Herd's Bazzie will feel at home
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As he witnessed all of his teammates' family reunions in Florida, Marshall defensive end Alex Bazzie wondered: Wouldn't it be great for me to play at home?
When home is Silver Spring, Md., the chances are slight. In fact, the Thundering Herd, the Big Green, the Boogercats or whatever nicknames the school has played under, have yet to set a football cleat in the Old Line State.
(Marshall College did play Western Maryland, now McDaniel College, in 1932 and 1937 in Huntington. Won one, tied one.)
That drought ends Dec. 27, when the Herd hits the field against the home-state Maryland Terrapins in the Military Bowl, contested in nearby Annapolis. Kickoff time is 2:30 p.m., with the game airing on ESPN.
Bazzie and his fellow Marylanders knew the assignment was a distinct possibility, especially after losing to Rice in the Conference USA championship game. But it didn't hit home - figuratively and literally - until the bid was offered to MU and accepted.
For Bazzie, the Herd's new destination didn't just hit home, it was a hit at home.
"It's funny because my mom called and asked, 'When you all coming here? Where are you guys going?' " he said. "To finally call and say, 'Hey, I'm coming here, I'm coming home to play a game.' She was so shocked, she kept asking questions, like, 'You sure? It's here here, not Virginia here?' I'm like, 'Yeah, Mom, it's going to be in the state of Maryland.'
"And she started laughing and said, 'It's about time.' "
Other Marshall team members hailing from Maryland are cornerback Derrick Thomas (Greenbelt) linebacker Stefan Houston (Clarksburg) and receiver Devon Smith (White Plains). Running back Essray Taliferro is from Washington.
The bowl game has moved from RFK Stadium to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, but the team hotel, practice and bowl-related festivities remain in Washington. Players are likely to see the usual landmarks such as the White House, the National Mall, etc.
Bazzie has seen many of those, whether driving around or on field trips in his school days. He's eager to share, but he's not going to be a tour guide.
"Nah, nah, nah, I'm not volunteering for that. It's not a field trip," he said. "I don't want to be anybody's chaperone, but I told the guys, 'There's going to be a lot of things you can get into, a lot of exciting views of the city.' "
Bazzie does expect a little culture shock for his teammates from Florida and other areas. The mass of humanity, even during the holiday week, could appear to be overwhelming.
"I told them, 'It's nothing you have be shy or scared about. It's going to be a little different because you're going to see a lot of people on a sidewalk at the same time,' " he said. "That's something you guys are not used to, you're not used to the buildings being so close to one another. You know, you all are a little spaced out down there in the South.'
"They all started laughing."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.