Christmas break will be short for Howland native and current Northwestern student-athlete Tyler Scott.
His finals wrapped up this week, and Scott will return to Howland for a few days of rest, relaxation, and of course, a trip to the Hot Dog Shoppe before returning to Chicago - because he and the rest of the Wildcats are still playing football.
Scott, a defensive end for Northwestern, will be playing in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. on New Years Day. The Wildcats will be taking on Mississippi State.
"I mean everyone tries to get to a bowl to try and play on New Years Day," Scott said. "We are really looking forward to the experience."
The Northwestern football team, which is in the Legends Division of the Big Ten, finished the season with a 9-3 record, 5-3 in Big Ten play. The record was an improvement from last year's mark, in which the Wildcats finished barely bowl eligible at 6-7.
Defensively, Scott said his unit specifically made goals this year to tighten up its play, which hopefully would end in better results.
Editor's note: This is a weekly series published each Monday profiling local athletes now participating on the collegiate level.
"As a defensive line, we had been slacking (in 2011)," Scott said. "The main goal was that we needed to fix things and improve. We actually did a lot of drills, pass-rush techniques and really, we just came together as a line and started having fun."
The 2009 Howland graduate was an important part of the Northwestern defense that only gave up 22.8 points per game this season. Playing defensive end for the Wildcats, the redshirt junior recorded 38 tackles this season, 9.5 for loss, seven sacks and had five pass breakups. He also forced three fumbles. His seven sacks ranked him fourth in the Big Ten, he was 16th in the rankings in tackles for loss, and tied for fifth in forced fumbles.
Statistically it was Scott's best season in a Northwestern uniform, but he was quick to say his improvement was a team effort.
"I don't know if it was a breakout year, I just made some more plays and did some more things for the team I hadn't done in the past couple of years," Scott said. "Really, it was a team effort. In all, the entire defense played better as a whole this year."
The Wildcats became bowl eligible early in the season after a 5-0 start to the season. The streak was snapped with a loss to Penn State, but Northwestern became officially bowl eligible on Oct. 13 with a victory over Minnesota.
All three of the Wildcats' losses were games the team could have won. The Penn State loss was the largest point margin defeat, as Northwestern lost by 11 points. The Wildcats then lost to Nebraska by one point and to Michigan in overtime, 38-31.
"There were definitely two games that were in our reach," Scott said. "They were definitely hard because they were both winable games."
Scott said the team isn't dwelling on the regular season, but putting forth all their efforts on Mississippi State (8-4) - and hopefully picking its first bowl victory since the 1948 Rose Bowl.
"We're a really close group this year, and the success we've had on the field we have wanted to get for each other," Scott said. "The whole bowl experience is going to be a blast. I know I'm going to embrace the whole experience."