With the way the college bowl system is set up these days, it seems that anyone can make it to a bowl game. In total, 70 teams ultimately play in a variation of a bowl game, whether it be the LittleCeasars.com bowl or the BCS National Championship Game.
Despite the call for fewer bowl games, bowls give players, coaches and fans a trip they'll always remember. Such is the case for Minooka graduate Zach Colvin, who took place in the Military Bowl in Washington D.C on Dec. 27 against San Jose State. Unfortunately for Colvin's Bowling Green Falcons, they were on the losing end of a 29-20 outcome to the Spartans.
"It was a big test for our program playing a team from out west that we really hadn't seen before," Colvin said. "Nether of us had played a team like each other, so it was a fun game. Obviously it was close all the way to the end."
Former coaches of Colvin's were impressed to see the sophomore out on the field that Thursday evening, playing in front of millions people on ESPN.
"It is always awesome to be able to watch your former players compete on the next level. It was doubly enjoyable and rewarding watching Zach play in a college bowl game," former Minooka head football coach Bert Kooi said.
Although it wasn't the result Bowling Green wanted, Colvin still found time to enjoy everything else around the big bowl game.
"Honestly the coolest part of everything was being in Washington D.C. I had never been there so the whole thing was pretty neat," Colvin said. "Being able to see all the great things in D.C and the guided tour of the Capitol Building was really just he fun part of the whole trip."
This was the first time Colvin, a sophomore, had ever gone through a bowl season before where he had to get ready for a game. The season prior, his freshman year, the Falcons went 5-7, missing out on playing in a bowl game by one win.
This season was much different, though, as by week nine Bowling Green had already clinched a bowl spot. The season started by almost upsetting Florida in Gainsville, but the Falcons ended up dropping a tough 27-14 game to the Gators. Despite that loss, Bowling Green ended up going 8-3 in the regular season, falling one game short of playing for the MAC title.
With nearly a month between their final regular season game against Buffalo and their bowl game vs the 24th-ranked Spartans, there was a lot of time off for the Falcons.
"After our final game of the season, we actually had some time away from football so we could finish up finals and what not," Colvin said. "Then after that we had a couple days to go home, decompress and get our minds right."
After a week off, though, it was back to work for Bowling Green.
"We had two solid weeks of practice, which was almost like a training camp for us. Then with about a week before the bowl game, we put in our final details before flying out to D.C for the game," Colvin said.
With less than a week left before the game, Colvin and the Falcons put in there final preparations for their ensuing battle against San Jose State. As the game approached, Colvin started feeling the anticipation rise, not only from himself but from his fellow teams.
"It's a big deal to all of us since we're the only game on and it's on ESPN," Colvin said. "There were millions of people watching that game, and we realized it gave ourselves time to show people what Bowling Green football is all about."
Colvin, although he didn't start, played about half of the bowl game, recording a tackle for loss.
"Even though Zach, through his persistence and hard work, was responsible for his success, it was still a very, very proud moment knowing this young man, playing in front of millions on national TV, was a part of your team just two years earlier," Kooi said.
Not all hope is gone, though, as it seems that the Falcons could be poised to make a run at the MAC title next year. With Northern Illinois playing in the Orange Bowl this past year, anything is possible if you can grab that MAC championship.
"As a team, we realize that we're going to better as we are returning 10 of 11 defense. And the one guy that is graduating is the guy in front of me," Colvin said. "That creates an opening for me to step in and help carry this program to the next level where we keep continuing to go to bowl games and winning MAC titles."
"Zach works extremely hard. So, I have no doubt he will be even bigger and stronger next season. I can't imagine him getting off the ball any quicker. I thought he physically handled most if not all he lined up against this past season," Kooi added. "I'm sure with the additional time spent with his teammates and segment coaches he will improve his escape moves and pass rushing skill. This will be the off season we will see the most growth. He saw a lot of playing time last year. Zach has a much better feel for his strengths and weaknesses, as do his coaches. As good a year as he had, look out for next year."