Northwestern believes enough has changed to get rid of bowl ‘monkey’
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org December 27, 2011 9:16PM
Pat Fitzgerald’s twitpic of Treyvon Green
Updated: January 29, 2012 8:13AM
Freshman running back Treyvon Green may not be as schooled in Northwestern’s futile bowl history as some of his veteran teammates, but he got a taste of it after the Wildcats’ first practice for the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Tuesday in Houston.
A photo of Green wearing a stuffed toy monkey strapped to his back appeared on Twitter. Coach Pat Fitzgerald tweeted that Green and ‘‘the 63-year-old monkey’’ were getting lunch.
The Wildcats haven’t won a bowl game since 1949 and have lost eight straight. Fitzgerald hates dwelling on that statistic, but maybe laughing about it will help NU break the streak when it takes on Texas A&M on Saturday at Reliant Stadium.
The Wildcats, who got to Houston late Monday night, are practicing at Rice Stadium this week. Safety Brian Peters said the feeling at this year’s bowl practice is different from seasons past.
‘‘The whole atmosphere is different,’’ Peters said. ‘‘Today we just had more juice and had more fun on the field. I think that shows the maturity of our team.’’
Fitzgerald agreed and pointed out a big difference from the Wildcats’ prep of a year ago.
‘‘I think winning four of the last five games is the difference,’’ he said. ‘‘Overall, the morale is different. And today I thought we were
really well focused. Guys came into practice ready to work.’’
A year ago, the Wildcats were coming off back-to-back losses to Illinois and Wisconsin by a combined score of
118-50. They went on to lose to Texas Tech 45-38 in the TicketCity Bowl on New Year’s Day.
In that game, they were without quarterback Dan Persa, who ruptured his Achilles tendon against Iowa. But Persa is healthy for this bowl game after missing the Wildcats’ first three games.
‘‘He’s doing great,” Fitzgerald said. ‘‘He’s had a really good bowl prep.”
The quarterback situation may be solid, but the defense is not injury-free. Peters, a senior, is the leader of a young secondary that needs to replace left cornerback Jordan Mabin, who tore the labrum in his right shoulder and his pectoral muscle in the Wildcats’ 31-17 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 26.
Initially, redshirt freshman Daniel Jones replaced Mabin against the Spartans, but Fitzgerald has said during bowl practices that the position is up for grabs. Jones, Ricky Weina, Michael Bolden and Demetrius Dugar have all been considered.
‘‘You can’t replace experience, and certain experience dictates your success or failure,’’ Peters said. ‘‘So far, those guys have made huge strides, and everyone looks solid.’’
Peters has been playing with a cast on his broken left hand since the Wildcats’ victory at Nebraska on Nov. 5. He will find out before the game if the cast can come off.
Defensive tackle Niko Mafuli will miss the game after breaking his right leg in practice Dec. 10.