On the teams’ first full day in The Bahamas, both Buffalo and Charlotte gave their respective student-athletes the day off from practice as the sides approach gameday for the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl. The sixth annual collegiate football postseason game is set for Friday starting at 2 p.m. at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. It will be broadcasted on ESPN.
While the day off was already scheduled for the Charlotte 49ers, it was a surprise Tuesday morning move for the Buffalo Bulls.
“Coach showed us the practice schedule this morning and it said ‘the water park,’” Bulls’ sophomore running back Jaret Patterson said. “Guys started celebrating and jumping up. It was pretty cool that coach did that. It gives us the day off to enjoy this experience.”
Charlotte redshirt senior linebacker Jeff Gemmell said that the 49ers are also enjoying their time in The Bahamas so far.
“This place is amazing. The beaches are beautiful, so we went out to the beach for a little bit and enjoyed that and the clear water,” he said. “It’s kind of nice being in an environment like this in a tropical setting. I can keep my tank top and swim shorts on.”
Buffalo Offensive Coordinator Andy Kotelnicki discussed the importance of allowing the team to enjoy the trip while still focusing on football.
“There is a balancing act between making sure the guys are prepared and enjoying the experience. Coach [Leipold] made a good call today,” he said. “Let’s walk through real quick to make sure the guys’ minds stay fresh and make sure we are doing things the way we need to do it so the guys can enjoy this. Keep in mind that we had a long time to prepare for Charlotte. I am excited about how we have prepared.”
As the teams get closer to gameday on Friday, the coaching staff continues preparations for the game behind the scenes.
“Buffalo runs the ball… they don’t hide from it, they don’t cheat it, and you know it’s coming. I respect them for that,” Charlotte Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator Marcus West said. “Just like I can tell you what our defense has produced in rushing the passer, you can see what their offense has produced in their running backs. They run the football, and I look forward to facing the challenge of stopping them.”
Buffalo’s rushing offense ranks in the top 10 in the country, averaging more than 250 yards per game. The Bulls feature a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Patterson (1,626) and Kevin Marks (1,008), presenting a challenge for the 49ers’ defense.
Charlotte’s defensive specialty is its pass rush, averaging three sacks per game. Alex Highsmith is second in the country in sacks, becoming the program’s first-ever All-American.
“We just need to do our job. We need to worry about us and not worry about Buffalo,” 49ers’ senior defensive back Marquill Osborne said. “Our edge is very strong. Stopping the run is our strength really, and they like to run. I like the matchup.”
Buffalo also matches that confidence in its abilities.
“We feel like we match up perfectly,” junior wide receiver Antonio Nunn said. “At the end of the day it is going to be a hard battle. We are preparing our time so we can get a win.”
On Tuesday, it was all about soaking up the experience of being in The Bahamas though.
Kotelnicki said: “Many of our guys view it as a game at first. Then you get down here and your like ‘wait a second – this place is special’, and you need to step back, press pause and enjoy it. They are handling it well.”
There was a welcome reception held for the teams on Monday at the Atlantis Resort, and following an off day yesterday, student-athletes from both schools will visit the Ranfurly Homes for Children on Wednesday. That will be followed by the youth football clinic on the fields adjacent to the old Thomas A. Robinson Stadium for youth from ages 7-13. The clinic is being staged by USA Football in conjunction with the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl and the Commonwealth American Football League (CAFL) and is sponsored by KFC.