Northwestern celebrating first bowl win since 1949

Northwestern defensive lineman Brian Arnfelt (91) holds the trophy along with his teammate Will Hampton (92) after their 34-20 win over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

January 2, 2013 3:34:58 PM PST
The Northwestern Wildcats are riding high after a big win in the Gator Bowl over Mississippi State.

Decades of bowl game futility came to an end as the Northwestern Wildcats pulled down a decisive victory in the Gator Bowl Tuesday and are promising the success they had this season is a sign of things to come.

The team returned to Evanston Wednesday afternoon. The festive atmosphere outside of Ryan Field resembled that of a pep rally as the Northwestern University Wildcat Marching Band led the fanfare for the football team.

The Northwestern Wildcats beat Mississippi State 34-20. They finally snapped college football's longest post-season losing streak of nine bowl losses, spanning more than 60 years.

Bruce Winograd was there. He has held season tickets ever since he graduated from Northwestern in 1965.

"To finally get a victory is great," Winograd said. "It felt fantastic being at the bowl game."

The Wildcats flew in from Jacksonville as Gator Bowl champions and say they suspected that some kind of celebration would be waiting for them on campus.

"Sixty-three years has been a long time," said safety Ibraheim Campbell.

"We enjoyed it. We have fans behind us, and they support us lot, and we try to keep them in the game," said running back Venric Mark.

The win is a long time coming for head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who played for Northwestern on the team that went to and lost the 1996 Rose Bowl.

"That's something that we could never have back, but at the end of the day we felt like we won," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald also said the win is great for fundraising and recruiting. When it comes to Northwestern football, Fitzgerald said, "The sky is the limit."