EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -Northwestern's football team is making the rounds. First to a Chicago Blackhawks game and then Wednesday night back to the United Center to watch the Bulls. It's a way of celebrating en masse, a show of unity.
On Monday, the Wildcats depart for the Alamo Bowl and a date with Missouri on Dec. 29. It's in San Antonio where they hope to make a little history of their own.
Coach Pat Fitzgerald said his team is ready for the right mix of practice and bowl hoopla.
``They won't remember the T-shirt or what they ate at the bar-b-q,'' Fitzgerald said Wednesday, after his team finished practice inside their indoor facility.
``They'll remember whether they went 1-0.''
Northwestern will be making its seventh bowl appearance in school history and first since the 2005 Sun Bowl, a loss to UCLA that turned out to be coach Randy Walker's final game. Walker died the following summer of a heart attack and several days later Fitzgerald, who was only 31 with no head coaching experience, took over.
er the Wildcats finished 9-3 in his third season, they have a chance to become just the second team from their school to win 10 games - the only other was the 1995 team that made the Rose Bowl and was led by linebacker Fitzgerald, who missed that game with a broken leg.
The Wildcats could also become the school's second bowl winner, and it's been a while since the 1949 team captured the Rose Bowl by beating California.
``A nine-win season is good. A 10-win season is great,'' said Fitzgerald, who earlier this month was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame from his playing days. ``This is a big game for us, a huge game for our program.''
The Wildcats must match Missouri's speed and contain a potent offense that rolled up nearly 500 yards per game, led by quarterback Chase Daniel, all-purpose receiver and returner Jeremy Maclin and tight end Chase Patton.
``It will be a challenge for the younger guys who haven't experienced it,'' said safety Brendan Smith, who started the Sun Bowl as a freshman. ``Those of us who did have to learn from our experiences. We were up 20 in the first quarter and it took a big turn and it came back to haunt us.''
Northwestern went ahead 22-0 in the opening quarter of that game against UCLA in El Paso before absorbing a 50-38 loss.
Northwestern features a spread offense that has been effective with quarterback C.J. Bacher and a host of receivers led by Rasheed Ward, Ross Lane and Eric Peterman. If the Wildcats can control the ball, that could be the best defense because it will keep Daniel off the field.
``They throw a lot at you,'' Smith said.
Northwestern hopes to be bolstered by the presence of senior tailback Tyrell Sutton, who has returned to practice following wrist surgery in late October. Sutton was a 1,000-yard rusher in his freshman and sophomore seasons but has been limited to 15 games the last two years because of injuries. He is just five yards shy of 5,000 all-purpose yards in his career.
Fitzgerald said Sutton is probable for the game. Sutton just wants to get on the field.
``I have a pretty high pain threshold,'' Sutton said. ``The biggest thing is I can go out and let the guys know that I'm there for them.''

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