Players welcome a weekend off

If there is one thing the Owls need in the middle of this 1-7 season, it’s a break. So with the next game not scheduled until Nov. 6 at West Virginia, the football team is going to enjoy some time away from the field.

“Coach [Bobby Wallace] gave us the weekend off,” senior tight end Christian Dunbar said. “I think a lot of guys will probably be driving or flying home to see their families, because we don’t normally have an opportunity to go home during the season since we’re playing every weekend.”

Dunbar, who will head home to visit his mother in Maryland, is one of a number of Owls who will use the bye week as a chance to see their families. Senior linebacker Troy Bennett, the team leader in tackles, is looking forward to taking his 3-year-old daughter Jaida trick-or-treating.

“I don’t get to see her that much, but she knows I play football,” Bennett said. “I call her all the time, talk to her whenever I get the chance. She’s definitely excited [for Halloween].”

Junior quarterback Walter Washington will catch a flight to Daytona Beach, Fla., where he will be greeted by friends and loved ones he has not seen since spring break. Washington said he is dying to see them all again, but isn’t looking forward to the ribbing he will receive from friends who are aware of the Owls’ lowly record.

“I know I’m going to get a few questions asked by my friends and family members about how the season’s going and how I feel about it,” he said. “But that comes with the territory of playing football.”

The Owls’ leisure time ends at the beginning of next week. Monday through Friday will be just as grueling as any game-week practices, going full speed in pads. Not having a game on the immediate horizon does seem to lift a weight from their shoulders, though.

“We toned down practice early in the week, but not having to travel [for a game] or anything this week gives us a chance to get ahead on schoolwork we might have fallen behind with,” Dunbar said.

“After all,” he added, “we’re ultimately students before we’re athletes.”

Although the Owls (1-7, 0-3) are slogging through a rotten final season in the Big East Conference, they won’t try to completely escape from football just because they’re not playing. Football is a big part of what they are, and they’ll still follow it from the comfort of their sofas.

“Guys are still going to watch games of other guys they know,” Dunbar said, “Though it is a little disheartening to know we’ve had at least two games we could have won and lost out on.”

Bennett agreed.

“We’re still football players. This is just a bye week,” he said. “It’s a chance not really to relax, but to take a little time for yourself. Once Monday comes, we’ve got to get ready for West Virginia.”

Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at

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