NASSAU, Bahamas – Toledo and FIU each had their final practice of the season and met with the media at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on Thursday in preparation for tomorrow’s Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
The game is scheduled for 12:30 pm EST on ESPN.
“I think everybody is very excited to be in the Bahamas. The hospitality has been remarkable. Everything about it, you couldn’t ask for a bowl game to be in a better location than Atlantis Resort, it’s absolutely spectacular,” said FIU head coach Butch Davis. “When we made the announcement we were coming to the Bahamas, the room just exploded. Everybody was excited, guys were cheering, just really happy. Me seeing them get a chance to experience this culture, and the hospitality has been really good.”
Toledo head coach Jason Candle has also enjoyed what this experience has offered to his players.
“It’s really cool to take your seniors some place. I think it’s a really special thing to be able to do that out of the country. It’s been fun to watch them embrace that,” said Candle. “It’s been fun to watch them use their platform to give more than they take and to be model citizens. I really appreciate that about our football team.”
Throughout the week, players have commented on the amazing weather and the beautiful Atlantis resort, but today, a few turned their attention to the delicious food.
“Aside from the weather, [the best part has] been some of the amazing food and taking it all in,” said Toledo senior wide receiver Cody Thompson. “It’s the first time I had conch – I think that’s how you say it – so I’m going to have to find a place up in Ohio where I can get some of that.”
“[The best part has been] the opening night dinner and being able to experience all the different Bahamian dishes,” said graduate student offensive lineman Jordan Budwig. “As a big guy, that’s one of my favorite things, good food, and it was definitely good.”
FIU will be playing tomorrow’s game without starting quarterback James Morgan, who threw for 26 touchdowns and 2,764 yards this season, as he is still recovering from an injury he suffered against Marshall on November 24.
“James Morgan will not play tomorrow. In our last game against Marshall, he suffered a small injury in the tricep. I think if the bowl game was maybe another week or 10 days away, I think he would have,” said Davis. “Christian Alexander’s going to start the game for us. He was the starting quarterback for us during the entire spring, all 15 practices, because James had not transferred at that time, so he had the opportunity to be the number one quarterback. We alternated them pretty significantly during training camp during August, so we felt significantly better prepared for the backup quarterback to step in and play better in the game.”
Alexander played in nine games this season, completing 19-of-29 passes for 218 yards and an interception.
Regardless of who is at quarterback, Toledo knows they’ll be dealing with a lot of team speed from the Panthers.
“They’re a really fast, explosive offense. We have to do a good job of making them uncomfortable and shutting down the run. If we do that, we’ll have a good chance,” said Rocket senior linebacker Richard Olekanma.
Likewise, the Panthers know they’ll have their hands full with a Toledo offense that ranks 11th in scoring this season.
“The main thing that we’re focused on is stopping the run, as always,” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Anthony Johnson. “They’re great up front. They’re all big, they’re all physical. The main thing we have to focus on is stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback.”
Tomorrow’s game will be the fourth time that the two schools compete in football, as FIU holds a 2-1 series lead. The last matchup saw the Panthers defeat the Rockets 34-32 in the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.