When Pat Fitzgerald decides to retire from coaching, he may have success as a stand-up comedian after watching and listening to the reaction of the audience at Friday's Meineke Car Care Bowl luncheon at Houston's Westin Galleria hotel. Among his quips, Fitzgerald teased the five Houston natives on the Wildcats' roster -- apparently he's tired of hearing about "H-town" -- and when Houstonian Venric Mark was introduced the 5-8 kick returner stood on a chair and waved. Fitzgerald pretended he couldn't see him.
And Fitzgerald's good sense of humor continued into the bowl press conference following the luncheon. He referred to the bowl drought as "embarassing" but something that the Wildcats have embraced -- "unlike that team from the North Side of Chicago." Fitzgerald, a South Side native and White Sox fan, was obviously referring to the Cubs.
But on a more tragic note, the Wildcats and Texas A&M will wear stickers on their helmets Saturday in honor of backup offensive lineman Joe Villavisencio, who was killed in a car accident Dec. 22 when he was driving home to Jacksonville, Texas for the holidays.
"We initially reached out to A&M to see if [decals] were appropriate," Fitzgerald said. "Jim Phillips and I had a discussion about that and [A&M] felt that it was appropriate. There was no question we were honored to do that."
"One of the first calls I got on Friday when the news broke was from coach Fitzgerald," Aggies interim coach Tim DeRuyter said. "It was an extremely classy move by him and the university. It speaks about what is good about college football."
In other NU news:
Safety Brian Peters had the cast removed from his left hand this week. He broke the hand in the first half of the Nebraska victory Nov. 5 and had played with a club-like cast on it ever since.
Injured defensive lineman Niko Mafuli will carry the team's suffed monkey at the game Saturday. The monkey -- which actually looks more like a gorilla -- wears a No. 63 jersey to represent the 63 years since NU last won a bowl game, the 1949 Rose Bowl.