Mitchell-Fletcher A Marquee Matchup

Dec. 28, 2000

EL PASO, Texas - Wisconsin cornerback Jamar Fletcher, the Jim ThorpeAward winner as the nation's top defensive back, insists he can't be beat.

UCLA's Freddie Mitchell, who claims he should have won the Fred BiletnikoffAward as the nation's top receiver, insists he can't be stopped.

One will prove the other wrong Friday when the Badgers (8-4) meet the Bruins(6-5) in the Sun Bowl, the third time in eight years the schools have met inthe postseason.

This time, it's not the glamorous Rose Bowl, but it does feature a marqueematchup, one that might be the final collegiate challenge for both juniors whoare expected to declare early for the NFL draft.

'He's got a lot of confidence. I've got a lot of confidence,' Fletchersaid. 'He feels that no one can stop him and I feel that no one can beat me.It's going to be a mighty good show.'

One that's worth the price of admission, Mitchell said.

'It's a great cornerback against a great receiver,' he said. 'It's goingto be tough for both parties.'

Fletcher, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, intercepted six passesin nine games this season, giving him 20 in 31 career games, five of which werereturned for touchdowns. He hasn't surrendered a touchdown pass in man-to-mancoverage in college.

'He's great. His closing speed is ridiculous,' Mitchell said. 'He's beenknown to stop a whole offense.'

Mitchell ranks second in the nation with a 120-yard receiving average. Hescored eight touchdowns this season and broke the Bruins' school record with1,314 yards receiving.

'He's a top-notch receiver,' Fletcher said, 'Maybe the best.'

One player with a unique perspective on the matter is Bruins tight end BryanFletcher - no relation to Jamar although they were best friends at St. LouisHazlewood East High School.

'It definitely will be a great matchup,' Bryan Fletcher said. 'I've seenJamar lock up some of the best receivers in the nation. But I've also seenFreddie Mitchell do some incredible things. I'm looking forward to it.'

Bryan Fletcher said both players are relishing the confrontation.

'You know Freddie does,' Bryan Fletcher said. 'You can't shut Freddie up.He'll be talking the whole game. He'll be talking the whole week leading up tothe game, even after the game. Jamar talks a lot of smack, too.'

Jamar Fletcher tends to save his inflammatory comments for after the game.He perturbed the Bruins by calling them soft after the Badgers beat them 38-31in the 1999 Rose Bowl, something UCLA has been smarting over this week.

In fact, Fletcher's been humble leading up the Sun Bowl.

On winning the Jim Thorpe Award, he said: 'I was shocked. Just to be up forit is a great honor.'

Mitchell said he, too, was shocked, when he lost out on the Fred BiletnikoffAward to Pittsburgh's Antonio Bryant.

One thing is for sure. Whoever gets beat Friday can look forward to arematch.

'We're definitely going to end up matching up with each other again,'Mitchell said.

The NFL can't wait.

By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Sports Writer

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