Dec. 29, 2011
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
TAMPA, Fla. - Defenders of the bowl system call the current postseason setup a reward for the players.
What kind of reward is in the eye of the beholder, the be-snapper or the be-quarterback.
Now on his fifth bowl trip, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, the newly named recipient of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, said the excursions to amusements parks, banquets, beaches and hospitals are nice, but the game against Georgia in the Outback Bowl would be enough of a reward all by itself.
"As a freshman, when I was first redshirted, it was a lot of fun and it was like a vacation because I knew I wasn't going to be playing in the game," Cousins said of the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl. "When you look at it now, it's a business trip and I'd much rather play the game early in the week and not have to wait so long because you get anxious.
"All the events are fun and it's great for our players, but for me, I just want to play this football game and play well. Most of my time is spent doing all I can to be as prepared as possible for the game. The last few years have been much more of a business trip for me."
A bowl victory is about the remaining bit of unfinished business on the winningest Spartan senior class' agenda.
Junior cornerback Johnny Adams is reveling in every aspect of the trip even though there is a tendency to feel pulled in several different directions at once.
"I'm enjoying all the experiences I can get down here," he said. "It feels like it's a reward to me because I get one more chance to show my talents, and it's a big reward for myself and my teammates to play one more time together.
"For the younger guys, especially the freshmen, it's a great experience. I remember when I was a freshman, I didn't want it to end. Now that I've been around a little bit longer, it's getting to the point I wouldn't mind just coming down and playing the game, but at the same time, it's great to hang out with the younger guys on the team."
Senior safety Trenton Robinson was ready to play the game yesterday, but he's always that way. Having to adhere to a strict schedule doesn't bother him in the least.
"This is my last bowl and I get to hang out with my boys for the last time for a long time because we seniors will soon be off doing our own thing," Robinson said. "To chill with your friends for a week in Florida while getting ready for another game is fun.
"It's just like at school, because we have a schedule. You will be done at this time..., that's how I always look at things. All the stuff that goes on is like a blur almost until 4 (o'clock) when we have our practice, and then we focus in."
Robinson doesn't feel any added pressure from being down to his last chance to help end the Spartans' five-bowl losing streak.
"I personally try to keep pressure off myself because they say pressure bursts pipes," he said. "I just like to go out and play my game. We can't worry about what everybody else is saying about us. We have to focus on the things we want to accomplish, so we can win this game.
"I've got to take this in and enjoy every part of it."
Four of Robinson's favorite hours in Tampa so far were spent playing the "Call of Duty" video game with a teammate.
"Today we're going to some little spot to go bowling and hang out, so that will be fun," Robinson said.
Senior tight end Brian Linthicum has mixed emotions about bowl week.
"In a sense, it's relaxing because we're here for a whole week and with a normal away game you're there one night, you play the game and then you leave," he said. "With the bowl experience, you really get to settle in and take it all in.
"There are a lot of events and they ask us to do a lot of stuff that kind of wears on you, but in the end, it's enjoyable and something you want to do on a regular basis, especially because a lot of teams don't get to go to bowls and experience this."
The seniors can't help but have a single-minded outlook, however.
"We know what we're here for," he said. "We're here to beat Georgia, finish our season on top and move on. This stuff is great but winning the game is the reward for guys like Kirk and myself."
The result will determine how the trip will be remembered. Nothing that happened before the 2010 Capital One Bowl, for example, means much in retrospect, Linthicum said.
"The reward is truly winning the game especially after the way we felt last year," Linthicum said. "Losing to Alabama just took away from the entire week."
Sophomore safety Isaiah Lewis felt like an underclassman at the beginning of the trip, but now is thinking like a senior.
"I'm a starter, so I've got to focus on the game," he said. "You're out here having fun and this and that, but at the same time, you know the whole reason you're here in the first place is to play this game and win it.
"But, you do have to get away and have fun. I think I've done that so far. We went to Busch Gardens and tomorrow we're going to Clearwater Beach. But ultimately, you need to do what you have to do to win the game."
The aspect senior wideout B.J. Cunningham likes most about the bowl trip is the opportunity to play an opponent he usually only sees on television.
"That's what bowl season is for, so people can see you against other teams and players and the chance to show your skills," Cunningham said. "I just want everybody to play their butts off, put on a good show, get a win and go home."