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Matadors touch down in Texas, hold practice at Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium
WACO, Texas — The Matadors went through their first practice in Texas on a field cast in shadows.
Normally, it would take an eclipse to do that at their Yuma facilities, but at Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium, it was the three-level press box that was blocking out the Texas sky.
The Arizona Western football team landed in Killeen just after 11:30 a.m. central time, then went straight to Baylor for their last full practice before Saturday's Heart of Texas Bowl against Blinn College. Today the team is scheduled for an hour-long walkthrough at Bulldawg Stadium, where they'll face off against Blinn.
The Matadors' tour of central Texas began in Waco, where the team had a “loosey-goosey” practice, according to coach Tom Minnick. Minnick said he wanted one last practice away from both the Blinn coaching staff and Arizona Western's travel contingent, which was brought to Texas by a near-capacity Boeing 737.
“It made sense coming up here, get away from everybody, make sure nobody sees us except for Baylor coaches,” Minnick said. “It's a way to get away from everything.”
Minnick said he arranged the time through contacts on the Baylor coaching staff. Not only did it allow a private practice, but it showed his players what major conference NCAA Division I football stadium looks like — even if that program is historically not a national power.
“It shows the kids a big time school,” Minnick said. “(The Bears) play Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oklahoma State. The kids like to see different places. I think they were floored when they saw this stadium. They were like ‘Baylor, what's Baylor?' Then they see this and it's like ‘Wow, this is really nice.' It's a nice stadium.”
Count wide receiver Ge'Shun Harris among the impressed.
“This is very different coming from junior college, obviously,” Harris said. “It's a huge difference. Thousands of seats different.”
Minnick said the Baylor practice also mixes it up for the Matadors, having them practice in another state on a different field. And after today's practice they will have been on three fields in as many days.
Most of the team was also up by 6 a.m. mountain time, to make the flight to Texas. The team went right from the plane to buses that took them for the 45 minute drive to Waco.
“I love it. It's just like any other job working the early shift,” Harris said. “It doesn't matter what business you're in; this is our business. It's all about doing the little things. The other things don't matter. We want to win this bowl. We've got to get that bling.”
Linebacker Maurice Alexander said the breakneck schedule shows how much Arizona Western, which lost the Mississippi Bowl last year, wants a bowl win this year.
“All that just shows our discipline,” Alexander said. “It shows we're focused on Saturday and we're serious about getting a win.”