Long road since September
Coach Butch Jones addressed the media for the first time concerning the 2009 football season Aug. 18.
From behind his podium in the press conference room of the Indoor Athletic Complex, he made one point clear to anyone and everyone listening — it was not a redemption season.
He made it a point to clarify that the 2009 Chippewas were not playing for any one other than themselves.
The team does not owe anybody anything after losing the last three games of last season and missing out on the chance to play for its third consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship.
But as the Chippewas were preparing for today’s championship game, Jones reiterated that very point.
“Each team is different,” he said Tuesday. “Last year’s team did some great things and we came up a little bit short. Each year, a team takes on its own identity and its own personality.”
Obviously, Jones said it feels pretty good to be back to where the team thinks it belongs — at Ford Field in early December playing for the conference championship. But he made a strong point by saying that missing out on this game last year has nothing to do with it.
“It’s just been a special year,” Jones said. “But in terms of redemption, no. I’m just as proud of last year’s senior class and what they meant and what they brought to our program.”
Just because a team does not set out with an eye for redemption does not necessarily mean that it will not coincidentally stumble upon it along the way.
“I think it will start to feel like that (redemption) once it’s over,” said junior linebacker Nick Bellore.
The team’s defensive captain has not ruled out the notion that this season’s accomplishments — along with the potential for a third MAC Championship in four seasons — might cause students and fans to write off last season as an unlucky break — a fluke.
“At the end of the year, I think we can look back and feel that way,” Bellore said. “But right now, it’s just business. But it’s always there — we’re reminded of it every once in a while. In football, it’s like, ‘What have you done for me lately?’”
Belllore said he hopes this season’s attempt at instant gratification will replace what was missed last season.
“Last year is last year and, obviously, we’re really disappointed in how that went,” he said. “But now we’ve got our shot to do what we wanted to do last year and couldn’t … so we’ve just got to make the best of it.”
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