Although the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl will not take place on Christmas, the University of Miami football team would certainly have no problem waiting a few extra days for the team’s biggest Christmas wish of all – a bowl win.
On Christmas Eve, the Hurricanes returned to the practice field for the first time since Thursday as they began their final days of bowl game preparation for their matchup against West Virginia.
Miami is holding its bowl practices at Celebration High School, a location head coach Mark Richt is very familiar with in his previous bowl visits to Orlando.
“Great facility, great people at Celebration High School,” Richt said. “I was here one of those years with Georgia, we came here as well. They really made a lot of great improvements. Just to be able to practice on the field turf field makes a lot of sense since the game is going to be on one.”
Richt certainly knows what it takes to be successful in bowl games, as he owns a 9-5 career record in bowl games with his five losses coming by seven points-or-fewer.
Following practice on Saturday, the first-year Miami head coach was pleased with the team’s mindset following a travel day.
“I thought the guys came back with a good attitude,” Richt said. “I say ‘came back’, but we only had one day off. But when you travel, and you change the venue and you change the practice field and you change where you meet, all those things are a little bit different. I thought the focus was good.”
For junior defensive lineman Trent Harris, Miami’s trip to Orlando is a homecoming of sorts for the Winterpark, Fla., native.
“It’s awesome,” Harris said. “I’m about to meet with my family in a couple minutes. It’s awesome to be able to play football and be around my family at the same time.”
Harris, who played in all 12 games for the Hurricanes this season and posted 9.5 tackles for loss, will have plenty of family members in Orlando during bowl week. During his post practice media session, Harris thanked his teammates for giving up their game tickets, so he could give them to his family.
“A lot of teammates were generous and gave them to me. I have a lot of family, pretty much my whole family is here. My mom and dad both have four brothers each, so I have a lot of family down here. It’s been pretty crazy, but I think I have enough.”
Despite being near many of his family members, Harris has remained focused on preparing for West Virginia.
“We have practice in the morning, so I’m going to be focused on football all though the morning. But we have some free time after that so I think I’m going to be able to go home and open presents with my family for the first time in three years. That should be exciting.”
This week’s bowl festivities are the first for several Miami student-athletes, including freshman Shaquille Quarterman, who had no problem voicing his excitement in Orlando during his post-practice media session.
“Russell [Athletic Bowl] has done an extremely good job with us and they’re treating us like we’re somebody special,” Quarterman said. “It’s going really well. I am looking forward to all the events. The Best Buy thing was pretty cool and the hotel is as nice as any hotel I’ve ever been to.”