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'Cats Cough Up Biggest Lead Ever

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Oct 23, 2006 3:30PM

You can't help but pull for Northwestern this year, who lost their head coach to a heart attack and named former Wildcats star linebacker Pat Fitzgerald to the job. While considered Walker's heir apparent, Fitzgerald's promotion wasn't supposed to occur for another five years. While few questioned the move, many expected the green Fitzgerald to be in over his head inititally.

Off to a 2-5 start that included a loss to Div-IAA New Hampshire and having been clearly overmatched during Big Ten play, the Wildcats looked like they had turned a corner on Homecoming Saturday -- at least for the first 3 quarters.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead and extended that to 38-3 within the first 5 minutes of the third quarter. That's when things started to change....

Michigan St. took advantage of good field position to score TDs on drives of 65 and 53 yards, each in under 3 minutes. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the score was still 38-17 -- seemingly safe.

2006_10_sports_nu_blockedpunt.jpgMichigan St. blocked a punt and ran it back 31 yards for a TD, cutting the lead to 14. Another sub-2 minute MSU drive made it 31-38, with half the final period to go. Northwestern fans started getting pretty nervous. Next possession, MSU needed all of 2:05 to drive for yet another TD to tie the game. Northwestern got the ball back with a tick under 3 minutes left to play, and promtly turned the ball over. That led to MSU's final field goal and a 41-38 victory over the stunned Wildcats and their fans.

The 35-point comeback surpasses the 31-point comebacks by Maryland over Miami in 1984 and Ohio St. over Minnesota in 1989.

For those who missed the game or flipped over to some other game at halftime, you can watch just how a team overcomes a 35-point deficit when ESPN Classic airs the game as an "Instant Classic" on Wednesday at 8 p.m. And as for you Spartans, you can expect to be put "on notice"!