again, it’s 

Special thanks to everyone interviewed, ESPN and ABC Sports.

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Mack Jones
Mack Jones, Opinion Editor, Digital Content Editor
Hi! My name is Mack Jones, and I’m the Opinion and Co-Digital Editor on The Evanstonian. This is my second year on staff; last year, I was a staff writer, primarily for News. Outside of the paper, I play tennis, guitar and piano and referee for AYSO.
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