CHICAGO — Intensity is never in short supply when Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald prepares his team to face a Big Ten opponent.
One game in particular stands out, though, according to a veteran Northwestern player.
“Coach is really intense about all Big Ten games,” Northwestern senior cornerback Jordan Mabin said Friday at the Big Ten football meetings. “He always says every single Big Ten game is the biggest game of the season.
“He’s an intense guy all year around. But Iowa does bring out a little bit in him. It really does. I’m not sure what it is. There is no love lost between us and Iowa.”
With more emphasis put on the Iowa game, that could explain why Fitzgerald has a 4-1 record against the Hawkeyes, why the Wildcats have won the last three games overall, each by seven points or less, and why Northwestern has won the last three games played at Kinnick Stadium.
“That game is always a hard-fought game, physical, real physical,” Mabin said. “It could either way. We just got their number the last couple years.
“I don’t know why, but it always seems it comes down to the fourth quarter. I know we pride ourselves on finishing in the fourth quarter. And that one thing we always do against Iowa. We always finish pretty well.”
Mabin said he always looks forward to playing at Kinnick Stadium, which he’ll do for the last time on Oct. 15.
“I always like going there,” Mabin said. “It’s one of the best stadiums to play at. Their fans are always crazy. And you can hear them (because) they’re so close to the field. And it’s always a sold-out stadium.
“The whole crowd is (dressed) in black and yellow, and than the national coverage, too. It’s usually a prime-time game.”
Fitzgerald’s rivalry with Iowa dates back to when he was a star linebacker at Northwestern in the mid-1990s. He played a key role in Northwestern’s rise to national prominence, which included winning a Big Ten title as a junior in 1995.
He also helped the Wildcats win back-to-back games against Iowa in 1995 and 1996. However, Fitzgerald suffered a broken leg in the 1995 game against the Hawkeyes and that kept him from playing in the 1996 Rose Bowl.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football