Dec. 2, 2012
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- For the third time in four seasons, Northwestern will play in a New Year's Day bowl game after accepting a bid to the 2013 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., announced Sunday by NU vice president for athletics and recreation Jim Phillips and TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl executive director Rick Catlett. The event will be staged at EverBank Field -- home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars -- and pit the 21st-ranked Wildcats (9-3) against Mississippi State (8-4) out of the Southeastern Conference.
Kickoff on Tuesday, Jan. 1, is set for 11 a.m. CT, with national television coverage provided by ESPN2 and the radio call in Chicago available on WGN720 and WNUR (89.3).
Northwestern will be making its first-ever appearance in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl -- which in its 68th season is the sixth-oldest college bowl game -- and is squaring off with Mississippi State for the first time in the schools' histories.
"We are thrilled to be bringing the Northwestern football program and our fans to what is truly one of the most appealing bowl destinations in the country," Phillips said. "Rick Catlett and his staff at the Gator Bowl go to great lengths to guarantee a memorable experience for fans, staff and, most importantly, the student-athletes. To be able to play in front of a New Year's Day audience in an exceptional NFL facility is a tremendous opportunity for Northwestern football."
Northwestern is coming off a highly successful regular season in which it recorded its highest win total since 2008, along the way becoming bowl eligible for the sixth time in Pat Fitzgerald's seven seasons at the helm of his alma mater. The 'Cats opened the year with five straight wins, in the process becoming the first FBS conference-affiliated team since 2006 to defeat opponents from four different BCS conferences (BIG EAST, SEC, ACC and Big Ten) in the same regular season. NU then continued its tradition of playing well in the month of November, scoring a road win at Michigan State before dominating rival Illinois to gain momentum heading into the bowl season.
"I want to thank Rick Catlett, his entire staff for giving us the opportunity to represent the Big Ten in a Jan. 1 bowl game," Fitzgerald said. "To have our seniors go out by playing in five straight bowl games and cap their careers by playing on Jan. 1 is just a great opportunity. As I visited with them a little while ago they're very excited. We've already got three practices in and we'll continue with our plan as we move forward throughout the month. But we're really excited about the opportunity and looking forward to getting to work."
The 'Cats are making their 11th all-time postseason bowl appearance, and their 10th in the last 18 years.
Northwestern fans headed to Jacksonville are strongly encouraged to purchase their tickets through the Northwestern Ticket Office. Tickets can be purchased online at NUsports.com, by calling 888-GO-PURPLE (467-8775) or in person at the ticket office (1501 Central Street, Evanston, Ill. 60208).
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