Teams Arrive for Sugar Bowl
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ The Texas Longhorns, playing in the Sugar Bowl for the first time since 1957 and looking to return to college football’s elite, are ready for a week of practice before a New Year’s eve meeting with Virginia Tech.
``We’re ready for a good week and a great game,″ Texas coach John Mackovic said Monday. The Hokies were scheduled to arrive today.
Texas (10-1-1), ranked No. 9, is playing in bowl games in consecutive years for the first time since 1984 and in only its third postseason game since 1984. The Longhorns beat North Carolina 35-31 in last year’s Sun Bowl.
``We started to rebuild this program four years ago, and this is another step up for us,″ Mackovic said. ``We would like to play for the national title someday. That’s our goal.″
The Sugar Bowl is the third straight postseason appearance for Virginia Tech (9-2). The Hokies lost 45-23 to Tennessee last season in the Gator Bowl. They beat Indiana 45-20 in the Independence Bowl the year before.
``Our goal was to get two teams that would sell tickets,″ Sugar Bowl executive director Troy Mathieu said. ``Both schools sold their allotment. I think we’ll see plenty of fans for both in town.″
Between 2,000 and 3,000 tickets are still available for the game, Mathieu said.
The Sugar Bowl has about a $100 million economic impact on the New Orleans area each year.
``We feel certain these two teams will maintain that figure,″ Mathieu said. ``They both have very large, excited followings.″
He said his own excitement was diminished a bit when he heard that a tourist from Virginia was shot to death in New Orleans the day before Christmas.
Connie Reasor, 33, of Dryden, Va., was shot when she ran after two men who snatched her purse while she and her mother took photographs. They were at a historic cemetery about seven blocks away from the French Quarter.
No arrests have been made.
``When I saw that on the news it gave me a bad feeling,″ Mathieu said. ``I don’t think it will cause Virginia Tech fans not to come, though.″
Texas players will have curfew while in New Orleans, but Mackovic said his first rule for his team was to have fun.
``I want them to have fun, win the game and not miss curfew. I think we can accomplish all three of them,″ Mackovic said. ``You shouldn’t be here if you can’t have fun, but we don’t want to ever overlook the game.″
Texas this year claimed its first outright Southwest Conference title since 1990, and the Longhorns went undefeated in the conference.
The break since the final-game victory against Texas A&M has allowed Texas to shake off some of its injuries, Mackovic said.
``Our injury situation has improved a good bit,″ Mackovic said. ``Our quarterback has practiced. He’s still not 100 percent, but he’s close to being able to play the full game.″
Quarterback James Brown, 13-1-1 as a starter for Texas, was the SWC’s most efficient passer.