MONTGOMERY –The Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee football teams both hit the practice field on Wednesday in preparations for the 2017 Camellia Bowl. The fourth annual Camellia Bowl will be played Saturday, Dec. 16 at historic Cramton Bowl. The game will be televised by ESPN with kickoff set for 7:05 p.m. (CDT).
Arkansas State practiced for the first time in Montgomery on Wednesday, holding a brief workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts at nearby Huntingdon College.
“We kind of use this as a recovery day,” Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson said. “We’ve taken that approach all four years. The first day of getting to a bowl site, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot going on, our latest curfew of the week, so we’ve always come in, done some conditioning work and some change in direction, a little bit of a jog-through, but it’s more a recovery aspect of practice.
“Tomorrow, we’ll get back to basic work, put the pads on and get into what we consider a normal Thursday-Friday-Saturday cycle. But we’ve gotten five practices coming into this, with plenty of good Xs and Os work, and today was about flushing their bodies, getting a good sweat in, getting good conditioning work in and letting them enjoy a little bit of free time today.”
Middle Tennessee held its second practice in Montgomery with another two-hour workout at Alabama State University.
“We got here (Tuesday) about this time, came straight in here and practiced. We met this morning and getting ready to go again today.”
A-STATE’S HOME AWAY FROM HOME:
The state of Alabama is quickly becoming Arkansas State’s second home. The 2017 Camellia Bowl will by the school’s 13th game in the state of Alabama since the start of the 2012 season.
A-State has played at least one game in the state of Alabama each of the last seven years.
Arkansas State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir even mentioned having to pay Alabama state taxes due to the team’s recent trips to the state.
“Having played in Alabama five times in the last seven years, I think that qualifies us to pay a little tax in the state of Alabama,” Mohajir quipped. “We definitely hope that we’re contributing to the economy in this great state. I think we will. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of people show up this week and I know our fans are excited about the proximity to Jonesboro.”
The Camellia Bowl is the Red Wolves’ fifth bowl game in the state of Alabama, all coming since the 2012 season. A-State played in the GoDaddy.com Bowl four straight years from 2012-16. Arkansas State played Northern Illinois, Kent State, Ball State and Toledo. This year’s Camellia Bowl opponent, Middle Tennessee, will be their fifth different bowl opponent in the state of Alabama.
In addition to the post season, A-State has made the trek to Alabama for seven regular season games since 2012. Arkansas State played at Sun Belt Conference rivals Troy in 2012 and 2016 and South Alabama in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Arkansas State played at Auburn in 2013 and 2016.
FORMER BLUE RAIDERS ON A-STATE STAFF:
The Arkansas State coaching staff consists of three former Middle Tennessee assistant coaches. The Red Wolves head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator are all former coaches for the Blue Raiders.
A-State head coach Blake Anderson was the offensive coordinator for the Blue Raiders from 2002-04.
A-State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Joe Cauthen and offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner both spent time on Rick Stockstill’s staff at Middle Tennessee.
Cauthen worked at Middle Tennessee from 2011-13. He was the Blue Raiders’ defensive line coach in 2012 and 2013 after working as the linebackers coach in 2011. He was the special teams coordinator all three years.
Faulkner spent five years on the Middle Tennessee staff from 2011-15. He was the offensive coordinator for the Blue Raiders during the final four seasons on staff. The Blue Raiders set school records for total yards (5,946) and total points (442) in 2015.
Stockstill said that having former assistants on the other sideline would have no effect on the game.
“No, sir, I don’t think it’s an advantage or a disadvantage.” he said. “I’ve never bought into that philosophy. Buster (Faulkner) was here two years ago, he’s been gone two years, and most of our guys weren’t here when he was here. Joe (Cauthen) has been gone, whatever it is, five or six years. The players play the game, so I don’t think there’s any (advantage). I haven’t ever bought into that.”
Stockstill said he did spend some time at the Camellia Bowl ESPN Welcome Party on Tuesday night catching up with his former assistants.
“I spent a good portion of (Tuesday) night with Buster and Joe. Those guys are good friends. It was good to catch up with those guys.”