CFN Bowl Analysis ...
Texas Tech 45 ... Northwestern 38
Give Northwestern credit for fighting back when it was obvious that the defense wasn’t going to show up for yet another game.
After getting ripped apart by Illinois and destroyed by Wisconsin, the Wildcats looked like they were about to give up a truly ugly number after getting down 31-9 in the third quarter, but with a nice mix on offense, a shocking day from the ground game with Kain Colter working the spread and option well, and the game suddenly became interesting late when it appeared destined to be a disaster.
For Texas Tech, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The Red Raider offense dominated with 369 passing yards from Taylor Potts and 552 yards of total offense, but while the attack had a Mike Leach look to it, the defensive woes continued and the result was almost a disaster or epic proportions. This should be seen as an offensive performance and a good bowl win that’ll send the team into the offseason on a high note, but instead, it raises more questions about how the final score and the outcome could be so close in what should’ve been a walk in the park. Basically, Tommy Tuberville, the next eight months will be devoted to figuring out how to get the defense working.
At least the D doesn’t have Northwestern’s problems.
It has to be particularly galling for head coach Pat Fitzgerald that his defense failed to tackle, got ripped apart by the Texas Tech ground game in crunch time, and failed to come up with a key stop until Jordan Mabin took a Taylor Potts pick back for a score. But when the Cats had all the momentum, the defensive front was poor vs. the run yet again.
So both teams sort of won, and both sort of lost. It’ll be easier for Texas Tech, though, after sealing the deal.
- The 86-yard dash by Eric Stephens pumped up the numbers, but the key were a few big late runs to close out the game. When Texas Tech needed a first down, it got it on the ground.
- Dan Persa is supposed to come back and be healthy enough to be the Northwestern starting quarterback next year, and Evan Watkins didn’t do anything to change that. Watkins needed to be great, but he only completed 10-of-21 passes for 76 yards and a score with a pick.
- Good for Taylor Potts. After not quite being the superstar Red Raider quarterback he was expected to be, he closed out with a big game and a big win. Remember him for the 369 yards and four touchdowns with a rushing score, and not the pick-six that kept Northwestern alive.
Whether or not Taylor Potts gets drafted in April, he delivered quite an audition for NFL scouts in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl.
Sure, the Texas Tech system is quarterback-friendly, but Potts is the guy who made it work. He has a ton of experience with the Red Raiders and throws a nice ball, especially on out-patterns and intermediate routes. In his second huge effort of the year in Cotton Bowl Stadium, he wound up going a crisp 43-of-56 for 369 yards, four touchdown passes and a pick. He also rushed for a score on a beautiful trick play, and the interception wasn’t on a bad pass. It was a fitting ending for a player who’s battled hard for everything he’s achieved in Lubbock and still hopes to continue playing on Sundays.
- Northwestern rookie QB Kain Colter delivered a nice im-Persa-nation in Dallas. Dan Persa is the man under center next year, but between Colter and fellow freshman Evan Watkins, the quarterback situation is set in Evanston for the next three years.
- Texas Tech Lyle Leong may have just completed the quietest great season ever for a receiver. Does anyone outside Lubbock realize that the senior, who had 10 catches today, finished the year with 19 touchdown receptions?
- Had the uniforms been colored maize and blue, you’d have sworn Northwestern had Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson on staff. The ‘Cats moved the ball well, but were utterly toothless on defense and particularly lost in coverage.
By Matt Zemek
Don’t be too hard on the Northwestern Wildcats. Dan Persa wasn’t just the best player on the Purple People’s offense. The plucky field general was the heartbeat of his team, the dashing trigger man who commanded respect in the locker room, on the sidelines, and in the huddle. Persa rates as a Jay Barker kind of college football quarterback; he wasn’t the most awesome athlete or the best NFL Combine-type specimen, but he possessed a superabundant amount of leadership skills while knowing how to bring out the best in his teammates. Without this special sparkplug, Northwestern was dead in the water against a Texas Tech team that, to its immense credit, took the first Ticket City Bowl seriously and was excited to play in Dallas.
The Wildcats made a spirited rally in the latter stages of this midday matchup, and that could lead a lot of observers to think that the offense really wasn’t a problem on New Year’s afternoon, but it’s important to stress that Northwestern tallied only six points in the first half, forcing the Cats into a deep ditch they couldn’t entirely escape. A paucity of Persa-provided potency really did puncture the wearers of NU purple, despite a 38-point showing. If you want to be upset about Northwestern in a bowl game, the 2010 Outback Bowl was truly a fish that got away. Not this game. This result should in no way detract from what the program has achieved in the Pat Fitzgerald era.
Let’s say a little more about Texas Tech, too. Sure, the memory of giving up 52 points to Iowa State (!) still stings a little bit. The Red Raiders wanted Tuberville to inject some defensive muscle into the program, and the former Auburn boss plainly failed in year one, a reality that was reinforced by allowing Northwestern – albeit in catch-up mode – to ring up big numbers without its No. 1 quarterback. However, let’s step back and realize that this maiden voyage in Lubbock was never supposed to be a put-it-all-together season for Tubs.
The 2010 regular season was always going to be a time of transition, a getting-to-know-you period for a coach who was stepping into a world Mike Leach created. It’s a credit to Tuberville that Texas Tech arrived at this game prepared, unlike other Big 12 teams who fell flat on their faces in their respective bowl battles. One shouldn’t even think that Texas Tech needs to get everything right in 2011. A reasonable expectation should be to win eight regular-season games (nine if Texas remains in a ditch), make appreciable defensive improvements, and set the stage for a breakout year in 2012. Texas Tech sacrificed continuity when it pushed out Mike Leach, a decision that university power brokers were willing to make. Now, the Red Raiders need to be patient with Tuberville. On the first day of 2011, Tech’s coach carved out a small but meaningful amount of breathing room that should help on the recruiting trail.