Dec. 15, 2006
ATHENS, Ohio - The Ohio football team got back to work on Friday afternoon, strapping on helmets and shoulder pads for the first time since the MAC Championship Game on Nov. 30. Friday's practice was the first of nine practices and 13 total workout sessions scheduled before the Bobcats square off with Southern Miss in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 7.
The first day back was spent getting back to basics. During the grind of preparing for a game each week with limited time, fundamentals can often take a backseat to installing the game plan and scouting the next opponent. One of the benefits of the extra practice time is the ability to reinforce the little things that can contribute to a team's success.
"Right now, were not necessarily concentrating on scheme things," senior offensive tackle Matt Coppage said. "We're getting more in depth on technique and assignments - smaller things that you don't get to concentrate on that much during the year. Now that we have a little bit extra time, it's a great time to be focusing on those kinds of things."
With their longest layoff since the start of the season, the Bobcats had to readjust to what had become their way of life for four months. Friday's experience reminded some players of that first day of practice back in August.
"It was almost like starting all over again," senior wide receiver Will Norwood said. "We had to knock off the cobwebs from our time off. It's something new, but it is a good experience to have."
"It felt good," senior offensive tackle Matt Coppage said. "This being my last game, I started to kind of fool myself there a little bit sitting around for two weeks not having anything to do, but it felt good to get back out and move around a little bit."
Even without practicing for two weeks, the players were expected to remain focused on the task at hand. Strength and conditioning coach Sonny Sano prepared a workout program for the team that allowed them to stay in shape, but at the same time take care some nagging injuries from the school-record 13-game season.
The Bobcats had their seven-game winning streak snapped in their last outing against Central Michigan in Detroit. While the loss was certainly tough on players, coaches and fans, getting another chance to step on the field could go a long way to healing those wounds.
"That (the loss) was a tough thing to swallow," Norwood said. "We want to end the season on a good note and have the young guys for next year be able to start with some good momentum."
That one more chance to end the year on a positive will be the final collegiate outing for the Bobcat seniors. For some, the two weeks provided a glimpse of life without football. For others, the thought has not even crossed their mind.
"I haven't thought about that," Norwood said. "The time I'll think about that is when the clock says zero. When the game is over, that's when I'll think about it being my last game. Right now, I'm still in the season so everything is rolling on."
Information on tickets and travel packages for the game is available by visiting the GMAC Bowl Central page or by calling the Ohio Athletics Ticket Office at 1-800-575-CATS. Ohio Athletics has also set up a donation system for fans to purchase tickets to the game for use by three Mobile-area community organizations.