What appeared to be a lost season for Northwestern took a sharp turn once the calendar flipped to October, earning Pat Fitzgerald some well-deserved postseason conference honors.
The Big Ten Tuesday announced a handful of individual awards, with Fitzgerald taking home both the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year. The former award is voted on by the coaches in the league, the latter by the media that covers it.
Northwestern started the 2018 season with a 1-3 mark in September, including a 1-1 record in Big Ten action. The Wildcats finished off the regular season by winning seven in a row in conference play, with their only loss in that stretch coming to third-ranked Notre Dame the first weekend of November.
Thanks to that closing stretch, Northwestern claimed its first-ever B1G West crown and a spot opposite Ohio State in the conference championship game this weekend.
The Big Ten also announced several individual honors, including Michigan linebacker Devin Bush being named as the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Below are all of the individual honors doled out by the conference thus far (offensive awards will be announced Wednesday night). For the complete all-conference teams for both defense and special teams, click HERE.
Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award: Jake Wood, Wisconsin
Named for Minnesota’s Tony Dungy and Indiana’s Anthony Thompson
Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award: Antwaan Randle El, Indiana
Named for Michigan’s Gerald Ford and Iowa’s Nile Kinnick
Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year: Devin Bush, Michigan
Named for Minnesota’s Bronko Nagurski and Michigan’s Charles Woodson
Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches vote): Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Named for Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler
Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media vote): Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Named for Wisconsin’s Dave McClain
Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
Named for Michigan State’s Bubba Smith and Penn State’s Courtney Brown
Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Devin Bush, Michigan
Named for Illinois’ Dick Butkus and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald
Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Amani Hooker, Iowa
Named for Ohio State’s Jack Tatum and Purdue’s Rod Woodson
Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Chase McLaughlin, Illinois
Named for Wisconsin’s Jim Bakken and Michigan State’s Morten Andersen
Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Will Hart, Michigan
Named for Illinois’ Dike Eddleman and Michigan State’s Brandon Fields
Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa
Named for Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers and Iowa’s Tim Dwight