His name is Ndamukong Suh, and by now just about every college football fan has heard how his name is pronounced (En-Dah-Meh-Ken). By the end of the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday night Ndamukong might just be a household name.
The All-American defensive tackle from Nebraska came into the 2009 season with moderate hype, but now has every NFL scout salivating at the possibility of getting him in the upcoming draft. With strength that has had people comparing him to the late Reggie White, Suh launched himself on the national stage with dominating performances each week. In the final game of the season, he put on a show for the ages finishing with 4.5 sacks and 12 tackles against the second ranked team in the country. Two weeks later Suh became the first defensive player to be named the Associate Press Player of the Year.
What does all this mean for Arizona in the upcoming Holiday Bowl?
Ndamukong Suh plain and simply is “the” buzz coming into this highly anticipated bowl game. People around the country will be tuning in just to see what the likely number one overall pick will do in his final college game. Will he have 5 sacks? Will he have 15 tackles? Will he demolish the Wildcat offensive line?
Or -- will he be silenced by a very good Arizona team that has something to prove?
“We’re not intimidated at all,” Wildcat Center Colin Baxter told ESPN. “We respect what he can do. We know we have to be on top of our game. But I don’t think they’ve really seen an offensive line like us.”
Those are just words, but that is the mentality the Arizona players will need to play with if they are going to slow down the 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive tackle. Suh hasn’t been stopped all season and Wildcat head coach Mike Stoops knows he’ll have his hands full.
“He’s very disruptive. He’s very smart. He’s a very complete player,” Stoops told ESPN. “He’s all over the place. That tells me he’s very instinctive and smart and can read things very quickly.”
If the Wildcats are going to be successful against Suh and the stout Cornhusker defense they will need to use the run and the pass to keep Nebraska guessing. Quarterback Nick Foles will be a big part of the game plan. He has been consistent all year, completing over 65% of his passes. He has also only been sacked 11 times this season, due largely to his ability to find receivers quickly.
With a potent offense and the 21st best defense in the nation, confidence does not seem to be an issue for Arizona. The team is having its best season since 1998, but if you think the hype surrounding Ndamukong Suh isn’t giving them some extra motivation -- try talking to one of their offensive linemen.
“He’s not some kind of Superman. He’s a good player. The media talks it up a lot. You see the guy on 'SportsCenter' and some people get the idea that he's God or something. That he's Jesus as a football player -- that he's just going to walk past the offensive line. He's a good player, and you have to respect that," Baxter told ESPN.
Respect is not given, its earned.
Suh, has already earned Arizona’s respect. Now the Wildcats have a chance to earn their own on a national stage, in front of a sold out crowd, and in Holiday Bowl that will probably have its highest ratings in years.
The game kicks off at 5 –p.m. Wednesday night. It will be aired on ESPN.