Wildcats happily break for holidays

EVANSTON, Ill. – Like school children waiting for the final bell to ring before Christmas vacation, Northwestern’s players couldn’t wait for coach Pat Fitzgerald to dismiss them on Monday.

Their practice was supposed to end at noon, but Fitzgerald held them for an extra 45 minutes. When he finally put a close to it, most players darted to the locker room. Some even yelled for joy on their way.

The end of Monday’s practice marked the start of a six-day hiatus from Evanston and Northwestern football for the Wildcats. Northwestern will reconvene on Sunday night and leave for Dallas the following day to play Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 1.

“I think it’s good to get away for a little bit,” Northwestern linebacker Nate Williams said. “We had a little bit of time off for finals and everything, but this kind of lets us go back with our family. It shows us what’s really important and brings everything back to focus, and we’ll come back ready for a good work week.”

Monday was the 11th practice for the Wildcats in preparation for Texas Tech. After losing to Illinois and Wisconsin to close the regular season, Fitzgerald hoped to achieve three goals before departing for the holiday. He wanted Northwestern to improve fundamentally, get most of his injured players healthy and improve the team’s confidence after their tough losses.

“We leave here feeling good about that, and now we’ll see how we regain it when we come back after a little bit of a break,” Fitzgerald said.

Northwestern’s players had a variety of plans for their time off. Kicker Stefan Demos had a handful of golf outings scheduled. Williams was going to relax.

Senior linebacker Quentin Davie was possibly the most excited to get back home. Just last week, his first child, Quentin Davie Jr., aka Q2, was born, and now he has more time to spend with him.

“I’m going to run a little bit, do our bowl plan lifting thing, but other than that I think I’ll be just changing diapers,” Davie said.

Fitzgerald even said he would step away from preparing for Texas Tech. For a bit.

“We’ll do some things fun here in Chicago as a family, but after I put the boys to bed, I’ll keep watching some tape and some specific situations -- coming out on two-minute, third down again, trick plays, all those things, just keep them fresh in my mind,” Fitzgerald said.