STORRS, Conn. — When wide receiver Larry Taylor was offered the chance to fly home to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for the holiday weekend to spend time with his family, he declined.
That's because Taylor will join teammate and fellow Fort Lauderdale resident Darius Butler on a 12-hour drive straight to Charlotte, N.C. when the team takes a recess after Friday's walkthrough.
"We're going to get down there a little ahead of our fellow teammates and just spend some time down there hanging out," Taylor said. "We had the opportunity to fly down with the team charter, or go home and the school will fly you from your home up to Charlotte when we report on the 24th. We decided we'll just drive down because we're going to drive directly home after the game."
The duo will drive Taylor's 2007 Chevy Impala straight to Charlotte on either Friday or Saturday – they haven't decided yet. They're hoping the drive will give them the chance to get acclimated to the area before the team arrives on Monday before beginning practice for the Meineke Car Care Bowl against Wake Forest Tuesday.
"Once we get there, we'll be rested," Taylor said. "We'll be kind of worn out from being on the road for a lot of time."
Taylor said he and Butler, two of the team's six co-captains, will just hang out in the city on their own for the two days at a hotel of their choice before moving to the team hotel when the rest of the players arrive.
Also getting the chance to relax in Charlotte is kicker Tony Ciaravino, whose family moved to the "Queen City" in 2005 from Boca Raton, Fla. after he left for Storrs. As a result, Ciaravino who is leaving school on a direct, 11 p.m. flight to Charlotte Friday night, will be able to spend Christmas Eve dinner with his family before meeting up with the team.
"I definitely want to get home tomorrow because it's my sister [Marisa's] birthday," Ciaravino said.
It will be the first extended stay in Charlotte for Ciaravino, who split time between Florida and North Carolina after his redshirt season and spent most of this past summer in Connecticut.
But that stay at home leaves him with one unenviable task – shuttle duty.
"I've got to find out what time we're getting there and I'll just show up when everybody else is," the kicker said. "I know a couple of guys needed rides from the airport, so I have a car down there. I'll do my best to pick them up."
Quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, who may have the farthest distance to travel over the weekend when he returns to Fremont, Iowa for the first time since arriving on campus, will be leaving Friday at 2:30 p.m. with a connection in Charlotte before arriving in his home state.
Making things easier on the team's travel planners is defensive tackle Dan Davis, who will be driving home to Plainfield, N.J. with teammates Andre Dixon and Derrick Foster Friday afternoon.
Rell Stops By
The Huskies were the recipients of a visit from Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell Friday afternoon, who stopped by the Shenkman Center to wish the team luck against Wake Forest.
Rell, who was given a UConn baseball cap by university president Michael Hogan and a sweatshirt by Taylor, announced to the team that the governor of North Carolina, Mike Easley, has promised a barbecue for the Huskies should they emerge victorious.
"I know our kids were impressed and are always impressed when she comes around," said UConn head coach Randy Edsall. "It shows the support we have throughout the state and I just thought it was a very nice gesture on her part and was very well received by all of us."
Tickets Going Fast
UConn announced late Thursday evening that the official count for tickets to the Meineke Car Care Bowl sold by the university has reached 12,000, just 500 short of the allotment granted. Tickets can still be purchased through the school's official athletic Web site, UConnHuskies.com, or by visiting the ticket office on campus. Wake Forest has sold out its initial and secondary allotment of tickets, a number exceeding 20,000. Bank of America Stadium, the site of the game, seats 73,298. … Edsall said the practice after the visit from the governor might have been the worst the team has had all season. "They wanted me to blow practice up and end it right there, and that was where their minds ended up," he said. … Wake Forest returned to practice today for the first time in over a week. The university held its academic exam period from Dec. 10 through 15 – the same week as UConn. … Thirty of the team's 100 players who have received their grades from the university earned a grade point average of 3.0 during the Fall 2007 semester.
Zac Boyer covers UConn sports for Rivals.com. He can now be reached at email@example.com.