Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, July 28, 2014

Looking for a bounce-back team? Look no further than Northwestern in what should be an intriguing and wide-open Big Ten West race. The Wildcats began 2013 glowing, coming off five bowls in a row with dreams of a division title dancing in their head. But after a 4-0 start, NU slumped to a 5-7 mark. Close losses were killer. There was a three-point defeat to Minnesota; seven to Iowa; three to Nebraska; and a triple-overtime loss to Michigan.

The Wildcats have 18 starters backs and are thinking big-again. Why not? Few coaches emote positivity better than Pat Fitzgerald.

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?We went through a stretch which wasn?t much fun last year,? said Fitzgerald. ?(We) owned up to (the mistakes). We will get back to what we do.?

The key issues were two-fold, according to Fitzgerald:

?We didn?t respond well when things were out of our control,? said Fitzgerald. ?That is my responsibility as a leader. That was disappointing.

?And the way we played up front wasn?t successful. Protecting the quarterback and knocking people down.?

If on-field issues weren?t enough, NU also had to deal with the tumult of a union movement over the winter.

?We have been through more since January than most,? said Fitzgerald. ?I think that has unified us. I hope this is something we can draw on and be a springboard to leadership.?


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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