Thursday, December 29th, 2016


If grades were being handed out for practice quality, then Western Michigan would have earned an ‘A’ on Thursday.

“This was one of the best practices we’ve had in the last two months,” Head Coach P.J. Fleck said.

The 15th-ranked Broncos (13-0, 9-0 Mid-American) continued their preparation for the 81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Jan. 2 at AT&T Stadium. They’ll face No. 8 Wisconsin (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten).

When the Broncos arrived, they were a little wide-eyed at the bowl hospitality and the grandeur of AT&T Stadium, where they watched the Dallas Cowboys game on Monday night. That buzz has abated and the game-week concentration has increased.

“We all know why we’re here, but when you’re here seven days early it’s a long time till game day,” Fleck said. “You plan a lot of events, especially the Monday night football ticket, to get that ‘Ah’ moment out. We were able to do that. The next day was full of excitement with the bowl. But now they’ve been here three days and it’s soaking in why we’re really here. The focus, you can tell, on the football field is definitely there.”

Much of the practice was devoted to working on first and second-down situations. Fleck said the game plan has been in place for almost three weeks and that Thursday allowed them to clean up certain issues. Friday will be spent fine-tuning third downs, among other situational work.

An added benefit to qualifying for the bowl game has been the development of the younger players. Fleck equated it to an extra series of spring practices. The bowl games that the Broncos competed in the last two years were played before Christmas, so the window between selection day and game day was so tight that they did not use the full 15 NCAA-allotted practices. They’re using all 15 this time.

The late segment of practice is for the Colts – the younger players – and it provides an enthusiastic finish. On Thursday, the Colts logged “about 50 total plays,” Fleck said. “You add that up over time and those are hundreds and hundreds of reps that are invaluable.”

Twenty Dallas-area high school coaches attended the practice.

The Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic celebrates its 81st anniversary on Monday, January 2. Airtime on ESPN is set for noon CST, with kickoff slated for 12:01 p.m.

This marks the third consecutive year for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl to be a part of the ESPN bowl lineup. Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard will provide the call from the booth with Allison Williams reporting from the sideline.

ESPN Radio returns as the Classic's national radio partner for the fifth consecutive year. Brad Sham, the "Voice of the Dallas Cowboys," teams with Rod Gilmore in the booth and Quint Kessenich on the sideline to describe all the action from AT&T Stadium. This is Sham's 20th consecutive year as the Classic's play-by-play voice and his 24th overall.

Toll Free: 888-792-BOWL (2695)
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