Wednesday was the final day of preparation for Middle Tennessee and Western Michigan in preparation for the 2015 Bahamas Bowl.
Each team enjoyed a light walk-through at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium and a press conference with Popeyes and Bahamas dignitaries.
Game plans are installed and each team is looking forward to game day on Thursday. Kickoff is slated for 12:06 pm at Robinson Stadium and will be broadcast live on ESPN.
“We’ve been here for a week now,” MTU head coach Rick Stockstill said. “We’re ready to play the game. We’ve had a wonderful time, a wonderful experience. We’ve got a great challenge in playing Western Michigan. They’ve got a really great football team. It’s a challenge and an opportunity to get excited about. I know our team is ready. We’re excited about it, and we look forward to playing it.”
“I’m not sure how we became the home team,” WMU head coach P.J. Fleck said. “Middle Tennessee State’s president is from this country, so I’m not sure how we became the home team, but we’ll take it (laughing). A year and 16 weeks ago we were the worst team in college football. And now we’ve had back-to-back bowl games, the greatest turnaround in program history, in Mid-American Conference history and the greatest in college football last year. And to be able to sustain that with the schedule we did – we called it a schedule of champions.
“(We wanted) to separate the work from the fun (on this trip). These players are very mature for as young as they are. We only have nine seniors. We are a very, very young football team…. There are a lot of things to experience here on the islands. I still have to pinch myself to say we are actually here. It’s a beautiful place. It’s probably the best place I’ve ever been to on a vacation, which you’re actually working on a vacation, which is nice.”
Both Middle Tennessee and Western Michigan enter the game with similar playing styles, featuring high-scoring offenses and challenging schedules this season.
“When you look at them, they are identical to us,” Fleck said “Their quarterback and two receivers, their offensive line, the running backs… and then their defense is kind of a no-name defense. We’re a no-name defense. We don’t have any defensive players up here (on the podium) because we just play really well collectively. We’re a very selfless team.”
“They’re a good football team, and we’re a good football team,” Rick Stockstill said. “We’ve got identical records. We’ve played an incredibly tough schedule, both of us have. They played Ohio State and Michigan State. We played Alabama, Illinois and Vanderbilt. We’re similar in that aspect. Our teams are similar in some other areas, but I think it’s just the peripheral (strength of schedule, records). I don’t think any two teams are alike physically.”
The quarterbacks on each team are excited about playing on Thursday.
“One of our big emphasizes is playing with tempo,” MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill said. “We do that all the time, but coming into this game, that’s what we’re really going to emphasize – using our speed and tempo to our advantage. We know they’re a great defense, and we’re looking forward to the challenge. We’ll just execute and see what happens.”
“It’s kind of a blessing and a curse (having so many weapons on offense) because you have to get them all the ball (laughing),” WMU quarterback Zach Terrell said. “We have such talented guys and so many of them. Obviously, it makes my job easy and then hard at the same time because you have to find creative ways to get them the ball. They’re all special. We have a very selfless team. Guys don’t get selfish. Corey Davis (for example) will block just as hard as he does running a route.”
To a man, the players on both teams have enjoyed their Popeyes Bahamas Bowl experience tremendously.
“It’s just been a great experience,” MTSU safety Kevin Byard said said. “Everyone has been great to us. All our teammates have been talking about how we’re having the time of our lives. It’s a blessing to be able to come to a different place, see different things, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity here.”
“We got (a chance) to play football with a lot of kids (at a clinic on Tuesday),” WMU receiver Corey Davis said. “For some of them, they had never played football, never heard of it, and it was a lot of fun just to see the looks on their faces. It was really a blessing (for me).”
“I had never been out of the country,” Western Michigan receiver Daniel Braverman said. “Every day I wake up and look outside my balcony I realize how blessed we are to play football in this beautiful country. One thing I really want to do is (swim) with the dolphins and we get to do that today, so I’m really excited for today.”
“It’s my first time being outside the country,” Middle Tennessee linebacker T.T. Barber said. “As a child I always wanted to come to Atlantis, and now I got the opportunity to come to Atlantis, and I’m enjoying myself. It’s been a great experience. And now I’m just ready to get this “W”.