BOWLING GREEN — Matt Schilz turned into a comedian when he was asked what made playing in a bowl game so important.
“We don’t have to see relatives and stuff, so that’s going to be nice,” Schilz deadpanned.
Schilz admitted he was kidding about missing Christmas as he and the rest of the Bowling Green State University football team prepare to play in the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop Grumman.
The Falcons travel to Washington, D.C., today to begin final preparations for their contest against San Jose State to be played at RFK Stadium starting at 3 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re going to be with all the guys you spend all your time with anyway, so that’s going to be fun,” he said. “It’s going to be great to play another game in a great environment.
“Who wouldn’t get excited about that?”
That’s just one of the reasons the Falcons are excited about their first bowl appearance in three seasons. One of the things that excited coach Dave Clawson and his staff was the opportunity to get extra practice time.
“We had six practices that were almost like spring practice,” Clawson said when asked about his bowl practice schedule. “When you are preparing for a game [during the season] your starters get 60 to 70 percent of the reps, and your [second team players] get 30 to 40 percent of the reps.
“The great thing about those first six practices is we got a chance to give our ‘threes’ reps. Guys that we hope help us next year got some working running our offense and our defense. And I think there’s a cumulative benefit to that.”
Clawson said that’s especially valuable for a young team that has just two senior starters on defense and one on offense.
“I think a lot of our improvement this year didn’t just happen this year,” he said. “It happened because of the accumulation of reps.
“We had five practices this [past] week, and we’ll have two more practices at the site. That’s another 18 hours of practice our guys get that they wouldn’t get if they weren’t in a bowl.”
Clawson didn’t seem concerned about the break of more than a month between his team’s last game on Nov. 23 and the Military Bowl.
“I think our players needed [the break],” Clawson said. “I think when you go 12 straight games you can get tired. Our players had finals, so it was great to give them that time off for finals week to concentrate on schoolwork. I expect our team to come out fresh and excited and ready to work.”
Bowling Green held five practices this past week with a focus on being ready for the game before traveling to Washington D.C.
“This [past] week we really went hard,” he said. “That way, once we get to D.C. our players get to enjoy the bowl experience.
“We really front-loaded the preparation so that they can enjoy the tour of the Capitol and the monuments.”
Players and coaches alike said the bowl game gives the team more time together before losing its senior members to graduation.
“One of the reasons that we’ve won this year is because we have a cohesive lockerroom,” Clawson said. “We have a football team that enjoys spending time with each other, and when you get to spend five days together as a football family it continues to build the chemistry and cohesion.”
Unlike regular season games, where there is a limit on the number of players on the travel roster, the entire BG team gets to travel to the bowl game.
“Our freshmen and our redshirts who were on the scout team, this is their reward, too,” Clawson said. “They get to go to the bowl, they get the same goodie bag and tours and meals. We get to include everybody in the program.”
Oh, and freshman wide receiver Chris Gallon remembered one other benefit of playing in a bowl game.
“The gifts,” he said. “We’re going to get an iPad, and that’s a great Christmas gift.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.