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Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Preview
Kowalski a Consistent Anchor for University of Toledo
DETROIT-- Toledo has sophomore wide receiver Eric Page as an instant scoring threat. Besides receiving, he is dangerous on returns. Page had 94 receptions on the season. Florida International had the Sun Belt Player of the Year in T.Y. Hilton. The junior wide-receiver is a scoring machine with 26 career touchdowns. Both of these players are big time and instant scoring machines. Each team has impact linebackers. The high octane offensive for both programs will establish the game winner. Look for fourth quarter time possession to determine the final outcome.
These were just some of the topics at the Little Caesars Bowl Kickoff as part of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association luncheon.
The experience to play in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl has both teams in high spirits. This was apparent by all the superlatives that the coaches and Bowl ambassadors spoke about during the kickoff presentations at Comerica Park. Like a heavyweight boxing match the game got a super build up. It all will culminate on game day, Sunday, December 26, (8:30 P.M. EST) at Ford Field and also televised nationally on ESPN.
DSBA President Will Tieman got the attention of the guests by reminding everyone that the Bowl experience is a reward for excellence. “This is a great location and Detroit will applaud and celebrate the players and visitors,” he said.
Mid-American Conference representative, Toledo (8-4) will face Florida International (6-6) of the Sun Belt Conference. FIU coach Mario Cristobal said, “I don’t smile a lot but as you can see from my smiles today, we are so happy to be here in Detroit. Our guys did the work last summer in the weight room to get here.” This will be the first Bowl game for FIU and Cristobal was Sun Belt Conference, Coach of the Year.
Student-athletes Winston Frazer from FIU, a sophomore and Toledo senior Archie Donald both linebackers were advocating for their teams. Both predicted victory.
Frazer, who had a game saving interception against the University of Louisiana-Monroe said, “That’s why we are coming, we will be focused and ready.”
Donald is a defensive specialist for the Rockets. He had 16-plus tackles
in three separate games. He will end up leading the team in tackles for three straight seasons. Another Toledo anchor is center Kevin Kowalski. The 6-4, 299, senior is a four year letterman. He has 46 consecutive starts, most on the team. He gives the Rockets a strong presence on the line.
As a head coach, this will be the first Bowl for Toledo’s Tim Beckman. He mentioned the proximity of the University of Toledo to Ford Field. “We want the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl to be a home-field advantage for us,” said Beckman. “It's a great chance for us to showcase the University of Toledo.”
Again, as an added value to spectators there will be a giant ‘Pizza Party’ at the adjacent Comerica Park.
Also, team members will serve Christmas morning breakfast at the Masonic Temple to those in need. The Bowl has partnered up with the Salvation Army. Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Executive Director, Ken Hoffman said this years charity partner is Make-A-Wish. He emphasized all the activities for visitors and the impact the Bowl has on Detroit. The team travel parties will even have a lunch at the Detroit Institute of Arts, an international cultural destination. “Besides the game, the whole Bowl experience is about enriching the players. This has become a signature event for Detroit,” said Hoffman.
As part of the Bowl national outreach, Little Caesars President, David Scrivano, announced that the Little Caesars Love Kitchen will make an appearance in Miami and Toledo. This is to provide complimentary meals for those in need. The Little Caesars Love Kitchen is a semi-truck with a pizza bakery inside so it becomes a mobile feeding station. Local Little Caesars franchise owners and company regional offices donate all food and labor costs for the Love Kitchen servings.
Scrivano also talked about the extra marketing, including a point of purchase campaign that will be going on at all Little Caesars outlets. He said, “ Little Caesars is adding enhancements to the bowl experience for the players and the fans through a national promotion. There will also be a contest and viewer participation event on the ESPN telecast.”
The FIU contingent got a walk thru at Ford Field. Frazer was awed with the sight lines as he walked next to Director of Athletics Pete Garcia. Frazer said to his group, “This is great, I can’t wait until my teammates see this stadium.”
The Rockets and Golden Panthers have played twice before, splitting and both teams losing at home. Six Toledo players made All-MAC and 12 FIU players made All-Sun Belt Conference.
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By Raymond Rolak