No one gets away with pinching each other at football practice but it might be permissible for Washburn considering the surprising extension to its season.
Back-to-back losses left Washburn 6-5 and seemingly out of reach for a bowl berth.
The speech coach Craig Schurig was prepared to deliver to his team would apprise the Bods on checking in their gear, wishing the seniors well and going over offseason conditioning plans with underclassmen.
“We all thought we were done for sure,’’ quarterback Blake Peterson said. “I’d checked out and I thought the season was over.’’
One phone call changed all that. Representatives from the Heart of Texas Bowl remained interested in the Ichabods, who accepted an invitation to play Angelo State (6-4) from the Lone Star Conference. The matchup will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bulldawg Stadium in Copperas Cove, Texas.
Once the bid became known, chatter struck social media.
“Usually when you’re getting ready for an end-of-season meeting after losing it’s pretty silent,’’ Schurig said. “I could hear ‘em in the hallway and it was pretty chatty, so I knew they were already in the know. So I just told them, ‘Look guys, it’s like we get a mulligan. We just hit one out of bounds. Let’s take advantage of this.’’’
Down the road, those representing Emporia State football were upset and understandably so.
A 26-20 victory over the Ichabods on Nov. 11 won the Hornets the Turnpike Tussle but lost them a posteseason ticket.
Some early legwork by Washburn may have worked in its favor.
Prior to the Ichabods’ game against Central Oklahoma, sports information director Gene Cassell began preparing bullet points on the Ichabods and sent them to various bowl games potentially interested in MIAA teams.
The information sent was complete with alumni numbers within a 150-mile radius of the cities putting on bowls.
Fort Hays State, coached by former WU assistant Chris Brown, prepared similar information a year ago when it drew an invitation to the Heart of Texas Bowl.
“I was familiar with that from Chris, so I thought, ‘We’ll look into that,’’’ said Schurig, realizing the Bods advanced to the Mineral Water Bowl a year ago and would probably not be a candidate again for that game in Excelsior Springs, Mo.
“We wanted an additional game,’’ Schurig added, “and there are some more games now, one in Texarkana, one if Corsicana, so it’s kind of a neat opportunity for Division II schools to have that bowl experience.’’
Unlike most major-college bowls affiliated to conferences that have established at least a preferred pecking order, some of the Division II bowls Washburn contacted did not have definitive tie-ins with the MIAA.
“It helps to have a pretty good tradition,’’ said Schurig, “and show them you have a strong foundation to your athletic department and your football team. They want strong matchups and they want to see teams with really good players.’’
The bowl trip will probably leave some expenses for Washburn to recoup.
Still, the reward for the players, the additional practices gained and the prestige of WU’s 13th postseason appearance all benefit the program.
“It looked like we blew it,’’ Schurig admitted. “We were sick the last couple of games with the way we played, but we were given an opportunity to show ourselves again, so you can’t beat that.’’
Beating Angelo State is another thing.
The Rams, from San Angelo, Texas, carry a three-game winning streak and their spread offense ranks seventh in Division II with a 502.6-yard average. Their defense features three players who were named conference players of the year from their respective position groups, including the Lone Star’s top defender, rush end Markus Jones.
The matchup will be everything the Bods could want from a bowl bid they did not really expect.
“That was definitely a big change in emotion,’’ said senior defensive tackle Trey Parker. “You find out you actually got a bowl game. For me personally I was ecstatic about another opportunity to prove myself. I think we all are.’’
Contact Kevin Haskin at email@example.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.