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GOING BOWLING IN DALLAS

Posted By Ben Chiswick On Dec 30 2010 @ 5:22 pm In Northwestern | No Comments

Bowl season is upon us. For the Northwestern Wildcats, that means a chance to play on New Year’s Day.

Never mind that the Ticket City Bowl isn’t exactly dripping with prestige. The Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas is a historic venue with a lot of tradition. Over the years, it has hosted more college bowl games than any venue other than the Rose Bowl.

And the bottom line is this:

Heading into the 2010 season, I stated that the Wildcats’ singular goal was to win the second bowl game in school history. I can only hope that Pat Fitzgerald felt the same way. Since beating Cal in the Rose Bowl in 1949, the Northwestern football program has lost all seven of their bowl games. All of them have come since 1996, including overtime losses each of the past two seasons. Having earned bowl eligibility in six of the last eight seasons and four in a row, it is time for Northwestern to finally get over the hump and win one.

So, never mind that the ‘Cats were 7-3 with aspirations for a more impressive holiday destination. Hopes that 2010 could have really been special were dashed by the upset-that-wasn’t against Michigan State and the season-ending injury to First Team All-Big Ten Quarterback Dan Persa.

Now, what is at hand is the chance to end a bowl drought that has worn out its welcome.

Standing in their way is a Texas Tech team that hovered around .500 all year before beating up on two non-conference cupcakes to close out the season at 7-5. Their offense has been efficient and high-flying, averaging 315 passing yards and 453 total yards per game. Senior quarterback Taylor Potts threw for over 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns, while his classmate both at Abilene High School and now at Texas Tech, Lyle Leong, hauled in 17 touchdown receptions and led the Red Raiders in receiving yards. Tech’s defense, on the other hand, was as porous as their offense was proficient, yielding an average of 463 yards and 30 points per game.

The Red Raiders’ signature win was a 24-17 victory at home against No. 12 Missouri on November 6, which is about on-par with Northwestern’s 21-17 win over No. 13 Iowa one week later.

On one hand, I have no doubt that the Northwestern Wildcats had a better football team than the Texas Tech Red Raiders in 2010. While both teams finished 7-5 overall and 3-5 in their respective conferences, Northwestern played better than their record and underachieved to get there. Meanwhile, Texas Tech rallied late to salvage a respectable first season since the departure of controversial former head coach Mike Leach. Thanks to a pair of late-season victories over Weber State and Houston at home, the Red Raiders are bowl-bound for an 11th consecutive season and will be playing a January bowl game for a fourth straight year.

On the other hand the Wildcats will be without Persa, likely the best player on either sideline, and are left with just a redshirt freshman to replace him. You can also expect the Red Raiders to have something of a home field advantage playing in their home state of Texas.

One thing is certain. The inaugural TicketCity Bowl will either make or break the 2010 season for Northwestern. A win would mark another building block as Pat Fitzgerald’s football program continues to grow. A loss would signify an uninspiring end to an uneventful season.

Here’s hoping the ‘Cats ring in the New Year in style.

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