Dave Clawson’s trip to the Military Bowl as coach of Bowling Green in 2012 helped cement in his mind where he wanted the Deacs to go bowling in 2016, then the Wake administration went to work to make it happen.
In the end, it was Wake’s desire to play in Annapolis that set it apart from Boston College and North Carolina State — the two other ACC teams in contention for the spot.
“I think the biggest thing was the feeling we got that Wake Forest really wanted to come,” Military Bowl executive director Steve Beck said about what set the Deacs apart. “If you saw the emotion of the kids when they saw they were going to the Military Bowl — I don’t know that we would have gotten that from the other two schools this year that were available to us at that time.
“Plus, another thing, Wake is not far away and they haven’t been to a bowl game since 2011. I think they might be a little bit hungry. They’re a team on the way up. The bowl game is on the incline and so is Wake Forest. We’re hoping and thinking that we have them at the right time. The biggest thing, though, was just their desire to come here.”
Clawson said he and his staff shared their experience in Annapolis in 2012 with the players.
“We’re absolutely thrilled, excited and honored that we’ve been invited by the Military Bowl to play in this year’s game. The major goal of ours this year was to get to a bowl game, and we made progress going from three wins to six,” he said. “From personal experience, in 2012 when I was a coach at Bowling Green, we played in the Military Bowl and just had an absolutely great experience. It’s extremely well-run. There’s lots of great activities for our players. When our team found out this was where we were going, in the Military Bowl, they were extremely excited. We’re excited about the bowl experience, and it’s going to be a very challenging game.”
When considered with the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, this was an excellent outcome for the Deacs. Closer trip for fans, they’re playing a ranked opponent and they’re also playing in a fairly hot recruiting area where they’ve done well in recent years.
“We have a number of guys from the DMV area: Marquel Lee, Cam Serigne, Scotty Washington, Dionte Austin and Dom Maggio,” Clawson said. “It’s a great game for our fanbase. Certainly the ability of the Wake Forest fan base to get to DC and when it is, makes it a much better trip too. I shared with the team, and our staff who was with me at Bowling Green shared with the team, the experience we had in the Military Bowl and what a good bowl it was.
“I think this was the one they were really hoping to get, and judging from the reaction, that was true. They read all the projections and all the different places we could go. This was the one we really wanted to get. Again, we would have been thrilled with wherever we ended up. We’re excited to be back in a bowl, but this was probably our players’ first choice.”
The 10-3 Temple Owls, champions of the American Athletic Conference, will present a pretty incredible test for the Deacs.
“We also love the challenge of our opponents. We get to a bowl game, and get to play a 10-win championship team. That’s a challenge I think our players are looking forward to,” Clawson said. “Temple has had an outstanding year. Matt Rhule had done an outstanding job building that program. They’re the champions of the AAC, and a 10-win team. They have the No. 3 defensive team in the country and are very physical on offense. It’ll be a very challenging game for us, but we look forward to it.”