Freedom of Military Bowl week could prove a distraction for Terps, players say

December 11, 2013

(Associated Press).

Only three current Maryland football players participated in the 2010 Military Bowl against East Carolina, though 16 more were redshirting that season. But they all recall the week’s trappings, from video games while staying at the Renaissance Hotel, to tickets for Wizards and Capitals games, to dinner at the swanky Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said cornerback Jeremiah Johnson, a redshirt in 2010. “Being with your team a whole week, spending the time with them, getting to stay at hotels, stuff like that. It’s a real exciting experience.”

But bowl week, which begins Dec. 23 when Maryland checks into the Mayflower Hotel for this year’s Military Bowl, can also distract from the ultimate task at hand – one final football game against Marshall. With final exams concluding the week before, the players have plenty of free time to wander around Washington, checking out restaurants and tourist attractions and whatnot. Community events and monument visits are planned, as well.

“I think it could be [a distraction],” quarterback C.J. Brown said of the run-up to the Dec. 27 game in Annapolis. “If you let your mind wander, if you don’t know the day-to-day process of what you need to do and focus, making sure you’re in on time at night with curfew, not getting wrapped up in the whole bowl week. There’s so many things going on, so many opportunities to explore the city in D.C., and the free time. You’re not living in a dorm. You’re staying in a nice hotel, getting all this nice food and making sure you’re staying on top of your game.”

In some ways, the team hotel can morph into a swankier dormitory, with doors creaked open and players shuffling between rooms at will for video game tournaments and conversation. The Terps will still practice in College Park but spend their nights downtown. They began studying Marshall’s film on Tuesday while balancing the prospect of upcoming final exams.

“Yeah, there aren’t a lot of guys who have been to a bowl before,” linebacker Cole Farrand said. “It’s definitely an adjustment, because usually at this time I’m preparing for finals, but now you’ve got a bowl game to get ready for, too, so it presents us challenges. Coach [Randy] Edsall’s helping us out as best as he can with the schedule. I think everyone’s adjusting pretty well.”

Bowl week may seem like vacation, the veterans said, until Christmas Eve rolls around and emotions take over. For many young players, it may be their first holiday season away from their families.

“Anytime you miss a holiday, it’s definitely tough, especially with guys who aren’t local, where the families can’t come to the hotel and see them,” Brown said. “The guys from Florida, California, the Carolinas or even Pennsylvania. Maybe four hours is too far to travel. It’s definitely tough to be away from the family on a holiday like that. It’s the price you pay when you want to go to a bowl game. You’ve got to think, it’s only one year. You only get to do this for so many times in your life. There will be a lot more holidays to spend with your family.”

Of course, receiving a PlayStation 4 as part of their Military Bowl gift packages probably helps alleviate the sadness.

“I’m sure there are a lot of bowls who are jealous,” Brown said.

>> Defensive line coach Greg Gattuso was announced as the University of Albany’s new head coach on Tuesday, but said he will finish out his tenure at Maryland by coaching in the Military Bowl.

>> Freshman place kicker Adam Greene was honored by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame (NFF) as a high school scholar athlete. Greene earned 43 college credit hours at Broadneck High School, where he posted a 4.52 weighted GPA and also set the state record for career field goals (27).

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · December 10, 2013

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