NASSAU, Bahamas — With less than 48 hours remaining until kickoff at the 2018 Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl, the focus in the FIU and Toledo locker rooms is starting to shift from fun to football.
“We got out here and relaxed a little bit, then started to pick up the intensity and get in a good sweat,” Panthers wide receiver CJ Worton said. “It seems like a vacation but it’s really a business trip, and our practices have been good. Everyone is locked in.”
Toledo defensive back Ka’dar Hollman echoed that sentiment.
“It’s definitely a big transition. You have to make sure everyone is right mentally to have fun and handle business at the same time,” he said. “We are enjoying it and taking everything in, but we also realize that we have business to do. We have lost two bowl games in a row and don’t want to make it three. I am confident that we will be able to flip that switch on and be ready to step up to the challenge on Friday.”
On the field, FIU boasts a balanced offensive attack. The Panthers average 170.8 yards on the ground and 247.6 yards through the air for a t total of 418.4 yards per game, just outside the top 50 in the nation. Perhaps more importantly, FIU has turned it over just 12 times all season, fewest in Conference USA.
“We like to think that whatever we need in that particular week, we can get done,” offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky said. “If that means we have a heavy emphasis on the run, which we had in some games, or the other side of that like against Middle Tennessee, we hopefully can be multi-dimensional and beat you in any fashion.”
On the other hand, Toledo ranks in the top 50 in turnovers forced and three of those became defensive touchdowns, 16th-most in the nation.
“We know that FIU has some very explosive players at many different positions so we need to eliminate big plays,” Rockets defensive coordinator Brian George said. “We need to play sound defense, do a great job of communicating with each other and play hard. We need to have 11 hats running to the football and get their skilled guys to the ground.”
With kickoff set for Friday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN, Toledo and FIU still have two nights left at Atlantis, which they plan to make the most of.
“We left a cold and cloudy Toledo to come down to the Bahamas and it’s been nothing short of beautiful,” George added. “We have tried as a coaching staff and players to treat this as a normal game as far as how we prepare. In the mornings we have practiced and met and it’s been really focused. In the afternoons and evenings we are giving the players some free time to enjoy the beautiful Bahamian culture and the Atlantis, which has been really cool.”