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Preview Mark Two: The Texas Tech Red Raiders

What Does The Game Really Mean?

The TicketCity Bowl is a new bowl matching the Big Ten (err...12) versus the Big 12 (err...10). It got one of the last picks of the Big Ten. I just don’t feel the love from Texas Tech about the game...while it is a 1 January bowl game, it isn’t a New Year’s Day Bowl Game if you get my drift. And while Tommy Tuberville (the TTU coach) is saying all the right things (“Northwestern is a well coached football team and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Fitzgerald.”) this is a coach who was forced out of Auburn after one losing season in 2008 (never mind going undefeated in 2004). He picked up the reigns at Texas Tech after his predecessor was fired last year. I’m sure 7-5 doesn’t sit well with him. And after being a big time coach in the SEC with a major powerhouse and in the mix for the national championship, I just feel like the Red Raiders coach may overlook Northwestern as a “gimme win” that is a tune up for the 2011 season.

Meanwhile, Northwestern limped to a 7-5 season and a record 3rd straight bowl game. A decade ago 7-5 would have been considered a huge “positive” season. This year some of the fans are grumbling that 7-5 isn’t good enough and that maybe NU should bring in better coaches. Personally I think this is crazy talk, but it does illustrate that Wildcat fandom has moved beyond the immediate post-Dark Times mood where 7 wins would have been considered fantastic. NU fans don’t want to hear excuses (“Persa is hurt.”) they want to get a 60+ year old monkey off of their back. (The lack of a bowl win since 1949 is said monkey in case you were wondering.) Reading other NU football blogs, it sounds like very few people are giving NU a chance of pulling off an upset.

I do think Northwestern can win tomorrow. In addition to the three critical factors mentioned in my previous column (“The Three Keys to Winning: Leadership, Coaching, and Hangovers), I think there are some other factors.

  • This game means far more to Northwestern than it does to Texas Tech. I think NU cares more. If Texas Tech wins the game, it is a mere footnote to their storied program. If Northwestern wins the game it is historic. Literally. It will mark the end of a 60+ year “bowl win” drought. There’s photos of NU football billboards in Dallas touting “Northwestern - Dallas’ Big Ten Team.” NU is willing to spend some bucks to show support to the team. 8-5 with a bowl win will make this squad historic. The “Care” factor has to be clearly in NU’s favor.
  • Keeping it simple can work wonders. Do what you do best. If you’ve read my column for a while, you know that I’m a former Wildcat varsity athlete (Fencing/Sabre). I wasn’t a star (NU had, and has fencing stars), but I was decent. I did best when I kept my game simple. I was a very fast and very aggressive fencer. I won bouts when I concentrated on that. I lost when I overthought the match and tried to make too many feints. NU had 15 practices to figure out what worked offensively with Watkins and Colter. I think they would do well to run a playbook of 10 great plays vice a playbook of 20 mediocre plays.
  • The past is the past. Ten years from now the wins will be far more important than the losses. There’s been angst in Wildcatland regarding giving up leads this year against Purdue, Michigan State, etc. There’s still angst about NU’s loss in the Outback Bowl last year. The sooner NU lets go of the losses, the faster NU will win a bowl. Once again drawing on my experience as a Wildcat fencer, there have been times where I’ve dwelled upon my bout losses - some of which I felt led to NU match losses. At Homecoming this year, my fencing coach (and still the current coach) Lawrence “Laurie” Schiller introduced me to the current fencing team. He told them that I was “The Guy” that got him his first college head coach victory - he related how the match was tied and I was fencing the match deciding bout...and *that* bout was tied 4-4 (5 was needed to win). Coach then said he heard me let out a blood-curdling yell and saw me charge down the strip to hit my frozen/stunned opponent before he could gather his wits. I won the bout and the Wildcats won their first match of the new coach’s career. Trust me, that made me feel better about every touch, every loss I ever experienced as a varsity athlete. Every player on the Wildcat football team needs to forget every mistake right now. Years from now, the mistakes won’t matter - the coaches and fans will concentrate on the successes, whatever they might be.

Like I said yesterday, call me crazy, but I feel a win.

I’ll revisit the college football crisis of conscience after NU’s first bowl game win in 60+ years.

Go ‘Cats!

BJ Mitchell (Former NUMB Spirit Leader)




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