Miami Beach Bowl: Tulsa vs Central Michigan on Marlins’ turf
MIAMI (AP) — Marlins Park is considered pitcher friendly, meaning it’s tough to score there during baseball season.
Football games there are a bit different.
The first two Miami Beach Bowls have seen scoring sprees, and the third edition might provide another when Tulsa (9-3) meets Central Michigan (6-6) on Monday afternoon on a converted baseball field that the Miami Marlins call home.
Tulsa averaged 522.5 yards and 41.4 points a game this season and will be facing Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush — who comes into his final college game with 12,653 career passing yards, more than any other active major college player. He is 253 yards shy of becoming the all-time leader in the Mid-American Conference.
“Excited about our opponent,” Tulsa coach Phillip Montgomery said. “Excited about the opportunity to represent our university in Miami. Excited about getting into warm weather.”
Central Michigan comes into this game having dropped four of its last five.
Both teams like the perk of finishing the season in balmy Miami — it was 9 degrees in Tulsa on Sunday morning, 14 degrees on Central Michigan’s campus and a breezy 81 at their bowl site — but neither coach thought his team would slip into vacation mode.
“This is a great reward for our team but it’s a business trip,” Chippewas coach John Bonamego said. “We have to keep that in mind. It’s OK to have some fun but we have to make sure that our work and the football stuff comes first.”
Some things to know for Monday’s game:
LOTS OF POINTS: Games at Marlins Park have not been thrilling for defensive coordinators. Scores of the first two Miami Beach Bowls — Memphis topped BYU 55-48 in 2014, and Western Kentucky beat South Florida 45-35 last year.
WELCOME HOME: Both teams have one player on the roster from Florida. Central Michigan has freshman fullback Oakley Lavallii, from Boca Raton — about an hour north of Marlins Park. Tulsa offensive lineman Alex Pagonis is from Gulf Breeze, about as far away from Miami as one can get and still be in the state. Gulf Breeze is roughly a 700-mile drive from Miami, just slightly farther than the drive is to Tulsa from there. But this game is a return of sorts for Tulsa defensive coordinator Bill Young, who had that role for the University of Miami in 2008, and Bonamego — an assistant with the Miami Dolphins from 2008 through 2010.
GOING FOR 10: Tulsa is looking for its 10th bowl win, and 10th 10-win season. The Golden Hurricane are 9-11 in their past bowl appearances, and could hit the double-digit win mark for the first time since winning 11 games in 2011.
LOOKING BACK: Central Michigan got to bowl eligibility in part because of its disputed win at Oklahoma State in September. The Chippewas were erroneously awarded an untimed down after time expired, and Central Michigan turned that play into a Hail Mary pass that was caught and then lateraled for a touchdown. Tulsa had a dramatic win as well, rallying from 31-0 down to beat Fresno State 48-41 in overtime.
PRACTICE TIME: Playing one of the earlier bowls on the schedule left both teams scrambling a bit to get as many practices as they could in for this game. Bowl-bound teams can get up to 15 extra practices, though both Tulsa and Central Michigan had to maneuver around final exams. “It’s still much, much better than the alternative, which is not practicing at all,” Bonamego said.