Cats Bagged by Texas Tech, Northwestern Bowl Drought Extends Another Year

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Another year, another college football bowl loss. The Northwestern postseason losing streak is becoming almost as historical as the stadium in which they lost their bowl game today. Falling to Texas Tech on New Year’s Day, the Wildcats have now lost their last eight consecutive bowl games since their Rose Bowl triumph in 1949.

Dude, that’s a long time ago.

But the Cotton Bowl Stadium is even older; opening in 1929. The iconic venue has been home to bowl games which decided national titles, the Dallas Cowboys, SMU in their heyday, the World Cup and even Journey music videos. It would have been perfect venue to see a Chicago team end it’s postseason drought.

But Tech QB Taylor Potts, WR Lyle Leong and the rest of the Red Raiders kept that from happening.

By Paul M. Banks

NU Cats

Potts was 26-33 passing for 243 yards, 2 TD, 0 INTs, in the first half alone. (He finished with the game MVP award, going 43-56 for 369) Leong was just three receiving yards shy of a C-Note; in just the first half of play.

Every time the Cats put together a nice drive, the Red Raiders sailed right down the field to answer it. The Cats failed to get any consistent pressure on Potts, and he just picked them apart all New Year’s Day.

“Yeah, I don’t think we touched his flag once,” NU Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

“We wanted to try and get him out of rhythm a little bit and change up some coverage concepts. We just didn’t get the pressure we needed to and that tailed off at the end of the year. We need to get that fixed if we want to be a championship-caliber team.”

Potts found receiver Austin Zouzalik for a first quarter TD pass; with Zouzalik returning the favor on a lateral throwback to Potts, who took it in 13 yards for a second quarter score. It was Potts’ playground as Tech was able to throw long, short, mid-range,sideline and middle of the field. They were able to do pretty much anything they wanted on offense. Eric Stephens also ran 14 times for 126 yards.

On the other side of the ball, NU employed a somewhat questionable game plan. Facing the worst pass defense in the nation, they went to a very run-oriented attack despite being sans their top three rushers. As a consequence, Jeremy Ebert, the Big Ten’s leader in receiving yardage, was held to just one catch for five yards through three and half quarters.

However, he did have a nice lateral throwback to third string quarterback Kain Coulter for a 32 yard gain which set up a NU touchdown run by starting QB Evan Watkins. Yes, they copied Tech’s gimmick play from the first half.

On a cold day in front of a 55-60% empty Cotton Bowl (40,121 was the announced ticket sales in a stadium that seats 93,000), the Cats endured issues in their passing game, kicking game, special teams and especially their pass defense.

However, a huge bright spot was the play of their backup quarterback Kain Kolter. He entered the game third string, but if he isn’t the No. 2 QB next year, then something is severely wrong with the coaches’ depth chart.

Coulter gave the team a spark with his legs, as he rushed for a 100 yards in just over three quarters. As Evan Watkins struggled with a terribly low yards-per-attempt Saturday afternoon (he finished 10-21 for a meager 75 yards), it’s clear Coulter should take his spot backing up Dan Persa when the Cats’ MVP returns in 2011.

Coulter can run much better than Watkins, and he’s probably even faster than Persa- making him a better fit than Watkins for what NU likes to do in their spread-option. He fits that perfect skill set NU looks for in their QBs (see C.J. Bacher, Mike Kafka, Persa)

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

He also does a regular weekly segment on chicagolandsportsradio.com

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