Although the game was still more than three weeks away, the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl truly kicked off on Dec. 4, when representatives from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Miami visited Yankee Stadium to meet the press and officially accept their invitations. The head coaches --
Although the game was still more than three weeks away, the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl truly kicked off on Dec. 4, when representatives from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Miami visited Yankee Stadium to meet the press and officially accept their invitations. The head coaches -- Paul Chryst from Wisconsin and "The U's" Mark Richt -- enjoyed a tour of the famed facility, spent some time with Yankees manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman, and ambled around the Stadium's gridiron.
The two teams actually met in a bowl game just one year ago, lining up opposite one another in the Orange Bowl -- a literal home game for the Hurricanes. This year's conditions should be … well, let's just say that both teams have heard all about the frozen Yankee Stadium field that Boston College and Iowa played on a year ago. Chryst, a Wisconsin native who has coached the Badgers since 2015, seemed perfectly at home in New York's December air; Richt was looking forward to the cold-weather New Era gear that his team could expect come game day.
Rematch or no, the preparations for the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl were well underway when the coaches chatted with editors Nathan Maciborski and Jon Schwartz about their approaches to the game, their expectations and the things that make New York's bowl game so special.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: On a real macro level, what are you hoping your teams gain from the experience of the weeks leading up to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, as well as the game itself?
Paul Chryst: If you're just talking about football, the opportunity to get extra practices is tremendous for your younger players. All of them are young enough, even the ones that we have that have a chance to continue their careers, where there's still room for improvement. Anytime you get a chance to play against a really good team such as Miami, winning those four or four-plus quarters, you're going to be challenged. So, we got to make sure we get ourselves ready for that because in the end it is still about a football game. It's one more game that this team gets to play, and certainly we want to finish it being the best team that we can.
Mark Richt: I think our guys just like playing football. I think they like to compete, and I think they like to win. Both teams will have that type of mindset going in, and we'll focus on Wisconsin and focus on trying to get some extra practices in. We're about preparing for this game and doing what we can to take care of business.
NEPB: You guys played a real back-and-forth Orange Bowl last year. Is your preparation level further ahead at this point than it would be if you hadn't seen each other just a year ago?
PC: That's a good question, but I certainly think we're a different team than we were last year -- although we have a number of players that played in it -- and I think it's the same for them. That's the beauty about it; it's a new game and a new opportunity, and we just want to make sure that we do as much as we can to prepare ourselves to take advantage of that opportunity.
NEPB: How much pride do you take in the fact that you both have reached bowl games every year that you've been the head coach at Wisconsin and Miami, respectively? And do you view this as the last game of 2018, or the first game of 2019?
MR: Oh, yeah, that's good. When we won our sixth game this season (to become bowl eligible), it was a big deal. That isn't what we started the season thinking about. We were hoping to get the sixth victory about the sixth game, but it didn't happen that way. When we got it, the boys were genuinely excited about the opportunity to have a bowl, so we're looking forward to playing in it.
PC: I've always felt that it's the last game for this year, 2018. It's your last time, with this team, that these guys will all be together. And certainly there is -- like anything when you come off of a season -- you can learn lessons that can apply forward. But I absolutely believe that it's the last opportunity that this team has to play, and I appreciate that. I appreciate what they did during the season to give us the opportunity to play one more game together.
NEPB: Iowa and Boston College played on a literal sheet of ice in the 2017 New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Is that something that Wisconsin might have an easier time preparing for?
PC: No, I don't think so. We watched that game in getting ready to play Iowa this season. I think it will be a common storyline, but you're talking about two really good football teams, so I think it will come down to the football. We're both going to have to deal with whatever the elements are, and yet I think it will come down to the game, and that's the beauty of the sport.
NEPB: Coach Richt, how would you describe the kind of football that the Hurricanes play? What can fans watching the New Era Pinstripe Bowl expect?
MR: Well, I think you've got to start with defense. We had one of the best defenses in America; one of the best in tackles for loss, sacks, turnovers, third-down conversions, total yards -- I think we might have been No. 2 in the nation in total yards defense. Just guys that are playing hard and fast and physical. We have a style of defense where every single player on the team has a chance to make a play. We don't ask our down linemen to sit there and eat up the other teams. We tell them to do their best to penetrate and create a new line of scrimmage, and we'll let different guys bring pressures. Every guy on the field, at one time or another, has a chance to blitz and come across the line of scrimmage and try to make something happen. We have created a lot of havoc for offenses across America.
NEPB: That sounds like it's a fun defense to play on if you're a player.
MR: Oh, yeah. No doubt.
NEPB: This isn't your typical bowl game with tug-of-war competitions on the beach. What are the experiences of New York that you're most excited for your players to get to see?
PC: I just know how it is when I get an opportunity to come here. You just want to take it in; I want our players to be able to take it in and I want our coaches to be able to take it in. We've got a number of guys that have never been here, and maybe this will be their only opportunity. I hope not, but I'm excited for our players just seeing the skyline and going to see the different events they've got planned. It will be impactful, no doubt.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
This story appears in the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl Official Game Program.
For more New Era Pinstripe Bowl coverage, visit PinstripeBowl.com.