Northwestern's senior class has been one of the most successful in the program's 127-year history. The group of Wildcats has won 34 games, the most in a five-year period since the early 1900s, and put together four bowl-eligible seasons, making three bowl appearances.
One thing, however, has eluded the group: a bowl victory. The Wildcats aim to punctuate their success with a final statement in Friday's Outback Bowl against Auburn by achieving that feat.
"For the past five years, that's all we've been working for - a bowl win," senior DL Corey Wootton said. "So we're trying to turn over a new leaf."
A win Friday certainly would do that, considering Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game since defeating California in the 1949 Rose Bowl. In fact, that victory six decades ago stands as the only bowl win in program history.
The Wildcats are winless in their past six bowl trips, and the current senior group has been a part of two of those losses - in the 2005 Sun Bowl (to UCLA) and the 2008 Alamo Bowl (to Missouri).
"We've been to a lot of great bowl games over the past couple of years," senior WR Andrew Brewer said, "but we just haven't been able to get over that mountaintop."
They're hoping their third - and final - chance at earning a bowl win will be the charm.
"The game's right in front of us," senior S Brad Phillips said. "We're doing everything we can, watching film and practicing hard, to go out and have a good game, and hopefully we'll come out on top."
Love for a local
During the DeBartolo Team Luncheon on Tuesday at the Tampa Convention Center, Auburn coach Gene Chizik was asked which opposing players stood out to him the most this season. He named two.
The first was 2009 Heisman Trophy recipient Mark Ingram, the standout running back from Alabama. The other was Ole Miss senior all-purpose back Dexter McCluster, a Largo High graduate who was the Rebels' top offensive weapon, totaling a combined 1,460 yards rushing and receiving and nine touchdowns.
It's easy to understand why he made such a big impression on Chizik; McCluster finished with 203 total yards (186 rushing) and a touchdown in a 33-20 loss to the Tigers.
Catch of the day
Bowl week can be demanding on players and coaches, with various obligations and activities surrounding their normal game-week preparations, but Northwestern senior WR Zeke Markshausen managed to squeeze in some time Monday for one of his favorite hobbies.
Markshausen, an avid fisherman, booked a three-hour charter with his father, Kim, and said they hauled in a nice catch that included a ladyfish and some flounder and trout.
It wasn't the first time Markshausen has done some fishing in the Bay area. He said his grandmother used to have a home in Naples, and his family would shoot up for some fishing when they made the trip to Florida.
Odds and ends
Shelby Lopez, a 2009 Plant graduate and a great-granddaughter of Tampa legend Al Lopez, will participate in bowl events as a member of the Northwestern Ladycats dance team. ... Auburn is 5-6-2 in games played on New Year's Day but has won its past two. ... Chris Martin, a Jesuit High and Northwestern grad who works as an analyst for the Big Ten Network, was among the attendees at the Wildcats' workout Tuesday at Jesuit.
Adam Adkins, Tony Fabrizio