NASSAU, Bahamas — For the first time in Bahamas Bowl history, two programs are making return trips to Nassau and Atlantis Paradise Island resorts, and they couldn’t be more excited to be here.
For Toledo and head coach Jason Candle, the visit is the second in four years after falling in the 2018 game.
“I promised myself I’d put my toes in the water at least once this time,” he said. “Last time I was not able to do that and we came up three points short. So, maybe this time I’ll get down that water slide and get into that ocean a little bit, and get into that sand, and maybe it will turn out a little different.”
Sophomore safety Nate Bauer, in his fourth year in the program, is happy to be back at Atlantis for the second time.
“This is really exciting. This place is great – great hotel. Great service. Great people. A great time,” Bauer added. “The events last time were great. I’m looking forward to doing it again. I want to get on the jet skis this time. Also to get on the slide that goes straight down – I want to get back on that. I want to get on the slide with the sharks, too.”
While there are Toledo student-athletes who are returning for the second time, Middle Tennessee’s roster has turned over since their first visit in 2015. Head coach Rick Stockstill, though, has been at the helm of the Blue Raiders since 2006.
“It was a great experience in 2015. Western Michigan beat us, but it was a good experience, a good trip,” he said. “We expect to have a good experience again this year. The people at the Bowl game do a magnificent job from an organizational standpoint. Our players will enjoy it.”
Middle Tennessee is making its 13th all-time bowl appearance, including the ninth in its FBS era. Since its last trip to the Bahamas Bowl, MTSU fell to Hawaii in the 2016 Hawaii Bowl, defeated Arkansas State in the 2017 Camellia Bowl, and fell to Appalachian State in the 2018 New Orleans Bowl. This year, Middle Tennessee won two of its last three games to become bowl eligible, including a 27-17 victory over Florida Atlantic in the regular season finale.
Toledo came up a field goal short in the 2018 Bahamas Bowl to FIU, 35-32, which was its last bowl appearance. After sitting at 4-5 through nine games this season, Toledo reeled off three straight wins over Bowling Green, Ohio and Akron to clinch a bowl spot.
What both teams are in agreement on is that the Bahamas Bowl is an ideal destination to cap off a season.
“I’m a little pale right now. It’s been a little cold in Murfreesboro,” said MTSU center Marcus Greer. “I’m looking forward to putting my feet in the sand and hanging out with the guys. It’s my last week of football so I want to go out with a bang and spend as much time as I can with my brothers.”