New game site fits with Military Bowl mission
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In its sixth edition, the Military Bowl is still anchored to the nation's capital. But on game day this week, the festivities will float on over to the U.S. Naval Academy for the first time.
Playing in the program's 11th bowl game, Marshall players and coaches are arriving in Washington today to prepare for its game Friday afternoon against Maryland. Kickoff time is 2:30 p.m., with ESPN televising.
The previous five games were contested in RFK Stadium, former home of the Washington Redskins, Nationals and, for those who remember that far back, the Senators. Like every other tenant save for Major League Soccer's D.C. United, the bowl found another place to play.
The new playing venue, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial State, is 28 miles away in Annapolis, Maryland's capital city. The site fits in very well with the bowl's adopted military theme, for certain, and the 34,000-seat capacity is a better fit.
"That was the primary reason, the military [venue] ties perfectly into our mission to support and show respect for our armed services," said Steve Beck, the game's president and executive director. "It's a better-sized stadium for the level of game that we are."
Only the 2010 game, Maryland's 51-20 win over East Carolina, had a gate that would have exceeded capacity in Annapolis. That was 38,794, well ahead of the 23,682 average attendance for the other four games. Last year's San Jose State-Bowling Green matchup drew a bowl-low 17,835.
That won't happen this time around, as the Military brings in a built-in home team in the Terrapins. "They should go through their allotment of 10,000. A lot of Maryland fans are buying tickets through us this week, too," Beck said.
The bowl activities will take place in the District, starting with Marshall's arrival at about 6 p.m. today at the Renaissance Washington DC Downtown Hotel, 999 Ninth St. NW. That's also the designated fan hotel and will house a temporary MU ticket office, of sorts.
Marshall will tour the U.S. Capitol Tuesday morning and take a bus tour of the monuments and the Mall the next night. On Tuesday night, both teams will attend Tom DeLuca's comedy/hypnotism show.
The Thundering Herd will practice both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School in nearby Alexandria, Va. Maryland needs no home away from home, with its campus a few Boomer Esiason bombs from the District's border.
There are no exact details on what security fans may see Friday - hey, this is a Navy facility - but the bowl does have Secret Service representation. No joke: William H. Davis Jr., special agent in charge of the Vice President Protection Division, is on the Board of Directors.
Clemson fans know him as Billy Davis, a free safety on the 1981 national championship Tigers. He ranks second in school history in punt-return yardage.
Other names you may know: Former NBA great and congressman Tom McMillen, a Maryland grad who is chairman and CEO of Homeland Security Corp.; Rear Admiral (Ret.) Thomas Lynch; and David Garnett, founder and president of iAM Solutions.
Lynch was a center/inside linebacker and team captain on Navy's 1963 Cotton Bowl team. Garnett scored a touchdown in Pitt's 36-35 win over West Virginia in 1970 - "He was No. 33 before Tony Dorsett was No. 33," Beck noted.
What about the weather, you say? After all, the wintertime clime of this particular bowl is a major reason many Marshall fans are taking a pass.
Two bits of good forecast news: It will be sunny, and it could be warmer than it was at kickoff for the Conference USA championship game at Houston. Not by much, but conditions could be worse than sunny and 39 degrees at this time of year.
After a lousy, shower-filled arrival today, the teams will be blessed with sunshine for Tuesday and Wednesday practices. The game-day temperature will fall in line with the other EagleBank/Military Bowls, five of six played in low-40s chill.
The weather at kickoff of the Marshall-Rice game Dec. 7 was cloudy, with a kickoff temperature of just 37.
Tickets remain on sale through Marshall at herdzone.com, with seats in the lower level going for $77. Buyers will have to pick them up in Washington or Annapolis.
MU officials will open a will-call at the Renaissance at the following hours: 6-8 p.m. today, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and 5-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, and 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday. Tickets will be available for purchase at those times, as well.
On Friday, tickets can be picked up at the visiting team will-call window, at the North Gate of the stadium, beginning at noon.
CORRECTION: Rakeem Cato's streak of games with one or more touchdown passes has reached 31 games - the last six of 2011, 12 of 2012 and 13 this season. A story in the Sunday Gazette-Mail shorted the Miami native one game.
Military Bowl results
(Game known as Congressional Bowl at founding, EagleBank Bowl 2008-09)
Date Score Att Weather
Dec. 20, 2008 Wake Forest 29, Navy 19 28,777 Cloudy, 40
Dec. 29, 2009 UCLA 30, Temple 21 23,072 Windy, 30
Dec. 29, 2010 Maryland 51, East Carolina 20 38,794 Sunny, 44
Dec. 28, 2011 Toledo 42, Air Force 41 25,042 Sunny, brisk, 43
Dec. 27, 2012 San Jose State 29, Bowling Green 20 17,835 Cloudy, windy, 43
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.