The Sports Daily > Duck Stops Here
To win the Alamo Bowl, Ducks have to begin by not losing bowl week

In the bowl season, the 12th man is team discipline.

On Monday Texas announced the suspension of three players, a starting right tackle, their best kick returner and a speedy running back, all academically ineligible.

Duncan donut: For some of the Oregon players, getting an opportunity to see childhood heroes like Tim Duncan or the Houston Rockets is an early highlight of the bowl trip (USA Today Sports Images).

Boise State looked flat and disorganized in their loss to Oregon State on Christmas Eve. The toll of a shocking coaching change and the major distraction of having senior quarterback Joe Southwick kicked off the team for urinating off the hotel balcony resulted in a listless, uninspired performance in Hawaii.

The Beavers slapped the ball away twice for touchdowns by cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, building a 31-6 lead by halftime on their way to a 38-23 victory. They looked enthused and energized for the game in Hawaii, ready to play, and finished their season with a nice win and a fun trip while earning a winning season at 7-6.

At the Rose Bowl, Michigan State lost middle linebacker Max Bullough when he was suspended for a violation of team rules yesterday. The senior leader and two-time All-Academic Big 10 selection had 76 tackles this season, responsible for calling the defenses and directing traffic on one of the nation’s best defenses.

Bullough, who’s earned a 3.56 G.P.A. as a student at MSU, was recently honored as a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. The NFF flew him to New York for an award banquet back on December 10th, one of 15 players selected. Teammates nicknamed him “The Computer” for his mastery of the Spartan defense and ability to be a coach on the field.

The Spartans will have a much more difficult time stopping Tyler Gaffney and the Stanford power running game without him.

Bowl suspensions and player misbehavior at bowl games is an X factor during the post season. It happens every year. Somebody gets sent home for outrageous behavior, and that team enters the game shell-shocked and rudderless. Coaching changes are another.

Sometimes an unlikely hero emerges with a big night, but the extra stress and distraction of completely breaking the routine and unity of a team can tear it apart by game time. One hundred college-age boys in a warm-weather town for winter break, cooped-up in hotel rooms with access to big-city night life and the hotel bar–what can possibly go wrong?

Coaches and staff do everything they can to provide structure and set the expectation of mature behavior, but it’s a challenge. When the Ducks arrived in San Antonio they were whisked off to a team event, a visit to the Rockets win over the Spurs, a big treat for Houston-area natives Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and Chance Allen.

Right after they arrived at the hotel, the Ducks held a team meeting, sending the message to players that this was a business trip, getting everyone’s mind on football from the beginning. Mark Helfrich told the media, “We’re going to try to ingrain that in their mind right off the bat, that we’re here to win a football game.”

“We’re not here to participate in this great bowl experience — which is a great bowl experience. We want to win the game.”

Winning bowl week amid the hoopla and potential distractions is a major part of leaving town with a win. As much as x’s and o’s and crafting a scheme to contain the running game, the coaches have to find a way to channel all that testosterone in a hectic week.