Ten things to know about the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl


The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-4) will host the University of Illinois Fighting Illini in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium on December 26, 2014. The game will be aired on ESPN.


(DALLAS, TEX.) – The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is just under a week away. The University of Illinois Fighting Illini, and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will make it to Dallas on Monday. The conversion on historic Cotton Bowl Stadium has already started, and members of the media are beginning to check into the Renaissance Hotel.

The Bowl Week has officially kicked off, and as it stands, the Bulldogs are the current favorites to win. Here are ten things to know about the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl:

– Zaxby’s is the title sponsor for the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and they are the first title sponsor to ink a long-term deal, signing a deal that will allow Zaxby’s to headline the bowl through 2018. Zaxby’s is a prepared-at-order restaurant that features chicken fingers, wings, sandwiches and salads. Based in Athens, Georgia, Zaxby’s is one of the nation’s fastest-growing restaurant chains, operating more than 640 stores in 15 states. They made a major change change in the landscape of bowl games, when they made the game available to first responders, and their families for free.


– The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl is not just a postseason game. Both teams from the match up will be volunteering to help City Square, an non-profit organization, that fights poverty in the greater Dallas area. On Monday, the players will help deliver 25 lb. boxes of food at the City Square Opportunity Center, located in South Dallas, at 1610 S. Malcolm X Blvd.


– This game will be a showcase of the future for both the Illini, and he Bulldogs. The Bulldogs named three players to the Conference USA All-Freshman team. Bulldogs defensive lineman Deidrick Canty, and defensive back Secdrick Cooper received honors, and receiver Carlos Henderson made the team both as a wide receiver, and kick returner. Illini freshman receiver Mike Dudek has been named a First-Team Freshman All American from ESPN.com, Scout.com, and 247Sports.com.


– This game will be a homecoming of sorts for both Illinois head coach Tim Beckman, and many of the players on the Louisiana Tech roster. Beckman once lived in Texas, and went to high school at Forest Park High School (now Westbrook), in Beaumont Texas. The Bulldogs have 27 players on their roster from Texas, with almost half from North Texas, and eleven of them hail from the DFW area. They include DL Aaron Brown (Carrollton Creekview HS), K Kyle Fischer (Frisco HS), RB Jay Gafford (Dallas Rockford HS), DB Michael Jacob (Allen HS), Eddie Johnson (Navarro JC), RB Hunter Lee (Flower Mound HS), OL Cam Manning (Southlake Carroll HS), LB Carrington McCallister (Euless Trinity HS), OL Deonte McCrady (Arlington Lamar HS), OL Josh Robinson (Lancaster HS), and LS Darrell Travis (McKinney North HS).


– The Illini will be making their 18th postseason appearance, and will be the third team from the Big Ten to appear in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in the last four seasons. The Bulldogs will be making their seventh postseason appearance, and have lost two of their last three bowl games. This will be Conference USA’s second appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.


– Louisiana Tech is ranked second in the FBS behind TCU, in most-improved scoring average, jumping up 18.3 points from 2013. The Bulldogs are also 7th in the FBS with a four-game, improving from 4-8 last year, to 8-5 in 2014, and their 40 forced turnovers currently lead the Nation.


– The Illini passing offense is currently ranked third in the Big Ten, with 2,918 yards through the air, and 24 TD’s, averaging 243.2 yards per game.


– The month of December does not usually bode well for the Bulldogs, or the Illini. The Illini are 4-7 in the month of December, and have never played a game after Christmas. The Bulldogs are 2-8-1 during the month of December. Their most recent December loss was a 26-23 loss to the Marshall Thundering Herd, in the Conference USA Championship Game, on December 6, 2014.


– Head Coaches and Skip Holtz are both sons of NCAA football coaches. Beckman’s father Dave also coached in the NFL, and is now an executive for the NFL, as well as the collegiate ranks, and CFL. Holtz’s father Lou, is a long-time NCAA coach, and is now an analyst for ESPN. Both fathers, and their families will be in attendance for the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.


– Ticket prices for the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl range from $25 for general admission seating to $125 for reserved seats. Tickets can be purchased through the bowl’s web site at www.HeartofDallasBowl.com. Complimentary tickets are available to first responders and their families via signup at the bowls website.