A native of West Springfield, Va., Bryn Renner said he was hoping to play a bowl game in front of his home-town fans.
But now it looks like the North Carolina quarterback won’t be going home for Christmas.
On Sunday, the Tar Heels accepted an invite to the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, where they will face the Big 12’s Missouri Tigers on Dec. 26.
The bowl, slated to take place in Shreveport, La., is about 1,200 miles away from the one they expected to play — the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C.
“I definitely wanted to go back home. One of my dreams is to play a bowl game in D.C.,” Renner said. “But definitely for this team, we’re looking forward to playing Missouri.”
When all is said and done, the Tar Heels will have had a month of off time, dating back to their regular-season ending victory against Duke on Nov. 26.
But interim head coach Everett Withers said the team has its practice schedule all mapped out.
“We’re going to go back to fundamentals early in our practices … protecting the ball, creating turnovers, tackling — just the stuff that you lose a little bit when you have some down time,” Withers said. “We’ll do that early and then we’ll get right into the game plan for Missouri.”
Under head coach Gary Pinkel, the Tigers (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) have been to bowl games in each of the past six seasons, including two appearances in the Independence Bowl in 2003 and 2005.
While the Tar Heels (7-5, 3-5 ACC) have never played in the Independence Bowl, they made trips to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2008 and 2009, and they took home a 30-27 win against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl last season.
For UNC’s seniors, the selection means they’ve gone to a bowl game every season they’ve been at North Carolina.
“I think when you go to school, and you play college athletics, you want to be playing in the postseason every opportunity you get,” Withers said.
“And for these seniors to have the opportunity to play in four straight bowls is phenomenal, and I’m excited for them.”
The Tar Heels are excited, too, even if it means they’ll be spending the holidays away from home.
“I think it’s going to be kind of cool,” Renner said. “This is the first year we’re going to be having Christmas together.
“But I definitely think we’re so close as a unit that it’ll be a lot of fun.”
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