Wildcats' Demos gives bowl miss the boot

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Stefan Demos has experienced more highs than lows at Northwestern, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors for his kicking exploits in 2009.

But throughout his college career, Demos has learned more from failure than success.

"My first road game as a redshirt freshman, I shanked three punts against Ohio State," Demos recalled Wednesday. "I've learned from that."

Although Demos nailed two game-winning field goals plus a huge 47-yarder in Northwestern's upset of Iowa last year, his season ended on a very sour and very public note. After Northwestern made a furious rally against Auburn in the Outback Bowl, Demos had a chance to win the game -- and end the Wildcats' 61-year bowl victories drought -- on the final play of regulation.

His 44-yard attempt hooked wide right and Northwestern ended up losing 38-35 in double overtime.

The miss certainly served as a learning experience, although Demos closed the book on it long ago.

"I think I had a enough time to dwell on it, three months out," said Demos, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "The three weeks after the game, where everyone on campus and in the community reminded me of the game, was enough to dwell on it. I should have just locked myself in a cage.

"But there's no point in dwelling on it. Obviously, that game wasn't fun for me, but I've had a lot of fun games, we had a great season. It obviously didn't end the way I wanted to or the team wanted to. We're going to move on, and so am I."

For Demos, the process began shortly after the bowl game, thanks in part to Ryan Fitzgerald, the 3-year-old son of the Northwestern head coach.

"Stef and Ryan were playing I-spy five minutes on the bus trip to the airport [after the Outback Bowl]," Pat Fitzgerald said. "So I knew that [Demos] was fine."

Demos has overcome struggles before. After missing three field goals in a narrow win against Illinois, Demos responded with four field goals, including two 45-yard attempts, in a 33-31 victory against Wisconsin in the regular-season finale.

He kicked the ball well in spring practice and spent part of the summer back home in Scottsdale, Ariz., working with Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff and Arizona State kicker Thomas Weber, the 2007 Lou Groza Award winner. Demos should benefit from having the punting duties taken off his plate, and he could contend for the Groza Award this season.

"This position is magnified," he said. "The Outback Bowl is a perfect example. I get three plays, basically, and if I don't convert 'em, the game's on me. I accept that and take the good and the bad.

"The bowl game's long gone, and I'm not going to be out there [in the season opener] against Vandy thinking anything about that."