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Game on: the Thursday press conference for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Despite some changes and a few uncertainties, the teams are in Jacksonville, FL.

And both are game ready.

On Thursday (December 29, 2021), the participating teams along with the leadership of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl come together for an engaging press conference at TIAA Bank Field (the home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars). The Rutgers University Scarlet Knights come in with a 5-7 overall record (as the replacement for Texas A&M University), but the Big 10 team enters the field of play with a sense of confidence reflective of their "blue-collar" approach. Likewise, the Wake Forest University Demon Deacons enter as the 17th ranked team in the country (10-3 overall) and the Atlantic Division Champions of the ACC (click HERE to find out more).

President/CEO of the New Year's Six Bowl game (which kicks off the bowls games taking place on New Year's Eve), Greg McGarity, along with public officials from Jacksonville, open the press conference. All express excitement about the game along with confidence in their action planning, including the Covid strategy (similar to the Florida-Georgia game as well as the Jaguars games of encouraging all patrons to wear masks). Emphasis is placed on all attending to play for an early arrival (the stadium opens at 9am to admit fans) prior to tomorrow's 11:03am (EST) kickoff.

Rutgers' head coach Greg Schiano reiterates the team's readiness to play, along with some of the creative challenges of arriving in Jacksonville (including securing two planes - one out of Newark International Airport and the other from White Plains, NY). The team's punter, Adam Korsak, actually has to return to the United States from his native Australia, including clearly multiple protocols, to be a part of the game (as he first catches word about the team's selection while having a layover in Los Angeles and then receiving confirmation once he lands in Australia). Despite their losing record, they expect to compete at a high level against a vaunted Wake Forest offense (averaging slightly more than 41 points per game).

Likewise, the Deacons' head coach, Dave Clawson, notes Rutgers would not have accepted the bid if they felt they did not have a chance to win. Even with the change in teams and game planning, it's still about respecting their opponent and being prepared to play.

Wake players available for the press conference remind the press of the team's mindset of being 1-0 every week, as well as being "good to great". In fact, all players note how the team readily and consistently embraces this mindset (from the seniors to the scout team), along with an underlying sentiment this is not just for this season, but to be a great program, it (the mindset and culture) has to be present throughout the program. Combined with their sustained practice time (first for the Aggies and switching to the Scarlet Knights), they are focusing on concluding the season with the team's second ever 11-win season.

Upon the conclusion of the press conference, we catch members of the Wake Forest player delegation spending time with one of the community partners, the Dreams Come True Foundation (click HERE to find out more). Even with competition on their minds, taking time with young people provides perspective on the community tie-ins with the game.

Even in disruptive times, both teams are here.

Both teams are ready.

Both are ready to compete and get the New Year's Eve schedule of games off to a tremendous start, as well as having a positive springboard for the 2022 season.

Game on (tomorrow).

Notes: All video is recorded by Andrew Snorton (along with the photography). The first video is the entire press conference for Wake Forest University; the second video is of President/CEO of the Tayslayer Gator Bowl Greg McGrarity, and the third video is the entire press conference for Rutgers University.

The photos/slide show runs as follows:

  1. Wake Forest players (from left to right) Ja'Sir Taylor, Brandon Chapman, Sam Hartman, Michael Jurgens, and Miles Fox check out the stadium.

  2. Wake Forest players (from left to right) Brandon Chapman, Miles Fox, Luke Masterson, Head Coach Dave Clawson, assistant Wendell Dunn, and Ja'Sir Taylor getting camera ready.

  3. The Deacs meet the press.

  4. Another snapshot of the Deacons during the press conference; they enter the Gator Bowl with a 10-3 overall record and are ranked 17th in the country.

  5. Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano and punter Adam Korsak speak with the media; Korsak travels from Rutgers to his native Australia and back to the US to play in tomorrow's game.

  6. The Scarlet Knights' Noah Vedral and Julius Turner take time to explain how the teams stays ready.

  7. Another snapshot of Rutgers' media representatives; while finishing with a 5-7 record, the NCAA can select a team with less than 6 wins in special situations. With Texas A&M University withdrawing on December 21st, combined with having the highest APR of all teams considered, the Scarlet Knights are selected.

  8. President/CEO of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Greg McGarity is joined by public officials going over the logistics for tomorrow's game; the stadium opens at 9am for fans to attend and enjoy.

  9. After the press conference, the Deacs take time to speak with kids from the Dreams Come True Foundation; this includes members of the cheerleading and dance teams/squads.

  10. Even the Deacon is about the kids!

  11. A dream team indeed.


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