December 29, 2007

Cowboys complete Arizona practices

TEMPE, Ariz. - And just like that, Oklahoma State's preparations for the Insight Bowl are essentially over.

Aside from a short walk-through Sunday afternoon at Sun Devil Stadium, the Cowboys are all finished preparing for the game. Earlier today, the Pokes conducted a short practice at Corona del Sol High School before hosting a youth gridiron day event. Area youth organizations were invited to hit the practice field and meet OSU coaches and players after today's practice. About 50 kids were able to take part in the event and interacted with the Pokes and had lunch with the team. Also, players signed autographs and smiled for pictures with the youngsters.

And that's how the week of practices in the Valley of the Sun ended. After practice, Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy talked to the media about the week in Arizona.

"We've had a good week of practice," Gundy said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm, and the players enjoy each other. The camaraderie and fellowship - it was enjoyable to watch them spend time together this week. They know this is the last time this group will be together and they enjoy being around each other so it was a lot of fun."

With this being the second bowl for Gundy as head coach and OSU's fifth bowl appearance in the last six seasons, the Pokes are getting used to playing a post-season contest to round out the year. Gundy said the week in Arizona was very similar to how things were for the squad last season while in Shreveport, La., preparing for the Independence Bowl matchup against Alabama.

"We've prepared the same way - our practices, our tempo, our running," Gundy said. "We felt comfortable with last year so our preparation has stayed very similar. There's a lot of ways to prepare for a bowl and different philosophies. We feel like we practice the same way we do in the regular season, they just have more free time during the day. As we get closer to the game, which would be (Sat.) and (Sun.), we ask them to get more focused."

Though days like today might make it tougher to focus than others. Besides the children getting a chance to hang out and see a college squad in person, members of the NFL Network broadcast team showed up to watch practice. This gave wide receivers Adarius Bowman and Dez Byrant the chance to speak with former NFLer Sterling Sharpe, who will be in the booth helping call the game, which starts at 5 p.m. central time on New Year's Eve.

Speaking of Bowman, many have wondered about just how healthy he'll be for this contest against the Hoosiers. If you recall, Bowman missed the final two games of the regular season. Today, Gundy addressed that issue.

"Adarius has practiced well, and I would consider him to be full speed," Gundy said. "We'll see how he holds up with the fatigue factor, but I think he'll play well and have an opportunity to make some plays."

And making plays is ultimately what makes the difference in either winning a bowl championship or losing one. And it's always very important to take home that big, wild-looking bowl trophy if you have a shot at one.

"Anytime you play a game, you're gonna prepare the best you can and try to put your team in a position to win, and that's what we've done," Gundy said. "Our players understand what we're trying to accomplish, and they'll go out and play hard."

The Pokes better, because as Gundy has told them personally, they'll be going up against a team which hasn't been bowling since 1993.

"We've made our players aware of how excited Indiana is to be in this game," he said, "and we're gonna have to go out and play hard in order to have a chance to win."

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