Following an impressive 31-7 win over Pittsburg State Oct. 6, Bearcat fans everywhere celebrated and breathed a collective sigh of relief.
For four quarters last Saturday, the Bearcats were dominant. They played well in every facet of the game, and they looked like the team we knew they were, the team they’ve been for more than a decade: one of the best teams in NCAA Division II football.
Since 2008, Northwest has accumulated 129 wins and just 17 losses including postseason play, good for a ridiculous 88.36 winning percentage. In the same stretch, the team has won four national championships.
For the past decade, the Bearcats have been dominant in every sense of the word. They’ve been dubbed the Alabama of Division II football and have prompted the popular phrase “‘Cats by 90,” in reference to their superior play.
In their conference, the Bearcats have been superior. Northwest has won nine of the last 12 MIAA conference titles; the road to the MIAA championship has run through Maryville for more than a decade.
So it’s easy to forget that just a few weeks ago, following a loss to Central Oklahoma Sept. 22, much of Maryville and Bearcat Nation was pretty sure the sky was falling. Northwest lost a game, its fourth time doing so in an eight-game stretch, dating back to October of last year.
Guess what? Good teams lose games. Even great teams, like Northwest, are going to lose games. Sometimes, they’ll lose games they have no business losing, but that’s apart of the sport. Football is unpredictable, and it would be boring if it wasn’t.
With such a rich tradition of winning, it’s easy to lose sight of perspective after one rare three-loss season, or one subpar outing. Failing to win a national championship does not depict a bad season.
Ask Missouri Southern what a bad season is, or Northeastern State. The Lions and Riverhawks, conference foes of Northwest, have combined to lose as many games this season as the Bearcats have in the last seven years (12).
In reality, most teams would kill for the opportunity to do what Northwest has done so far this year, and many would be content with a nine-win campaign and a first-round playoff exit, which was considered a “down year” for the Bearcats last season.
In Maryville, each loss is overstated. For many overreacting fans and students, every rough game seems to illustrate the beginning of the end.
If that last sentence characterizes you, I’ve got some news: every loss is not Armageddon. When the Bearcats lose, the sun still comes up the next day. And more often than not, they’ll play again next week. And more often than not, they’ll win.
Northwest posses a coaching staff and a large group of players who have been crowned national champions twice in the last four seasons. They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, so give it to them.