MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The emotion could be easily detected in Cord Howard’s voice.
With it quivering and cracking, he did the best he could to keep the feelings from flowing freely.
“I just realized this was my last practice,” the senior Georgia Tech offensive guard said Sunday as the Yellow Jackets concluded their final workout of the season.
Coming just two days ahead of Georgia Tech’s appearance Tuesday night in the BCS range Bowl against Iowa, the brief session marked the final time he and five other scholarship players would don their college practice jerseys.
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Before that moment, none of that had sunk in.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Howard said. “Breaking it down in the huddle at the end was really crazy. All good things come to an end. All experiences open up new ones, so I’ve enjoyed my opportunity here.”
To underclassmen like freshman receiver Stephen Hill, it has long been clear that the departing players have relished their time at Georgia Tech. Most importantly, Hill contends, they took full advantage of their brief time with head coach Paul Johnson.
“They have been through a lot with coaching changes and other things that have happened,” Hill said.
In their time since joining the Yellow Jackets, the seniors have not only been part of one major coaching switch, but they also ended a seven-game losing streak to rival Georgia, secured an ACC championship and came away with an appearance in a BCS bowl.
As a result of those performances, other remaining players believe the seniors are leaving the program in capable hands.
“They’ve just kind of talked to us about how they want to go out on top,” sophomore A-back Roddy Jones said before the game. “They want to see us go on to succeed to bigger things next year.”
In addition to the six seniors, the bowl game might also be the final one for at least three juniors, who have decided to test the NFL draft waters.
B-back Jonathan Dwyer, defensive end Derrick Morgan and receiver Demaryius Thomas have a chance to leave for the professional ranks. Entering Tuesday’s game, none had made an announcement to confirm their decisions of staying or going.
Hours before the game, Georgia Tech announced that it would unveil newly designed uniforms created by its jersey provider, Russell Athletic.
Resembling the same style as their usual home white jerseys and pants, the uniforms’ only major visual difference are more narrow, modernized stripes along the sides of the tops and bottoms. Another major visual difference is a triple stripe near the shoulder pads, which is to signify “a nod to the triple option,” a news release from Georgia Tech said.
The jerseys are also made of a material that is supposed to fit a little tighter to the body, supposedly making it more difficult for defenders to make tackles.
Fans flock to Florida
Although it was announced that Georgia Tech had only sold just short of 11,000 tickets to Tuesday’s Orange Bowl, Land Shark Stadium was nearly filled to capacity.
With vocal fans on both sides, however, Yellow Jackets supporters were not lost in the mass of Hawkeyes followers who converged on south Florida.
As Yellow Jackets fans joined Hawkeyes fans in tailgate parties around the stadium several hours before the game’s slated 8 p.m. kickoff, one Georgia Tech student made it known that the numbers did not matter. She and others wanted to make the trip with other Yellow Jackets diehards.
“Georgia Tech may have only sold 11,000 tickets, but those 11,000 are the best football fans alive,” Georgia Tech senior Allison Gober said.
SEC crew officiates
SEC officials have been embattled all season, but that did not prevent them from landing an appearance in a prime-time bowl game.
After being questioned for certain controversial play calls during the season, including Georgia’s home loss to LSU, the conference fielded a crew to work Tuesday’s game.
Coldest Orange Bowl
Tuesday’s game set a bowl record for coldest game-time temperature in the 76-year history of the game.
At 49 degrees at kickoff, the temperature was lower than the 57-degree temperature in the 2008 Orange Bowl between Kansas and Virginia Tech.
Regardless the weather, it still qualified as a heat wave compared to the 18-degree low expected in Atlanta on Tuesday night, and the minus-7-degree low anticipated in Iowa City, Iowa.
Hamilton hosts Macon viewing
Former Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton was in Macon on Tuesday, hosting an Orange Bowl viewing at Shot House Bar and Grill on Mercer University Drive.
A former All-ACC selection and Heisman hopeful, Hamilton’s career ended following the 1999 season. Until current quarterback Josh Nesbitt passed him, Hamilton owned several career rushing records for Yellow Jackets signal-callers.
On one run halfway through the first quarter, Nesbitt showcased that record-breaking speed as he surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. He is the first Georgia Tech quarterback to hit the mark in school history, and became the Yellow Jackets’ second 1,000-yard rusher for the season. Dwyer entered the game with 1,346 yards rushing. ... Chandler Anderson’s first-quarter punt at the 12:08 mark was the Yellow Jackets’ first since Georgia Tech played Duke on Nov. 14. On the next possession, he punted again, signaling the first time the Yellow Jackets had back-to-back punts in a game since Oct. 31’s win over Vanderbilt. ... Macon native Julian Burnett received his fourth start of the year Tuesday. The true freshman also had a tackle on his second series.