MCCBOT Tuesday Practice Report

The Wildcats returned to the practice field on Tuesday morning as the team prepare for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald had some bad news and good news to report on the injury front. Go inside the Nicolet Football Center in this practice report.

• The Wildcats were inside the Nicolet Football Center on Tuesday morning as the team continues to prepare for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

• With the academic quarter now over, the Wildcats are practicing at 10:30 a.m., as opposed to the usual 8:50 a.m. start time.

Northwestern has been inside each day despite the surprisingly pleasant December weather. The bowl game will be played in Reliant Stadium, which has a roof.

Pat Fitzgerald was happy with the team's effort in practice, saying it was "the best bowl practice yet."

• After practice, Fitzgerald confirmed the bad news that senior defensive tackle Niko Mafuli will miss the bowl game due to a broken leg, which he suffered during Saturday's practice. On Tuesday, Mafuli had his leg heavily wrapped, and was moving around on a scooter, which allows mobility. Even so, the lively Mafuli was energetic and dancing to music throughout practice.

• Senior DT Brian Arnfelt is still at practice, and Fitzgerald confirmed on Tuesday that he will be able to play in the bowl game.

• Senior CB Jeravin Matthews and redshirt freshman safety Ibraheim Campbell were each held out of practice, but Fitzgerald said he expects them each to return by the weekend.

• Fitzgerald said on Saturday that he hopes to get the younger players live practice reps during the first weeks of bowl preparations. During Tuesday's practice, a number of freshman and redshirt freshman saw significant playing time.

• With Jordan Mabin out for the game, the Wildcats continue to search for a replacement at cornerback. Daniel Jones, Demetrius Dugar, and Ricky Weina have each worked in at Mabin's spot at cornerback, while Michael Bolden took the majority of reps at Matthews' spot.

• NU defensive backs coach Jerry Brown said he is still searching for a replacement at cornerback, but said that player does not necessarily have to resemble Jordan Mabin.

David Arnold and Hunter Bates have each seen playing time at safety while Campbell was out.

• Sophomore receiver Tony Jones showed his impressive speed has not been lost during recovery from a knee injury. On a pass from Trevor Siemian, Jones broke free from a defender and sprinted to the endzone for a touchdown. However, Jones will not be able to use that speed during the bowl game. Fitzgerald confirmed the redshirt will stay on Jones.

• Freshman receiver Christian Jones delivered the play of the day in practice. On a pass from Zack Oliver, Jones leaped in the air and made an athletic catch over the coverage of Demetrius Dugar.

• Some more on Zack Oliver. Pat Fitzgerald admitted Oliver has shown plenty of growth during the season. He said that Oliver is learning to use his size to make strong, accurate passes. It has shown. Oliver looks a lot more confident, too. Oliver certainly has a bright future.

• On Monday, the Wildcats took a team outing to a local bowling alley. Fitzgerald joked that he does not anticipate any of his players will challenge "Kingpin's" Roy Munson.

The Wildcats return to the practice field on Wednesday morning. Stay with for total coverage of Northwestern's bowl preparations.

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