STORRS, Conn. -
The University of Connecticut football team is continuing to prepare for its matchup with Marshall in the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl on Saturday, December 26. The game will kickoff at 11:00 a.m. from Tropicana Field and will be televised nationally on ESPN and the UConn IMG Radio Network.
For information on all things pertaining to the bowl, including game tickets and hotel information, please visit UConnBowl.com
Coach Diaco and his Huskies have been practicing and doing conditioning as the bowl games nears. This week is the final week of classes at UConn for the fall semester with final exams next week, so the complete focus will then become academics.
The team will depart for warm and sunny Florida on Sunday, December 20. The Huskies held a Bowl Media Day on Thursday and here are some sights and sounds of the event.
Coach Bob Diaco
On how practices are going: "The guys are coming in sometimes, they're getting used to it now, but they were coming in like they were in uncharted territory. Like why are we in here with our pads on? Well because we're going to a bowl game, and have practice. But they're getting used to it. Practices are going great, they're flying around here. I'm really pleased."
On the injuries: "Guys that were banged up, that had been beat up for 12 games, like Arkeel (Newsome), he looks great. We still have Matt (Walsh) who's in rehab, but we think he will be cleared for participation. Tommy (Myers) I spoke about, he obviously won't be back, but he'll be ready to go for winter conditioning. Everybody else should be good to go. Bryant looks great. He's cleared, running around, energetic, leading, and no residual anything."
On how they balance celebrating the bowl and the business aspect of it: "I think we want to celebrate. We want to have fun and we want to keep it fast and not have it be a grind or a drudgery where in the future the guys are like `uh I'm not sure we want to go to a bowl' so have fun. I've been a part of it as a player and a coach, a lot of different ways. We went out one year and had two-a-day practices and it was like a mutiny when I was a player. We don't want that, but we also need to keep our timing on, so there's an amount of work that needs to be done so we can tackle and throw the ball and catch the ball and pass protect. We need to work full speed, but try to keep it short and crisp, try to keep it popping, keep the music on and keep it pumped."
On why a bowl is so important to the program: "I could go on and on. One would be more practice and more opportunity and we're practicing our developmental players too, guys that haven't played all year and have "redshirted" are getting a chance to get more full-speed work right now. Then you have the seniors most importantly that have been the catalyst, the back bone to turning this program around and have persevered through so much adversity. They now have an opportunity to go out as winners, go to a bowl and win the bowl."
On Marshall: "It's a great team. Nine wins. A year ago they almost won every single game. They've been to 10 bowls in 15 years. They have a story program, explosive group, high octane offense, great players. It will be a great challenge, but what a fun challenge. At the same time, you have two great, nationally-branded teams. It's the day after Christmas, Saturday, at 11 a.m., I think the whole country will be on their couch right? Sleeping off some of that great brunch and here we go watching Huskies play football."
On the Marshall defense: "Strong defense, aggressive. They always have tough guys. The team has been tough ever since I've been watching and following, which is a pretty long time. I've had the chance to work with coaches that have worked there so I know what their DNA is like and it has never changed. It's a tough state and a tough school and they are the tough guys that represent the school."
Redshirt sophomore, quarterback, Bryant Shirreffs
On how he is dealing with missing Christmas for the bowl: "Going to a bowl game was our goal all year. It's such a big honor. It's the day after Christmas so I get to spend Christmas with my family away from my actual family. Ironically enough, my brother is actually playing in a bowl game the same day, so the real burden is on my parents."
On his thoughts on Marshall: "They're a great team and I love playing against great teams so this will be an awesome opportunity and a fun week. It will be really fun on the 26th."
Senior, defensive line, Julian Campenni
On what this preparation time means to him: "It means a lot. Usually we're getting ready to go home right about now. So just to be out here and be around the guys, it's awesome and it's fun too."
On the relaxed atmosphere with the music: "It just helps get practice started, because you might come out here and you might be a little tired so just to have the music on and see the coaches dancing, it kind of gets you going."
Senior, linebacker, Graham Stewart
On how hard it was to get to this point: "It was just a lot of perseverance you could say. I never lost faith that things would work out the way they were supposed to."
On how they help the younger guys with what goes into this process: "This is a well-grounded team. These guys are all about football. I think when we get down there, we're going to be ready to play and we will be able to balance the stuff that's on the side as well as practicing for a football game. You go to a bowl game to beat the other team, you don't just go down there to have a full day of sunshine."
Sophomore, linebacker, Luke Carrezola
On what it means to keep playing: "It's awesome. Just being able to have these practices, it's critical, even for the younger guys, because now they are developing their game for next year. It's just an awesome feeling."
On what the team knows about Marshall: "They're a very good team, 9-3, no bad teams go 9-3, it doesn't matter what conference they are in. We know that. We're just very excited for the match-up."