SAN ANTONIO — College football coaches and players say they try to approach every game with the same winning mentality. But staying focused can be a challenge before bowl games, when the season is almost over and sponsors fill the week with distractions.
Alamo Bowl participants Missouri and Northwestern went to Sea World on Friday. They had a fiesta dinner on Saturday. There are luncheons, balls and pep rallies throughout the week, plus free time at night in San Antonio.
Missouri (9-4) vs. Northwestern (9-3)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday
WHERE: San Antonio
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM
“As soon as we’re done with meetings and practice, it’s vacation,” Tigers defensive lineman Stryker Sulak said.
The teams practice from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Select players and coaches speak at press conferences afterward. When business is through, players can see the sites, spend time with their families or even go out to bars. But Sulak said players know not to push the limit.
“We’re representing the university when we go out, so we think about that,” Sulak said. “Everybody has been good.”
The Tigers had free reign on Friday night, but they had an 11 p.m. curfew Saturday.
Defensive lineman Ziggy Hood said the team’s schedule clearly separates football and leisure time. Morning practices keep players focused, he said.
“The coaches do a good job of making sure football doesn’t interfere with play and play doesn’t interfere with football,” Hood said.
SEA WORLD SMACKDOWN: Even the biggest Tigers are no match for a walrus. Defensive tackles Ziggy Hood and Jaron Baston and offensive linemen Colin Brown and Ryan Madison lost a sit-up competition to a female walrus as part of pre-Alamo Bowl activities at Sea World on Friday in San Antonio.
“It was bigger than all four of us put together,” Hood said. “I don’t know how she does it. That walrus had a six-pack.”
Perhaps the four biggest Missouri players should have suspected something when they were chosen to feed the 2,000-pound walrus, but they did not realize they would be challenged to a crunches competition until they got on stage.
Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon said his teammates couldn’t keep up with the walrus, who easily did more than 20 sit-ups while the players struggled.
“If it was Tommy, he probably would have beat it,” Weatherspoon said, referring to Missouri wide receiver Tommy Saunders, known as the biggest gym buff on the team.
TIGERS, WILDCATS PLAY NICE: At least until game day, interactions between Missouri and Northwestern players have been friendly, defensive lineman Brock Christopher said.
Players from each team see each other often around San Antonio, and several Alamo Bowl events bring the teams together, too. But Christopher said there’s no animosity.
“You just kind of walk by and say hi,” Christopher said.
No stare downs, glares or growls? No smack talk or other intimidation tactics?
Not for the Wildcats, he says.
“It’d be different if it was KU or OU, one of the teams we really hate,” Christopher said. “There’s not a lot of rivalry with Northwestern.”