The coaching staffs and players are striking a balance between preparation and leisure in the days leading up to the 2015 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl on Thursday.
Each team conducted its second of three practices on Tuesday morning, with Middle Tennessee practicing at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium and Western Michigan practicing at Roscow A. L. Davies Soccer Field near Robinson Stadium.
As kickoff is now less than 48 hours away, the focus is trending more toward the game than all the Bahamas and the Atlantis resort has to offer.
“I’m really pleased,” Western Michigan offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarocca said. “Kids have been able to separate the fun – and there’s a lot of fun to be had here – from the work. When we’ve gotten to the practice fields the kids have been able to make the transition. I’m really happy with their preparation.”
“We had a two-three day layoff before we got here,” Middle Tennessee defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. “It showed a little bit yesterday but all in all our kids understand that the most important thing is we take care of our bodies from here on out and mentally prepare for the most important game of the year.
“It’s been a blessing to be able to see a different part of the world. The smiles and the happiness on our kids’ faces has probably been my greatest joy this week. Hopefully we can make this the most memorable moment of their lives.”
Each of the three full days at the Atlantis resort leading up to the game has been a mix of practice in the morning and resort fun in the afternoon. As the midpoint of their stay arrives, the players now are beginning to switch their focus more to the game.
“On the way down I was just wondering what it (the Bahamas) was going to look like,” MTSU defensive end Steven Rhodes said. “It looks just like it does on TV. I was excited, like a kid in a candy store. The most interesting thing I’ve seen is just Atlantis as a whole. It’s beautiful. It really is. I was just ready to come down here and experience it. (I am) excited to get out here and ultimately achieve our goal of winning. We’re definitely in good shape. We’ve been practicing hard and we’re coming to win. It’s been a good experience.”
“I don’t think anything compares to being in the Bahamas, especially for a bowl,” WMU running back Jamauri Bogan said. “It’s a very special experience. It’s like an experience you might only get once in a lifetime. You get a passport, which I’ve never had before, and to come out here and experience what we’ve experienced is phenomenal. I think practices have gone very well. The weather is a lot different compared to Michigan, but we’ve practiced indoors the last few weeks to get prepared for this. We’re all excited for the game.”
Some players and staff from both Middle Tennessee and Western Michigan will visit the Ranfurly Homes for Children and will join with staff from USA Football to put on a football clinic for local youth Tuesday afternoon.