Posted December 31, 2012 on
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Just getting to a bowl game no longer matters to Northwestern.
The 21st-ranked Wildcats want to win one and end a decades-long losing streak.
Northwestern (9-3) hasn't won a bowl since it beat California in the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats have dropped nine in a row since, matching the longest streak in NCAA history.
They get a chance to stop that skid when they face Mississippi State (8-4) in the Gator Bowl on Tuesday.
''It's the next step in where we want to go as a program,'' Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ''The consistent success we've had in the program of being in the postseason for five successive seasons is something we're proud of. Winning a bowl game is the next step.''
Northwestern has come close the last four years, losing 30-23 in overtime against Missouri in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, falling 38-35 to Auburn in overtime in the 2010 Outback Bowl, dropping a 45-38 decision to Texas Tech in the 2011 Ticket City Bowl and then losing 33-22 to Texas A&M in last season's Meineke Care Car Bowl.
But as Fitzgerald and his players were quick to point out, close means little.
''I feel like everyone on this team is motivated to be that first team to get that bowl win for the first time in a long, long time,'' quarterback Kain Colter said. ''The seniors have done a good job in building the foundation that we have. We're on the rise right now and a lot of that is credited to them. If we could send them off the right way and add another part to their legacy and continue on to our legacy, that would be great.''
Mississippi State dropped four of its final five games to end the regular season, but it has won five consecutive bowl games - the longest current streak in the country.
''We've had a lot of big wins this year and some tough losses this year,'' Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. ''Our guys want to go out there and finish it off the right way and send our seniors out winning a bowl championship.''
The Bulldogs haven't lost a bowl game since the 1999 Peach Bowl. They rebounded the next year to beat Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl and since have postseason wins against Central Florida (2007 Liberty Bowl), Michigan (2011 Gator Bowl) and Wake Forest (2011 Music City Bowl).
Mississippi State's last trip to Jacksonville ended with a 52-14 romp over the Wolverines. The Bulldogs scored 42 unanswered points while dominating the final three quarters.
The lopsided affair added to a recent run of Southeastern Conference success against Big Ten opponents on New Year's Day.
The SEC is 8-2 against the Big Ten over the last four years, with wins coming in the Gator, Outback and Capital One bowls.
''Playing in the Southeastern Conference, a lot of people see it as one of the elite conferences,'' MSU linebacker Cam Lawrence said. ''But I get excited to play a new school. It's always fun to have a new experience and a new opponent and a new challenge. ... It's a bowl game and anything could happen.''
Maybe Northwestern can even win one.
Fitzgerald's team probably should have won more games this season. The Wildcats blew double-digit leads in the second half against Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan.
But all those heartbreakers can be erased, or at least diminished, with a bowl victory.
''We want to erase that losing streak,'' backup quarterback Trevor Siemian said. ''This is a new team with different players. We probably stopped thinking about the bowl game last year a day after that game. We'd really like to get the win for the seniors, end the losing streak and get a 10-win season.
''Definitely a lot of goals to be playing for. It's right there in front of us. It's an awesome opportunity and we want to make the most of it.''
BEST OF MAXIM
The Northwestern Wildcats spent so much time celebrating on the field that coach Pat Fitzgerald finally had to order them into the locker room.
He had something special waiting for them - a stuffed monkey.
It was the same one that went with them to the Meineke Car Care Bowl last season and had become a symbol of the program's decades-long, bowl losing streak.
When the Northwestern Wildcats look to end their bowl game drought tomorrow (you might have heard a thing or two about it in the local media) they’ll do so with these new helmets on. Expect to see a lot of running with Venric Mark and Kain Colter at the Gator Bowl vs. Mississippi State, MSU has a cornerback named Johnathan Banks who will be a top 15 pick in the NFL Draft.
The collegiate career of Northwestern defensive tackle Brian Arnfelt has seen battles for playing time, then a fight through injuries. However, he will cap off his fifth season with the Wildcats playing in the Gator Bowl. For Arnfelt, it completes a long fight, which has earned him plenty of respect.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Behind huge interceptions early and late, No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State 34-20 in the Gator Bowl on Tuesday and snapped college football's longest postseason losing streak.
The Wildcats (10-3) won their first bowl game since 1949, snapping a nine-game losing streak that was tied for the longest in NCAA history. They also celebrated double...
Northwestern defensive tackle Brian Arnfelt met with the assembled media in Jacksonville to preview Tuesday's Gator Bowl game. PurpleWildcats offers an exclusive video interview with the Wildcats' senior captain.
The Wildcats of Northwestern, coming off one of the more successful seasons in recent memory, get the pleasure of opening up a barrage of New Year’s Day bowl games that feature Big Ten squads. NU will square off with Mississippi State in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl. The game will air on ESPN at noon E.T.
Here is how our staff sees things shaking out:
Andy Coppens (Co-managing...
Northwestern guard Brian Mulroe joined teammates and his head coach to preview Tuesday's Gator Bowl game. PurpleWildcats offers a video interview with the senior captain as he looks to the contest in Jacksonville.
Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20
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In previous bowl losses, Northwestern has entered as a heavy underdog; not given a chance to win the game. Coach Pat Fitzgerald believes the underdog label became a costly distraction for his team. The Wildcats recognize their even playing field against their Gator Bowl foe, Mississippi State, and are highly confident entering the game.
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One might say Northwestern got the monkey of its back with...
Game time: Tuesday at noon ET
Pat Fitzgerald couldn't lead Northwestern to a bowl win as a player, and he still hasn't guided it to one as the coach.
That could change - and the Wildcats' 63-year postseason drought could end - in the Gator Bowl on Tuesday.
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