Before South Florida left for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Bulls players peppered running back Mo Plancher with questions about Charlotte and the experience at the game.
Plancher has been on this trip before -- way back in 2005. In fact, he might be one of college football's foremost experts on postseason travel.
Mo knows bowls.
Win one for the thumb? Nah, Plancher is already on his second hand when it comes to bowl rings. Having been redshirted and granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, the senior is now attending his sixth straight postseason game. Not many current players can say that.
"I've gotten a ring for every single one," he said. "I let my brother wear one, and I gave one to my dad. I let them sport it."
Plancher has picked up some pretty good swag along the way, too. He got a portable DVD player way back at that first Meineke game -- "that was a pretty good gift at the time," he says -- and later picked up a flip video camera "before they became popular." Yes, Plancher has been at this so long that his high-tech bowl gifts have become outdated.
Or to put it another way, Plancher remembers watching NC State's Mario Williams play in that first bowl game. The future No. 1 NFL draft pick is completing his fifth pro season.
But Plancher hasn't just hung around South Florida. Like a fine wine or Betty White, he's gotten better with age.
He was the team's top running back last year, though quarterback B.J. Daniels was the main ball-carrier. This season, as new coach Skip Holtz went to a more conventional running approach, Plancher split time with sophomore Demetris Murray at tailback. He leads the team with a career-best 743 rushing yards heading into Friday's game against Clemson, averaging a solid 4.6 yards per carry. His 162 carries this year are only 40 fewer than his career number of attempts coming into 2010.
"It's definitely better than sitting back as we're throwing the ball 50 times a game," he said. "As a player, you always want the ball in your hands with a chance to help the team win."
After several injuries earlier in his career -- he tore his ACL as a redshirt freshman and dealt with other bumps and bruises along the way -- Plancher has become much more durable, appearing in all 25 of the Bulls' games the past two years. He says he has done a better job of staying on top of the little aches and pains that could lead to something more serious, while also doing a better job managing his nutrition.
"My career has definitely had its ups and downs," he said. "But I felt like the times I was healthy and able to produce, I helped the team as best I could. Looking back on it, it's been a great experience."
Plancher will play an important role for South Florida against Clemson's physical, fast defensive front. He can help slow down the Tigers' pass rush with some effective running, and he'll be needed for extra protection on passing downs against guys like Da'Quan Bowers.
He surely won't be distracted by the setting. After a half-dozen of these things, Mo knows bowls.