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2011 Texas Bowl Recap

Texas A&M Aggies vs Northwestern Wildcats - Texas A&M 33, Northwestern 22

In the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, so many people across the United States were worried about or preoccupied with the nation that the Texas A&M Aggies would blow a second-half lead. Instead, they should have focused on the fact that the Northwestern Wildcats just simply don’t win bowl games. One team’s penchant for blowing leads was no match for another team’s propensity for falling short in a postseason setting.

Northwestern football has made a steady stream of bowl appearances under current head coach Pat Fitzgerald, but the boys from Evanston, Illinois, haven’t been able to lift a trophy in late December or early January. The parade of games has come and gone under Fitzgerald – the 2008 Alamo Bowl against Missouri, the 2010 Outback Bowl against Auburn, the 2011 (January) TicketCity Bowl against Texas Tech – but the NU crew was never able to put the finishing touches on a winning performance. All told, Northwestern has lost in each of its nine bowl appearances over the past 16 seasons. As the Wildcats took the field at Reliant Stadium in Houston against Texas A&M, they were swimming against the tide and trying to buck some very substantial odds.

Clearly, the presence of Northwestern in Houston was a source of sweet relief for Texas A&M. The Aggies, who entered this game with a 6-6 record despite having owned a double-digit lead in 11 of 12 regular-season games. Against most teams, A&M – coached on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who is about to go to Fresno State as the newly-minted head coach – would have been in big trouble. Against Northwestern, however, the Aggies found a lifeline.

Northwestern simply didn’t answer the bell in the first three quarters. NU’s offensive line got shredded by A&M’s front four, and because the Wildcats’ offense was so uninspired, A&M – behind the passing of quarterback Ryan Tannehill (329 yards on the afternoon) – was able to play pitch and catch for most of the afternoon. The Aggies scored 17 second-quarter points to take a 20-7 halftime lead, and they added 10 more points in the third quarter to accumulate a 30-7 advantage. Sure, Northwestern scored two touchdowns to slice the Aggies’ lead to just eight points at 30-22, but Tannehill completed several clutch passes on a game-sealing drive late in the fourth quarter. When A&M kicker Randy Bullock hit a 31-yard field goal with 31 seconds left, Northwestern’s dreams of a comeback were fully over, and its lack of a bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl remained a cruel fact of life.

Texas A&M can hold a double-digit lead after all… with a little help from its Big Ten friend.

By: Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

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