I'm going back in time for this story, but it is such a great example, I hope you will indulge me. The score was 17-15 and Northwestern had just beaten Notre Dame to start the 1995 football season. At the time, everyone screamed what a big upset it was, that it was a fluke, an aberration, a can't-happen-but-did type of incident. However, the fact that Northwestern won the Big Ten Championship and made it to the Rose Bowl is proof that they had a superb football team. But let's take a close look at that game and the other reason why they won.
"We believed we were going to win," said Coach Gary Barnett. "We visualized this many times. It's not about talent, it's about eleven guys pulling together and playing as a team." Sophomore Darnell Autry, who nearly left Northwestern that year, was the premier ball carrier. He rushed for 160 yards on 33 carries behind an offensive line that opened the holes and allowed just one sack. Autry said, "Coach Barnett told us before we left the hotel that if we didn't think we could win not to get on the bus. Did we believe? Well, we all left together."
The game plan that Coach Barnett developed was excellent, the play-calling was effective, and the defense, led by Pat Fitzgerald, who led everybody with eleven tackles, played an outstanding game. Autry's effective running was instrumental in setting up the 26-yard, third-quarter pass that increased Northwestern's half-time lead of 10-9 to 17-9. "Because we'd been running the ball, they bit real hard on the run fake," said quarterback Steve Schnur.
What about the historic significance of the upset? "They don't see it that way," said Coach Barnett. "They felt we were going to win and so did I. I told them before we left the hotel, 'I do not want you to carry me off the field when we win. I want us to act like we've done this before.'"
The message is clear: Plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win and I'll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!