When it comes to college football bowls, the Military Bowl in Annapolis may not seem like the most exciting of opportunities for Maryland, with the game a short bus ride away.
Not to mention that the Dec. 27 date means the Terps will spend Christmas away from their families as they prepare to play Marshall.
But these concerns prove to be advantages for both the program and the players, Terps coach Randy Edsall said at a news conference at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
"Our players, when they found out that we were coming here, they were very excited for the opportunity that they were going to have to play another game, to play it here in the Navy-Marine Corps stadium, here in the city of Annapolis, and also be able to have their family and their friends not have to travel real far to see them play," Edsall said. "They'd much rather be here enjoying this with their teammates than not being here and not having the opportunity."
Although the Terps (7-5) will have to spend Christmas away from their families when they report Dec. 23 for the week, many of them have family members and friends from the area who will attend the game. And with the spring semester not starting until Jan. 27, there will be plenty of time to celebrate the holidays at home after the bowl is over, Edsall said.
Plus, the players have gifts to be excited about already: Both teams will receive PlayStation 4 video game consoles for participating in the bowl.
"I know all my kids are talking about the gifts they're getting here for this bowl. I think this is the No. 1 gift bowl," said Marshall coach Doc Holliday.
The coaches said their players are also excited for the opportunity to take free time to explore Washington, D.C., during the bowl week. But Holliday agreed that the real reward is the opportunity to play in late December, something Holliday said college football players work every day of the year for.
But that reward will involve plenty of work in itself. Each coach spoke highly of the other's team and the challenges they will face in the matchup, although neither has had much time to watch tape of the other's team because they've been out recruiting recently.
"I just knew that when we were going to play Marshall, I said 'We've got a tough row to hoe here' because, again, I know what kind of coach he is," Edsall said. "It's always a dogfight, it's always tough, and they're not going to beat themselves; if you're going to win, you have to go win the game. They're not going to give it to you."
The Terps recovered from a series of significant injuries this season and overcame a stretch of four losses in five games, experiences that Edsall said helped his players understand they can work as a team and win without key players.
Despite the difficulties the Terps have faced this season, they have an opportunity to make what Edsall said is an important step for his program and come away with the team's first bowl game win since 2010.
"I just feel great for our kids," Edsall said. "It's a reward for their hard work and perseverance that they put in, and our team has been through a lot this year in terms of injuries, injuries to a lot of key people, but what they did is they stuck together as a team and just kept working and clawing and fighting and got themselves in a situation where they're here."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun