There are an ample amount of sports cliches you can use about leadership and plowing through the odds to reach an endpoint. But that’s easy in and of itself. Throw in a few lines here, make a supposition here. Then, boom: a story arises.
However, the Quick Lane Bowl, to be played versus Minnesota at Ford Field in Detroit at 5:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN2, will not be just another “minor” bowl game that’s made for TV. Real-life adversity has affected both of these programs, and the Quick Lane Bowl serves as the backdrop for two programs that look to prove they’re successful on the gridiron, even despite outside distractions.
The Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5, 6-2 MAC) were left in a terrible position after head coach Dan Enos resigned from the program and took the offensive coordinator job in Arkansas. In addition, defensive coordinator Joe Tumpkin left for a defensive backs job in Colorado just two weeks before National Signing Day.
This left CMU scrambling to secure a recruiting class while searching for a head coach to take the program the next step forward. That coach was found in Detroit Lions special teams coach John Bonamego, a Central Michigan alum who was familiar with CMU’s football tradition, due to having been a scout team quarterback and receiver.
Just weeks after his announcement, a double whammy came down for the program. Coach Bonamego announced his tonsil cancer diagnosis, which he had to treat throughout the season. During the summer camps, Derrick Nash, a defensive back fighting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, passed away before having a chance to don the Maroon and Gold in game action.
At the presser for the game, Coach Bonamego made mention of having to carry a bottle of water on his person at all times, due to chronic dry mouth, a side effect of the radiation.
The treatments, Coach Bono will tell you, were difficult to endure.
Per an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Bonamego said: “As you get down to those final weeks, it’s pretty tough, and you are beat-up pretty good. It’s definitely something you look forward to [ringing the bell at University of Michigan Hospital, where he conducted his treatments]. It symbolizes that you are done. You’ve won. You have made it.”
The Chippewas rallied behind Coach Bono and Derrick Nash, and played beyond any sort of expectation. The Chips kept it close with three Power Five teams, including Oklahoma State and Michigan State, two programs playing in “major” bowls.
They also split a share of the MAC West title, going 6-2 in-conference play. For their efforts, the Chippewas not only get to replace an ACC team, but will fight a Power Five team in a bowl game–the only MAC team to do so this bowl season.
That Power Five team? The Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-7, 2-6 Big Ten).
The Gophers started on a hot streak, beating Colorado State, Kent State, and Ohio all in a row after a narrow loss to then-No. 2-ranked TCU. It’s been an emotional ride for Minnesota, as it lost both the Little Brown Jug (Michigan) and the Five Dollars and Bits of Broken Chair (Nebraska) rivalry games in heartbreaking fashions.
Add to that the mid-season medical retirement of head coach Jerry Kill, who had a history of seizures, and the season went downhill fast.
New coach Tracey Claeys led the Gophers to within a two-point conversion from upsetting Michigan, but he hasn’t been able to guide the Gophers to the right side of the win-loss column, going 1-4 in his time at the helm (although it should be noted that the Golden Gophers didn’t lose by more than 10 during that stretch.)
The Golden Gophers were one of five teams to make it to a bowl with a losing record, thanks to scoring a high APR during the season, filling in the Big Ten spot for the Quick Lane Bowl.
Despite all the trial and error over their conference season, Minnesota is a five-point favorite to win the game, according to OddsShark.com. Minnesota will be walking into a particularly hostile environment on Monday night, as Detroit is only two hours away from Kelly/Shorts Stadium, the home of the Chippewas. The Golden Gophers have not played afraid of anyone, home or away, and seek to win their first bowl game since the Music City Bowl back in 2004.
About Quick Lane
The Quick Lane Bowl understands adversity, and supports the Disabled American Veterans by building awareness through fundraising endeavors surrounding the bowl game. The Ford Family, which operates the bowl and Ford Field, has already donated $50,000 to the cause, and every ticket purchased through keepthepromise.org will donate $10 to the DAV.
Today’s U will be donating two tickets to the DAV for the Quick Lane Bowl, and this post is part of our involvement in the Quick Lane Preferrred Blogger Program. While the Quick Lane Bowl provided materials for us to donate and notes to write with, all views expressed are mine.
The game itself will air at 5:30 p.m. at the conclusion of the Military Bowl between Pittsburgh and Navy. The Quick Lane Bowl, presented by Quick Lane Auto and Tire Center, can be followed on ESPN2, ESPN 3, the WatchESPN App, quicklanebowl.com, and can be followed on social media, using #QuickLaneBowl or following Twitter/Instagram @QuickLaneBowl.
For fans traveling to the game, the game will be held at Ford Field in Detroit, MI.