Three area college football teams learned their bowl destinations Sunday afternoon. Two of them are staying in the region to renew a formerly long-standing series.
Virginia and Navy are set to meet in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. The programs have played one another 39 times, most recently in 1994.
On the same day, 22nd-ranked Virginia Tech faces No. 19 Oklahoma State in Orlando in the Camping World Bowl. The Hokies are making their 25th consecutive bowl appearance.
The Cavaliers (6-6), under second-year Coach Bronco Mendenhall, are making their first bowl appearance since 2011. The Midshipmen (6-5) are making their 14th bowl appearance in 15 years and playing in the Military Bowl for the third time in the bowl game’s 10-year history.
“I think simply it means just a tangible symbol of progress,” Mendenhall said of the Cavaliers’ second bowl appearance since 2009. “There’s a certain benchmark that bowl eligibility means and the recognition of that, especially in the ACC and especially coaching a program that hasn’t had recent success. It revitalizes. It gains momentum. ”
Said Midshipmen Coach Ken Niumatalolo: “I think it’s exciting for the DMV. Excited for two schools in the area both being bowl eligible. Excited for us. Excited for Virginia. We have great respect for their school, their program, their players and coaching staff. This will be fun.”
There are several coaching ties between Navy and Virginia, most notably George Welsh. The former Navy quarterback coached both schools, retiring as the all-time winningest coach in Virginia history during his tenure there from 1982 through 2000.
Welsh served as Navy coach from 1973 through 1981, winning 55 games, at the time the most in program history. Niumatalolo since has surpassed that mark.
In addition, Midshipmen assistant coach Shaun Nua, who’s responsible for the defensive line, also was named to Mendenhall’s staff in the same capacity in December 2015 when Niumatalolo was considering a move to Brigham Young. Nua eventually came back to Annapolis when Niumatalolo decided to remain at Navy.
“We are thrilled to renew this regional matchup in our 10th anniversary game,” Military Bowl Executive Director Steve Beck said. “Navy and Coach Ken Niumatalolo annually show that they deserve a place in college football’s upper echelon, and we are happy to welcome back Virginia to the postseason.”
The Hokies (9-3) have been a regular participant in the bowl season with the third-longest streak in major college football history behind Nebraska (35) and Michigan (33).
Virginia Tech, which finished second in the ACC Coastal Division, goes back to the site of last year’s ACC championship game at Camping World Stadium, where it lost to Clemson, 42-35. The Tigers went on to win the national championship.
It will be the third meeting all-time between Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State (9-3), which finished third in the Big 12 behind a formidable passing attack. Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph leads Division I in passing yards (4,553) and is tied for fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing touchdowns (35).
“I’ve seen them on television a couple times just in passing, in a bye week or whatever. Explosive offensively,” Hokies second-year Coach Justin Fuente said. “Great quarterback, running game and wide receivers but still efficient defensively. They’re kind of the things that come to my mind.
“Obviously I haven’t studied them in-depth, but like I said, I got to watch them on television a couple times. They’re kind of incredibly explosive there offensively.”
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