BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Perry Yong left home four years ago to begin his college football career at the University of Cincinnati. Now he’s back home for his final game.
Young, a Spain Park graduate, will lead the No. 21 Bearcats (10-3) against Boston College (6-6) Thursday in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field.
“It feels good to be back home in Birmingham,” Young told a crowd of Cincinnati fans at a pep rally in the Uptown district Wednesday night.
Young has been part of a program that’s made a major turnaround over the course of his career. After consecutive 4-8 seasons his first two years, the Bearcats have gone 21-5 since. They can clinch their second consecutive 11-win season with a victory Thursday.
Head coach Luke Fickell, in his third season, has led the program’s resurgence, and he knows bowl games can be a great experience for everyone involved.
“It has to do with, first and foremost, the people that you’re with,” Fickell said.
Boston College hopes a new head coach can create the same kind of improvement Fickell has. But they’ll have to wait until next year for a first glimpse. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley was hired to replace the Steve Addazio, who the Eagles fired in early December. But interim coach Rich Gunnell will lead the team in the bowl game. He knows how big an opportunity it is to play a ranked team.
“We’re facing an excellent, excellent team in Cincinnati, led by coach Fickell,” Gunnell said. “Had a great 10-win season with a lot of talent on that other side. We know we’re going to have our hands full and excited to play them.”
The Eagles and Bearcats kick off at 2 p.m. in the Birmingham Bowl, which is in its 14th year. According to the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau, it’s generated $151-million for the area.
“We’re looking forward to fans coming in from both the Cincinnati and Boston College area,” Birmingham city councilor William Parker said. “And we’re looking forward to a lot of fans here in the Southeast area to come in and take part and experience a great game on Thursday at Legion Field.”
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