There's been a fine line these past two weeks for the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) football team.
On one hand, the postseason practices have largely focused on the program's future.
"I'm a young quarterback. I'm taking extra reps in live drills, and we've got young running backs too," redshirt freshman quarterback John Larson said. "It's an extra two weeks. That's the focus. We can get better when other teams can't. They already turned in their gear."
On the other hand, UMD is preparing to win a football game.
"Headed into this football game, I think our staff is taking the vantage point that practice is a little more light-hearted," head coach Curt Wiese said. "That's just until kickoff, and then we're competing."
UMD will kick off Saturday for the final time this season, taking on Central Missouri in the 2017 Mineral Water Bowl. At the end of the day, that's the light at the end of this tunnel for the Bulldogs.
"We want to make sure we put our best foot forward," Larson said. "It's important to get some of that bad taste out of our mouths after not making playoffs, and we want our seniors to go out of here with a win."
It's the second time in three years UMD has missed the NCAA Division II tournament and been selected for the Mineral Water Bowl. The 2015 game ended in a 30-22 win over Fort Hays State.
UMD has actually met Central Missouri in this game before, that a 48-17 win for the Mules in 2001.
Kickoff Saturday is scheduled for 12:00 p.m. in Excelsior Springs, Mo.