Nevada, UCF to meet in Hawaii Bowl
Most Nevada players would have more fans at the school's first bowl game in nine years if they'd gotten into the Las Vegas Bowl.
Junior wide receiver Caleb Spencer is an exception. The Kamehameha graduate will be a draw at the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl, in which Nevada will play Central Florida.
"I was calling coaches all day long trying to find out where we're going," Spencer said. "I'm pretty excited to go home. But I'm mostly excited we won the WAC. This is another reward for that."
"Hopefully I'll have a lot of family and friends at the game," said Spencer, who last played at Aloha Stadium as a member of the Nevada team that lost here in 2004. Spencer helped the Wolf Pack to a 38-28 win over Hawaii at Reno last month with two touchdown catches.
Many Nevada players will have to move up final exams, since the semester there ends Dec. 22, Spencer said. The Wolf Pack arrive in Hawaii on Dec. 18.
"Nevada has a nice local tie-in with Caleb, as well as former UH football player Kim McCloud on the coaching staff," Hawaii Bowl executive director Jim Donovan said. "Central Florida's very excited and it's a good geographical matchup for TV."
The Hawaii Bowl is faced with attracting fans in its first year without the University of Hawaii as a partcipating team. Donovan said the game is offering $8 general admission tickets, and free admssion for children and their parents if the parents donate two cans of food for the Hawaii Foodbank. There will be a Keiki Holiday Village, featuring Santa Claus and gifts for children, he added.
Nevada (8-3) formally accepted a Hawaii Bowl bid yesterday. It will be the Wolf Pack's first bowl appearance since the 1996 Las Vegas Bowl and sixth bowl game overall. Nevada has a 2-3 mark in bowl games.
UCF (8-4) also accepted yesterday. It's the first bowl game in UCF's 10-year Division I-A football history.
"This bowl is an excellent reward for our student-athletes and the coaching staff on a championship season," UCF athletic director Steve Orsini said. "This is a trip of a lifetime for our players."
It's also not a bad consolation prize for a team that lost the Conference USA championship game to Tulsa 44-27 on Saturday.
In coach George O'Leary's second season, the Golden Knights snapped what was the nation's longest Division I-A losing streak at 17 games -- starting a stretch where they won eight of their next nine overall.
"To me, spending Christmas playing football is probably the best gift I can get," center Cedric Gagne-Marcoux said. "If I'm not playing football on Christmas, I'm watching football. My parents are at the table eating dinner and I'm in my room watching the bowl."
The Golden Knights played at Aloha Stadium in 1995, losing 45-14 to Hawaii despite the efforts of freshman starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
The Associated Press contributed to this report