NASSAU, Bahamas — With kickoff looming less than 24 hours away, the Ohio and UAB football teams met with the media one last time at a pregame press conference prior to squaring off on the gridiron >on Friday.
The Bobcats and Blazers meet in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN tomorrow.
Each team is searching for a historic win for their program. UAB fell in its lone bowl appearance more than a decade ago, while Ohio last claimed a victory in 2012 and has a total of two wins in the program’s bowl history.
Neither side is focused on the past, and each experienced a wealth of success this year en route to 8-4 records. UAB is seeking its first nine-win season since 1993, while Ohio last accomplished the feat in 2012.
The Blazers in particular feel vindicated by their success this season after the program was put on hiatus in 2015 and 2016.
“A lot of people have fought for this university, for this football team to come back,” redshirt senior linebacker Tevin Crews said. “It has been a tremendous driving force for this team. The days you do not feel like working that hard, you think of how somebody has made a sacrifice for us and it is time for us to do the same for them. It has never gone unnoticed. We will never forget the people that did tremendous things to bring this program back. We are very appreciative of the Birmingham community, we have a great fan base and we love them to death.”
Head coach Bill Clark agreed, and said the team could have been complacent in just being able to step on the field again.
There were a lot of people that were just happy that we were back,” he added. “These guys had other plans, they wanted to do something special. We talked about making history. [Crews and fellow linebacker Shaq Jones] were on the 2014 team and they stayed around and believed. Some people may have picked us 130th out of 130 teams going into the year but to have such a great year like they have had speaks volumes about them.”
But the win will not come easy for the Blazers, who run into a perennial Group of Five power in Ohio, which has reached its ninth bowl game in head coach Frank Solich’s 13 seasons.
“I really like our football team. It’s been a team that prepared all year long,” Solich said. “They’ve shown great leadership during the offseason as well as during the season…We’ve played really, really well in stretches. Coming into the last couple ballgames of the year we positioned ourselves very well in terms of conference play. We did not get it done in the last couple ballgames, and I know we don’t feel good about that, so we hope to have a great game against UAB, who we know is an excellent, well-coached football team with a lot of really good athletes.”
Friday’s game will be the last time the senior class suits up in each team’s respective uniforms, a thought not lost on Bobcat redshirt senior Quentin Poling.
“When I’m looking back on my career, I think the last game is going to be the one that sticks out the most obviously,” he said. “Talking to Dak Notestine, our strength coach, he played at Ohio and ended his career in a bowl game that didn’t go very well for them. He constantly reminds us that we don’t want to look back on our career and think about it and have that be the last memory like he did.”
Each team has enjoyed its time in the Bahamas, but the most important part of the trip is tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.
“Earlier this week, we sat down and discussed prioritizing,” Crews said. “We have some really good practices since we have landed in the Bahamas and that is because of how we prioritized our time…You enjoy the moment when you are out having fun at the water park and other things like that but when we get up in the morning and go to the meeting rooms, it is all business. You have to understand that we are here to have fun but the main goal is to win a football game.”