Dec. 30, 2010
WATCH: Wildcats Share Their New Year's Resolutions
By Skip Myslenski
NUsports.com Special Contributor
WHAT WAS THAT WORD DON KING ALWAYS USED? THAT'S IT. TRICKERATION: The 'Cats close out their season Saturday against Texas Tech and so, really, there is no reason now to hold even a little bit back. That is why, before he headed off to Dallas, we felt compelled to ask offensive coordinator Mick McCall if he might empty out his considerable playbook against the Red Raiders. "Aaah. Yeah. There'll be some things different," he said. "There've got to be different things. Sure. We've had a little bit of time to prepare. Sure. Betchya. We'll open it up a little bit."
So we should be on the lookout for some trickeration?
"You never know. You never know."
YEARNING FOR THE GOOD OL' DAYS. LIKE THE SECOND WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER: While discussing his team's chances in its New Year's game, 'Cat head coach Pat Fitzgerald said, "We just have to get back to how we played against Iowa and before. If we can do that, we're a pretty darn good football team."
CHASING HISTORY, WHICH CAN BE AN ELUSIVE LITTLE BUGGER: Asked about the importance of a victory over the Red Raiders, Fitzgerald said, "Number one, huge for our seniors. They'd become the all time winningest class in modern history. It'll be the first win of 2011. We have so many guys coming back for next year, it'll be a really strong catalyst for the off season. You look back to last off season, we didn't play very well (against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.) But the way we performed on a national stage I thought really helped us in recruiting, and really gave the country as a whole a different perspective (about the 'Cat program). . . So this is another opportunity to do that. It's going to be a great stage."
YEAH. IT IS QUITE A STAGE: The 'Cats will face the Red Raiders in the Cotton Bowl, which opened in 1929 and has been the home of (among others) the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL, the Dallas Texans of the AFL, the Dallas Tornado of the NASL and the Dallas Burn of the MLS. Southern Methodist too once called the place home and it is here, also, that Texas and Oklahoma face off annually in what is now known as The Red River Rivalry. "I look at it as an historic stadium," Fitzgerald said of the place. "The history that's in that stadium, the great games that have been played there, to have that opportunity, it's kind of similar to when we went to Wrigley earlier this year. It's kind of those once in a lifetime opportunities. We go to Dallas a lot to recruit, I drive by the Cotton Bowl quite a bit. So to be able to go play in there is going to be fun."
WELL. MAYBE NOT THAT MUCH FUN: The 'Cats, of course, are facing off against a Texas team in its home state, which could certainly make the hill they must climb just that much steeper. But Fitzgerald countered by noting Northwestern has 18,000 alumni in the state and then added, "I think there'll be plenty of purple. I'm not worried about that." But, we should note, he might worry about those 40,000 Tech alumni who live in the Dallas area alone.
STILL, IN THE END, THEY DO PLAY THE GAME ON THE FIELD: "Offensively, tempo, tempo and more tempo. They play fast," Fitzgerald says, offering a quick scouting report on Tech. (Quarterback Taylor) Potts has been there for awhile. The receiving corps, they roll about 10 guys through. Very similar to us. Their running back, (Baron) Batch, we recruited him, we know him well. So they've got a lot of weapons across the board. This team that we're playing has had as much success as anybody in the Big 12. They're winners. With the new coaching staff (this year), for them to get to a bowl game is a statement about where that program is and a great job by Coach (Tommy) Tuberville (who took over the program last January). Their defense has battled through a lot of injuries. . . But they're very aggressive. We'll see a lot of blitzing and different things. So it's going to be a great challenge, especially when you couple it with being in Dallas."
BEEN THERE. DONE THAT: Tuberville, you might recall, succeeded Mike Leach, who lost his job a year ago after getting into a very public dispute over his treatment of an injured player named Adam James. That left interim coach Ruffin McNeill to lead Tech in the Alamo Bowl, where it escaped with a 41-31 win over Michigan State. So the Red Raiders barely batted an eye earlier this week when they learned that James Willis, their defensive coordinator, had resigned abruptly to pursue other opportunities. "If any team in the world can handle a coach not being there, I think it's us," said Bront Bird, their senior middle linebacker and leading tackler. "At the end of the day, you're the only one inside your helmet when it's game time. All these coaches help you. The game plan was already set. None of this changes anything. We still have to go out there and do what we have to do to win the game. It's not about whether your coaches are holding your hand or not."
BUT, JUST MAYBE, IT DOES CHANGE SOME THINGS: "I think the advantage goes to them," Fitzgerald said when asked about Willis's departure. "The guy we scouted and broken down is no longer there. Schematically and personnel (wise), I don't think they're going to change that much in a week. . .(and) Coach Tuberville's past is in defense. So I think what they'll continue to do is similar to what it's been. I think it'll be tough, with just a couple days of practice, to make wholesale changes."
AH, C'MON: Batch, the Tech running back out of Midland, Texas, who was recruited by the 'Cats, actually made an official visit to Evanston. "It was an awesome school, awesome program, awesome coaches," he remembered earlier this week. "But it's a little bit too cold."
QUICKLY NOTED: Batch, Tech's leading rusher, averages just 67.1 ypg, but an impressive 4.7 ypc. So Potts, its quarterback, is its offensive trigger and he has thrown for 31 touchdowns and just nine interceptions while completing 65.9 percent of his passes and averaging 279.8 yards-per-game. . . Tech's defense has allowed an average of 463.1 total yards and 306.1 passing yards per game. Both marks are the worst in the Big 12. They have also surrendered 30.3 points per game, 10th in the conference. . . Saturday will be Tech's 34th bowl appearance, but its first game against a team from the state of Illinois since 1936. That year it wrapped up a home-and-home series against DePaul. . . The legendary (at least in his own mind) Bill Parcells was Tech's defensive coordinator from '75 through '77.
AND FINALLY, ON A LIGHTER NOTE: Tech is now known as the Red Raiders and its official mascot is the Masked Rider, who races about on a black quarter horse while dressed in a costume that includes a black mask, a bolero hat and a red-and-black cape. But originally it was known as the Matadors and its first mascot was a black calf, which was donated to the school after its very first football victory (which came in the third game of the '25 season). According to a post on the school's athletic web site: "The calf was branded with the winning score and later slaughtered and barbecued for the team with the idea that the hide would be tanned and placed in the trophy room. However, the hide did not retain its hair and thus was lost."
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