University of Miami coach Mark Richt on tonight’s win
The Miami Hurricanes will be spending Christmas in New York City.
In an unexpected announcement Sunday, Miami was selected to play in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium for the first time. The Hurricanes are set to square off in the Bronx against the Wisconsin Badgers at 5:15 p.m. on Dec. 27 in a rematch of the Orange Bowl last year.
The game should draw well, giving UM’s substantial Northeast alumni base an opportunity to watch Miami in person. Last year, Wisconsin beat Miami to end the season at Hard Rock Stadium. The Hurricanes also lost to the Badgers in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl, now the Camping World Bowl, in Orlando.
“It’s big for a lot of reasons,” coach Mark Richt said on a teleconference following the announcement Sunday. “We know Wisconsin is a very good team, playing them last year. We didn’t get it done, so we know they’re an outstanding team and we believe we are, too. So I believe it will be a great matchup.”
Miami (7-5, 4-4 Atlantic Coast) is going for just its second bowl win since 2006. The Hurricanes beat the West Virginia Mountaineers in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl and lost to the Badgers last season. Wisconsin (7-5, 5-4 Big 10) is on a four-game bowl winning streak and hasn’t missed the postseason since 2001. Before they won the Orange Bowl last season, the Badgers also beat the Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl in 2015, the Southern California Trojans in the Holiday Bowl in 2015 and the Western Michigan Broncos in the Cotton Bowl in 2016.
Most, including Miami athletic director Blake James, anticipated the Hurricanes would likely play in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 31 in Jacksonville. Most bowl projections had the Syracuse Orange slotted into the Pinstripe Bowl, but Syracuse was picked for the Camping World Bowl, which caused the reshuffling among the Pinstripe Bowl, Gator Bowl, Belk Bowl and Sun Bowl.
“There isn’t any specific order in what they pick,” James said on the teleconference Sunday. “It’s really the bowls coming together and really working with each other to figure what’s the best scenario for the four bowls. Obviously, with us being in Florida, Jacksonville was one that I thought would be a great fit. With that said, we have a huge alumni base in the Northeast corridor.
“As I said to Randy Levine, the president of the Yankees, when he called me, I said we’ll have people from Miami that will jump at the opportunity to go to New York over the holidays and be there for the game. And at the same time, the alumni base we have in the New York area — New Jersey and Connecticut, and that Northeast corridor — I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of people that’ll be excited to have us up there.”
This is both teams’ first trip to the Pinstripe Bowl, which debuted in 2010. Traditionally, the game has been a showcase for some of the ACC and Big 10 teams in the Northeast. Last season, the Iowa Hawkeyes beat the Boston College Eagles in the game. Boston College, the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Orange have been the ACC representative in five of the six seasons the conference sent a team to the game.
A challenge for the Miami will be the weather. The Hurricanes played six road games and lost three of them to the Virginia Cavaliers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Eagles in relatively cold weather, scoring a total of 48 points.
Miami enters on a positive note after winning two straight to end the regular season following a four-game losing streak. The Hurricanes beat Pittsburgh, 24-3, in their regular-season finale in Miami Gardens. Wisconsin, on the other hand, lost its regular season finale to the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 37-15.
Both teams were among the nation’s biggest underachievers this year. The Badgers began the year at No. 4, while the Hurricanes started at No. 8. Neither team reached their conference’s championship game despite opening the season as overwhelming favorites in their divisions. Now at least one will get to end the year with a postseason win and move into 2019 with some momentum.
“My goal is always been to prepare to win the game. A lot of people look at it as extra spring practice time. I really don’t see it that way,” Richt said. “I see it as a time to do the things that we need to do to prepare the team to give the best chance to win the game. Over the years, I’ve probably been to 30 different bowls if not more. Usually for me as a coach, I kind of rank them as whether we won it was a good bowl, if we didn’t win it was not that great, but there are a lot of great things.
“Getting a chance just to play another game is huge, and hopefully guys will benefit from it that are on the way out and guys that are pushing forward to the future.”