LUBBOCK — When any team is matched up with a Big Ten team, it's more than likely that they will have to prepare for a tough running game.
Roll the calendar back to Nov. 13.
The Wildcats (7-5), led by junior quarterback Dan Persa, scored on a last-second 20-yard touchdown pass from the QB to Demetrius Fields to knock off No. 13 Iowa, 21-17, in what was easily Northwestern's best game of the season.
But it was also the last game for Persa, who ruptured his Achilles' tendon while running downfield to celebrate with his teammates.
Can you remember B.J. Symons Tech fans?
At 7-3, Northwestern easily had a chance to finish with two wins and possibly be in third or fourth place when the season was over with a top 25 ranking.
But without Persa, the Wildcats faltered in their final two games, being outscored 118-50 by Illinois and Wisconsin. The Badgers captured a share of the Big Ten title in the finale against NW, posting 70 points and 559 yards of total offense.
The most interesting battle for Texas Tech against Northwestern in the 2011 TicketCity Bowl (11 a.m., CT, New Year's Day) may come when the Red Raiders try to find a way to keep the Wildcats' offense contained.
Tech's young secondary will get one final test against backup QB Evan Watkins (26 of 49, 302 yds., TD) before spring ball and will have to be the final stand against the Northwestern running game, led by freshman running back Mike Trumpy, who was actually the second-best runner most of the season for the Wildcats.
Persa led the team in rushing most of the season with 519 rushing yards and nine rushing TDs.
Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville has been pleased with the progress of the defense and work it has been able to get in since the end of the season. It also helps that he continues to see players like Colby Whitlock stay healthy before the bowl game in Dallas. Whitlock returned to practice following a brief hiatus after having a small plate removed from the jaw he injured last spring.
The Red Raiders are off for the next week and will reconvene in Dallas on Dec. 26 to begin the final bowl-week preparations.
Eyes on the Star
Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville, inside wide receivers coach Sonny Cumbie and running backs coach Chad Scott were among many college coaches to attend the Texas UIL Football Championships in the DFW Metroplex. But it was obvious whom the three coaches continue to keep a close eye on — Aledo junior running back Johnathan Gray.
Gray led the Bearcats to their second-straight Class 4A Division II state championship with eight touchdowns and 320 rushing yards (PHOTO GALLERY, STORY) The son of former Texas Tech funning back James Gray finished the year with 3,183 rushing yards.
But Gray has his eyes set on a third-straight title and continuing Aledo's 29-game winning streak. And with 135 rushing TDs, he is just 11 shy of tying the UIL state record.
"We can't be focused on how many points we want to put up, or any numbers," Gray told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We have to work hard and get better and have the mind-set of going out and winning."