Rosenblum: Breaking the Curse of Ara Parseghian the right way

Jonah Rosenblum

When the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino, they came back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees to make the World Series.

When the Denver Broncos finally won one for John – John Elway, that is – they defeated the Green Bay Packers in the title game.

And when the Northwestern Wildcats finally broke their 62-year bowl drought, they beat the Toledo Rockets in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Yeah, it just didn’t sound right, did it?

Well, now due to Sunday’s rather surprising news that the Wildcats made the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Northwestern will have a chance to secure its first bowl win in decades against one of the great names in college football: Texas A&M.

It’s pretty surprising that the Wildcats were given this opportunity. Few people expected Northwestern to pass a Penn State team that has a far better record than the Wildcats (9-3 versus 6-6), owns the tiebreaker between the two teams (the Nittany Lions won 34-24 in Evanston) and boasts a much greater fanbase. Then again, no one expected coach Joe Paterno to be taken down by a sexual molestation scandal.

I give a lot of credit to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas for making a wise decision. Few teams are hotter than the Wildcats, as I argued in my last column, and few teams are colder than the Nittany Lions. Penn State isn’t all that fun to watch either since it rarely scores, whereas Northwestern puts up more points per week than the Chicago Bears will put up for the remainder of the season. Besides, we all know that any bowl game Penn State plays in will be dominated by talk of Paterno’s dismissal. Do you really want your bowl game to be brought down by such grave issues?

I also give a lot of credit to athletic director Jim Phillips for convincing the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas that Northwestern was the better option. This is the second time in the last three years that Phillips has stolen a better bowl for the Wildcats. I still don’t understand how he convinced the Outback Bowl that Northwestern was a better option than Wisconsin – really? – in 2009. Heather Houston, the Meineke Car Care Bowl’s executive director, credited a personal meeting with Phillips as a major reason why she picked the Wildcats. She also said Northwestern was the most hospitable school she was in contact with. Apparently, nice guys finish first in the world of college bowls.

Now, the Wildcats need to seize the moment – The Moment that Phillips Built. No one could dismiss a victory over the Aggies as a cheap win. Texas A&M was ranked at No. 8 to begin the season. Six losses destroyed that ranking, but it’s worth noting that five of those six losses came against ranked teams. Five of those six losses also came by a touchdown or less.

This is a Texas A&M team that handily defeated Baylor, took Kansas State to four overtimes and nearly defeated Texas in its regular-season finale. This is an Aggies team that averages nearly 40 points per game, and is proficient both on the ground and through the air. From great challenges spring great moments. And the challenge is certainly there.

Approximately one month ago, Northwestern marched into Lincoln, and came away with a most improbable victory over No. 9 Nebraska.

Now, the Wildcats will need another miracle. But it’s not really a miracle they’re relying on. It’s their defense. They need the same defense that stifled then-No. 9 Nebraska to stifle Texas A&M.

If that happens, Northwestern will break the Curse of Ara Parseghian, and it will have done it in the right way.

Sports editor Jonah Rosenblum is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected]