Notes: Bowl feel, belly flops and all-stars

After ending the season Dec. 5 and dealing with exams and papers and academics the last week, the feeling of a bowl game is finally hitting Rutgers after arriving in Florida. But the quick turnaround also has given very little time for the seniors to think about their last game in college. And, with bowl games come events, and there is an interesting one scheduled for Thursday.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Bye week or bowl game?

With Rutgers ending the regular season Dec. 5 and playing Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl two weeks later, many players said it had the feel of a continuation of the regular season.

That changed, though, when the players arrived on the Gulf Coast on Tuesday afternoon.

"It was below 50 degrees in New Jersey and you get off the plane and it's 80 degrees,'' Rutgers safety Zaire Kitchen said following Wednesday's practice. "The weather is nice, the hotel is beautiful that we're staying in. The area is really nice. The whole experience of being here the first two days is good.''

And with the quick turnaround from the West Virginia game, and the academic work load facing the Scarlet Knights, many of whom are engrossed in writing papers and readying for exams when they return home, it hasn't given the seniors much time to think about this being the last game of their college career.

"I remember Jamal Westerman told me last year that you're never going to have a family like this, so I keep that in mind,'' Rutgers defensive end George Johnson said. "I know once you leave here, your teammates are not going to be the same. If you're doing well working for a corporate company, or if you're in the NFL, it's not going to be the same atmosphere you have in the locker room with your teammates.''

Kitchen acknowledged his battered body couldn't handle anymore football after this season, but it hasn't really hit him his football career will end shortly.

"I haven't really thought about it being my last game,'' Kitchen said. "I'm still trying to build up my reps in practice. I haven't thought about it being my last game, or what the score of the game is going to be.''

Flip floppin'
One of the events during Thursday's Beach Bash is a belly-flop contest with members from each team.

"I won't be a part of that,'' Kitchen said. "I'm not belly-flopping.''

So, who is Rutgers' best candidate for it?

"Caleb Ruch,'' Kitchen said. "He's a big guy. We do some pool training. He jumps in the pool. I could see him winning that competition.''

Tough ticket? Rutgers cornerback and Florida native David Rowe said he may need more than a dozen tickets for the bowl game, and many of the Florida players on the Scarlet Knights' roster are scrambling to fill ticket requests.

Then, there is Johnson, who is from Glassboro, N.J.

"Nobody's coming,'' he said. "It's too close to Christmas and it costs too much, so nobody's going to make it. It's ok, though, because they came for Senior Day. I just wanted them to come for my last home game.''

All-star backdrop
So far, three Scarlet Knights have been selected to play in post-season senior all-star games.

Cornerback Devin McCourty and right tackle Kevin Haslam were invited to the East-West Shrine Game and Johnson was invited to play the Texas vs. the Nation all-star game.

However, none are thinking about those games right now.

"I'm just thinking about this game because if I start thinking ahead, it's going to mess me up,'' Johnson said.


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