Northwestern’s 2010 season will largely be remembered for the
Wildcats’ inability to finish at the end of the year.
After starting 7-3, including a comeback win over No. 13 Iowa, the
Wildcats crippled due to the loss of All-Big Ten quarterback Dan Persa, suffering blowout losses to Wisconsin and Illinois and losing
the TicketCity Bowl to Texas Tech.
The offense was expected to struggle, but it was the defense that
underperformed the most.
“It was rough, it really was,” senior cornerback Jordan Mabin said. “I
think we let things out of our control affect our play. With Danny
going down, that kind of affected our mental a little bit and we let
it affect us a little more than is should have.
“I remember going back after watching the Wisconsin game and the
Illinois game, and we would be messing up and doing plays to
ourselves, messing up ourselves, and it was sad.”
With an offseason to look back on late-season mishaps, coach Pat Fitzgerald says it’s time to start looking forward and preparing for
what looks to be a promising 2011 season.
“The final three games are over, so we’re not talking about that
anymore,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re not very pleased with the way we’ve
finished either. We’ve moved on from it, but it’s still, when you get
your tail whipped, you remember who whipped your tail. And those
memories, they stick with you as motivation if you use it the right
For Mabin, those games have served as motivation for the upcoming
season, and he has seen improvements from himself and the rest of the
“They were talking about us pretty bad last year, toward the end of
the year, and that gave us fuel…for the offseason,” he said. “Since
I’ve been here, this has probably been the best offseason we’ve had as
In his final offseason as a Wildcat, Mabin has stepped up as a leader
for Northwestern, and his classmates have as well.
“I know, after the season ended and we lost the bowl game last year,
we were pretty down, and Coach Fitz challenged our class, our junior
class at the time, saying if we want to go where we want to go, then
this class is going to have to step up,” he said. “So knowing that,
we took it upon ourselves to put ourselves in leadership roles, do
what we have to do in the offseason.
“Now, just knowing we’ve got a big senior class, the guys we have
back, and just knowing we don’t want [a late-season slide] to happen
again, and knowing that it won’t happen again, that just drives us.”
Fitzgerald is also excited about the experience of this team, which,
with 21 seniors, has the largest senior class of any Northwestern team
during his tenure. It’s also the most decorated senior class since he
There’s a quiet confidence about this team, which for Fitzgerald, is a
welcome change from the disheartened squad that he ended with last
This year, the talent and experience are there for Northwestern to
make a run at a championship in the new-look Big Ten, and Fitzgerald
is challenging his players to players to put it all together, go out
on top and grab that bowl win that had eluded the Wildcats since 1949.
“Sometimes when you get to the end of your career there’s kind of that light at the end of the tunnel feeling and maybe I didn’t do that
right in the past, but this is my year because this is the last chance
I might ever have to play football again, and if I don’t do it now,
I’m going to have that pain of regret.”
Mabin knows that this is his last chance for a championship at the
college level, and he’s anxious to start the season in a tough road
opener against Boston College. He has embraced his coach’s challenge,
“Now, the next thing to do is to win a bowl game and hopefully win the
Big Ten Championship,” he said. That’s why we came here and that’s
definitely our goal for this season.”