Northwestern Goes Bowling

Northwestern parlayed a strong finale into a trip to Tampa, Fla., for the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, when they face Auburn.

Northwestern (8-4) is coming off a 33-31 upset of No. 24 Wisconsin 33-31 that prompted fans to storm the field after the team's third straight victory, including a stunner at No. 10 Iowa.

Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats are playing in their second straight postseason game after an overtime loss to Missouri in last season's Alamo Bowl. Northwestern is 0-6 in bowl games since winning its first one, the 1949 Rose Bowl, but is on a roll now.

"We're definitely playing our best football of the year right now and with the layover we're going to have to make sure we keep our edge," Fitzgerald said.

"It means the world to me for our seniors," he said. "We've got 21 great seniors. This is their last opportunity to put on the purple and white and to do it on Jan. 1, I don't know if you could write a better script for the finale."

He figures plenty of Northwestern fans will happily head to a warmer locale for the game between the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference.

"We fully anticipate the 'Purple Nation' invading Florida," Fitzgerald said.

Northwestern has never played in the game.

But the Wildcats were chosen ahead of Wisconsin largely because of the head-to-head factor, which was a point of pride for defensive end Corey Wootton.

"I think it says a lot about the respect we're starting to gain as a program," Wootton said. "We're just excited to represent the Big 10 in a premier bowl."

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