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    Moment No. 1: Wildcats Celebrate Gator Bowl Championship

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    The 2012-13 academic year was a memorable one for Northwestern, and we hope you've enjoyed reliving many of the Wildcats' landmark victories, championships and achievements during's countdown of the Top 20 Moments of the year. Today the countdown concludes with the No. 1 moment -- a chance to put a wrap on 2012-13 and turn the page to what is sure to be an even bigger and better year in 2013-14.

    Moment No. 1
    Date Jan. 1, 2013
    Location EverBank Field | Jacksonville, Fla.
    Original Story Bowl Champions! Northwestern Wins Gator Bowl, 34-20
    Social Media @NUFBFamily   |  Northwestern Football
    Top 20 Countdown Northwestern's Top 20 Moments of 2012-13 Countdown

    "We talk to our guys all the time about - 'Act like you've been here before.' Well, we've never been here before!"

    Gator Bowl Highlights
    Those were the words of an exasperated Pat Fitzgerald, directed to a sea of purple-clad fans still celebrating in the seats of EverBank Field, as everyone associated with Northwestern Football soaked in a moment that was years in the making. After too many postseason bowl trips had ended in thrilling but disappointing fashion, the 2012 Wildcats had put the exclamation point on a 10-win season when they defeated Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, 34-20, accounting for the No. 1 moment for Northwestern Athletics in 2012-13.

    On a beautiful New Year's Day in Jacksonville, the Wildcats put on display all the tools and intangibles that had allowed them to enjoy such a successful season to that point: a quick first-quarter start, timely third-down conversions on offense, a relentless pass rush on defense -- which contributed to four Wildcats interceptions -- and clutch kicking by place-kicker Jeff Budzien.

    From Quentin Williams' pick-six touchdown on MSU's first offensive series through Northwestern's kneel-downs in victory formation, Wildcats fans had plenty to cheer about on an afternoon that few are likely to forget. When all was said and done, Northwestern had earned the program's second 10-win season in the modern era, a No. 16 final ranking in the USA Today/Coaches Poll and the No. 17 spot in the AP rankings.

    Not to be overlooked was the fact that the 2012 seniors earned their 40th win in five years on campus -- most ever by a Wildcats recruiting class -- while Fitzgerald officially took over as the winningest head coach in program history with his 50th head coaching victory.

    And, as usual, it was Fitzgerald who said it best during his postgame address, finishing his earlier thought about Northwestern's long-awaited thrill of postseason victory:

    "We're here now, and we're here to stay."

    Northwestern is set to join the rest of the Big Ten Conference at the 42nd Annual Big Ten Football Media Day and Kickoff Luncheon tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday in Chicago. Visit for complete coverage of Chicago's Big Ten Team.

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