'MAC' Friday

Football team to spend Thanksgiving on the road, play on Black Friday


For the first time in his life, junior wide receiver Ron Willoughby will not see any of his family Thanksgiving Day.

Instead of a home cooked meal, junior running back Anthone Taylor will be forced to “make different arrangements” so it doesn’t intervene with his schedule.

Instead of sitting down to watch a slew of NFL games or eat a turkey and mashed potato-induced feast, the football team will get comfortable on a coach bus for seven hours on its way to Amherst, Massachusetts.

The Bulls will play their last game of the season against Massachusetts Friday, Nov. 28 – the day after Thanksgiving.

It’s not uncommon for Buffalo to play the day after the holiday. The Bulls have played the day after Thanksgiving every season since 2008. But this will be the first season since 2010 that they will play on the road on ‘Black Friday.’

“This will be the first Thanksgiving where I won’t see my family on a game day,” Willoughby said. “It’s fine. I love playing football. That’s what I was made to do.”

The Bulls will spend a portion of their Thanksgiving Day traveling to face the Minutemen. Last season, Buffalo celebrated the holiday as a team at the Ramada Hotel near North Campus the day before playing Bowling Green at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Many of the players’ family members attended the dinner.

The dinner was held conference room at the Ramada Hotel and fed 326 people including players, coaches and family members. The dinner consisted of traditional Thanksgiving trimmings – hand-carved turkey, mashed and sweet potatoes and stuffing.

“Everybody had a great time,” said Ramada Catering Manager Renata Marchione. “Our room holds a capacity of 275, but we were able to get everyone in for the celebration. Overall, it was a beautiful thing to see.”

Players said they’re not sure if the team will be able to host a similar dinner this year in Massachusetts, but quarterback Joe Licata is optimistic arrangements may be made.

“My family is going to make the trip,” Licata said. “The families came in for the family meal last year. I’m sure we’re doing the same thing this year.”

Willoughby’s parents have made the trip up to Buffalo every season but will not travel to Amherst this season.

Taylor, a Huber Heights, Ohio native, admits it is hard for his family to travel to see him for Thanksgiving. But this year will be different.

“My mom is coming up for the game,” Taylor said. “I know she’ll visit me before or after and we’ll have a late Thanksgiving or an early Thanksgiving. We make arrangements so it doesn’t bother us.”

The game is set to begin at 1 p.m. It will cap the end to a subpar season in which the team failed to be bowl eligible. The Bulls finished with eight wins and a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl game appearance last season.

But in the spirit of the holiday, Licata said he’s still thankful to the chance to play at Buffalo.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent this school, this city and this state,” Licata said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to play football. It’s every kid’s dream to be a Division I quarterback. I’m thankful.”

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