COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Texas A&M will stay close to home for its final game before leaving the Big 12.
The Aggies will take on Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston on Dec. 31. The matchup pits a pair of .500 teams hoping to rebound from uneven seasons. Texas A&M even has a different coach — Tim DeRuyter is leading the team on an interim basis after Mike Sherman was fired Thursday.
“There has been a little bit of a cloud,” said DeRuyter, who had been the team’s defensive coordinator. “I think our guys are excited to get back on the field.”
Texas A&M (6-6) is joining the Southeastern Conference next season.
The Aggies entered this season with 18 returning starters, a top-10 ranking and were expected to contend for the Big 12 championship and be a factor in the national title hunt. Instead they lost early games to Oklahoma State and Arkansas after holding double-digit halftime leads.
Northwestern (6-6) had its four-game winning streak snapped by Michigan State in its final Big Ten game of the season. The Wildcats are playing in a bowl for the fourth straight season but last won one in 1949.
“It’s going to be a road game for us,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We’ll prepare like we’ll be playing on the road.”
Texas A&M hasn’t won a bowl since 2001. DeRuyter hopes that streak will end this year, and he indicated he’d be interested in the full-time head coaching job with the Aggies.
“Who wouldn’t be? I don’t know how realistic that is,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s any sane coach out there that wouldn’t like to be considered.”
Northwestern had to scramble to become bowl eligible, winning at Nebraska as part of its late-season winning streak. Quarterback Dan Persa and the Wildcats will try to end their school’s bowl drought. Northwestern has lost in all eight of its bowl trips since winning the 1949 Rose Bowl over California.
“We have to find a way to send our seniors out as champs,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re not very pleased with the way we played this year. We’re going to get some things fixed. Guys are going to play more consistently or they’re not going to play.”
Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill has thrown for 3,415 yards this season. In addition to the losses to Oklahoma State and Arkansas, the Aggies lost by seven to Missouri, by three to Kansas State and by two to Texas.
“They’ve been successful for a long time,” Persa said. “They have a great tradition. It’s going to be a great atmosphere for us.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)