Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 12/8/11
Pat Fitzgerald and Tim DeRuyter sat next to each other in a little room on the service level at Reliant Stadium Thursday as two very different men in the exact same position. It was a press conference for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, and while both expressed all the due excitement about the opportunity to play in a bowl game, neither could help but mention the disappointing events that put them there. "We've got a football team that's been through a lot," said Fitzgerald, the 37-year-old up-and-comer, in his opening remarks. "We'd like to have our record in a better place, a better position. We wouldn't be here if we maybe had won a couple other games from a standpoint that we put ourselves in position to be in the postseason which is one of our goals on the board." The 48-year-old DeRuyter, of course, was not the head coach at Texas A&M this season. He was the defensive coordinator, and because the Aggies went 6-6, Mike Sherman was fired and DeRuyter was promoted for the interim. "We're really really excited to get a chance to come down here to the Texas Bowl," he said in his opening remarks. "Our guys have had a disappointing season by Aggie standards." Like the Aggies, Northwestern went a perfectly symmetrical 6-6. The Wildcats won at No. 9 Nebraska, won at Boston College and lost five games by two or fewer scores. Texas A&M, which was ranked eighth in the preseason, had a lead in all six of its losses. So while neither team spent this season dreaming of spending Christmas in Houston, the bowl does represent an opportunity to achieve the most basic of all goals to have a winning season. It isn't guaranteed for teams like these. "A couple years ago we sat at home at 6-6, and that was tough, that was really, really tough," Fitzgerald said. At Texas A&M, there is still a feeling that somewhere inside the Aggies is a top 10 team, results on the field notwithstanding. "Our players still feel like nothing's changed from preseason," DeRuyter said. "We've talked about this. We have the talent, we have the ability to be a team that can play with anybody in the country. We've got to put it together from a consistency standpoint." He sounded a lot like Fitzgerald. "We were in every game, we had an opportunity to win every game," he said. "Because of our choices, the way we coached our guys, the lack of consistency we played with was damaging to us in the second half of some football games this year."
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