SMU headed to the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl

by Dan M | Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2019

Image result for Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl logo

BY: Dic Humphrey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas – Sunday afternoon the SMU football team accepted an invitation
to play in the 2019 Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl. It marks the second time in three years that
the Mustangs have been invited to a bowl. The Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl is played at FAU
Stadium, the home field for Florida Atlantic University football; and FAU, as champions of
Conference-USA will be SMU’s opponent. FAU won the C-USA championship game with a
resounding 49-6 win over Alabama-Birmingham.

This will be the sixth Boca Raton Bowl. Cheribundi is a New York based beverage company
that has sponsored the bowl since 2017. Memphis (2016) and Temple (2015) are the previous
American Athletic Conference teams to participate in the Boca Raton Bowl.

Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffen is now the “former” Head Coach, as he has accepted the
job as head football coach at the University of Mississippi. Brian White, FAU Vice President
and Director of Athletics, said that the school would conduct a national search for a new head
coach.

FAU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has been named interim head coach for the bowl
game. Spencer’s previous head coaching experience was three seasons at Division II West
Georgia. His teams were 28-7 in his tenure. This is his first season at Florida Atlantic.

SMU quarterback Shane Buechele said Sunday, “We’re just excited for the opportunity to go out
there and play in Florida. There obviously will be some times when you can go and have fun.
There will be some off time. Whenever we’re practicing, we’re gonna go hard. We’re gonna
enjoy our time out there, but we have a goal to win the game. We’re going to do anything to
make that happen.”

Buechele thought the early practices would concentrate on fundamentals, but once the coaches
put the game plan in place, they would get down to the business of preparing for the game.

One of the bonuses of playing in a bowl game is an extra 15 practices to prepare. SMU Head
Coach Sonny Dykes said Sunday that he expected to hold just 12 of the allotted number of
practices, and that’s the norm even for teams playing closer to New Year’s Day and beyond. As
for the practices themselves, Dykes said, “It’s big. It’s really important to our young players’
development. We’re seeing our guys making significant jumps and moves. That’s always
exciting.”

“We’re exciting to be going to Boca,” Dykes said. “I think it’s a good bowl game for our
players. I think going to Florida, some place where a lot of our guys have never been. I’ve
never been there that many times myself. I think that’s a just cool experience in itself.”

Dykes is not worried about his players having too much fun in south Florida. “Sometimes, you
worry about how guys are going to handle things when you’re doing something you haven’t
done before; but I do think this is a very mature team. I think our guys will handle it the right
way. We’ll go down and have a good time, which is important. That’s what bowl games are for.
That’s the tradition of bowl games is to have a reward for your players who are doing well, and a
reward quite frankly for your fans. That’s how the whole bowl system started. You want your
players to have an enjoyable experience.”

“This group is different. There’s some maturity with these guys. There’s been a focus all year.
They show up. They go to work. They do what they’re supposed to do. We haven’t had to
worry too much about guys getting in trouble. I would expect the bowl experience to be no
different. There’s always that balance between having a good time, and at the same time getting
ready to win a football game. Our guys know how important it is to have a chance to win 11
games.”

“I don’t want to go down there and have a blast on the beach and lose the game,” wide receiver
James Proche said. “We’re just trying to keep the same routine and the same mindset as we did
for the other 12 games. I’m appreciative of everything we’ve been through this season. It’s a
magical season. We know what happened in Frisco last time. We want to finish out strong,”
Proche said in regard to losing in the Frisco Bowl two years ago.

Proche was asked what it would mean to finish out with a win and become just the second SMU
football team ever to win 11 games. “That would mean everything to me. I want to be
remembered as a winner. Individual statistics; that’s just a by-product of me doing my job.” As
for Florida Atlantic, Proche said, “They’re a great team with great players. They’re coached
very well. I’m excited.”

Florida Atlantic has a 10-3 record after winning the conference championship game. The bowl
will be a home game for them and a road game for SMU, not a neutral site game since it will be
played at FAU’s stadium.

SMU scrambled to beat Tulane in its final game of the season to finish the year at 10-2. The
Boca Raton Bowl will be SMU’s seventeenth bowl appearance. The Mustangs’ were initially
installed as 3.5 point favorites to win the game, and at least one bookmaker has moved the line to
four points. The game has a prime television slot. It will be played at 3:30 PM Eastern/2:30 PM
Central on Saturday, December 21 and will be televised on ABC.

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