A Little Fun and a Lot of Work

A little bull riding and a lot of continued hard work marked the last 24 hours of Alabama's week long stay in Dallas, Texas as the Crimson Tide prepares for the 70th Cotton Bowl against Texas Tech at Fair Park Monday at 10 a.m.

Thursday's practice was a two-hour workout in full pads on what was another warm day. Tomorrow's practice will be like a usual Wednesday practice, and Saturday will be the final shorts and helmets practice before a walk-through on Sunday and the game on Monday.

Wednesday night the team went to an arcade/bowling alley/laser tag arena while staff of the Cotton Bowl and both teams attended a Western themed party at Gilley's honky tonk, which featured country and western dancing and a mechanical bull.

"Between the bull riding and the two-stepping our coaches showed their lack of talent," Shula said.

The Tide players spent Thursday afternoon visiting a local hospital.

"Our guys are going to go over to a local children's hospital and visit, I think it's an important opportunity to do something like that," Shula said. "It's been a good week so far practice wise. I think we've gotten a lot of things done."

Shula said practice would be closed beginning Friday. Fans had been allowed to watch sections of practice from the fence outside of SMU's practice facility in University Park. Other parts of Alabama's practices have been conducted inside SMU's Ford Stadium with no public access.

SMU's field has an artificial field turf surface while SMU practice fields are natural grass. Fair Park, the site of the AT&T Cotton Bowl, has a natural playing surface.

"We're going to close practice," Shula said. "We're going to go out there on the grass and get our work done out there. We're playing on grass so we want to practice on grass."

Shula said Matt Collins is "a question mark" for the game Monday with a knee injury. The rest of the team is healthy and ready to play, Shula said.

Although most of the tea leaves around the Alabama camp seem to indicate that Antoine Caldwell will start at center on Monday, Shula said Thursday that Britt was at center and Caldwell at guard for a larger part of practice.

"We worked Taylor Britt at center today and worked Antoine at guard more so than we've done in the past," Shula said. "We may do that in the game, too. We may have guys moving around, whether it's Antoine at guard and Taylor at center or whether it's Antoine at center and Taylor at guard – not just Mark Sanders and Justin Moon."

Shula said the staff had "good resources" when it came to scouting what Texas Tech might change between the end of the regular season and the bowl game. Last year the Red Raiders stunned Cal with a 45-31 beat down last year. Coincidentally, Alabama tight ends coach and special teams coordinator Dave Ungerer came to Alabama from Cal and where he was on Jeff Tedford's staff. Tech had 597 yards of offense in that game.

"We've got good resources on the guys on our staff talk to people in how to approach this," Shula said. "We've got experience from last year."

The extra time off could benefit Alabama in deciphering the Tech offense, but Shula said that is a double-edged sword.

"I think both (teams benefit)," he said. "First of all it benefited the coaches. We practiced a lot more earlier on last year. We pulled off of them the last week (last year) which we're not doing. We're going exactly like we did the first week of the season as far as preparations this week."

Shula's counter to Texas Tech will not be to "throw it 60 times, at least not in this game." When Alabama does pass, efficiency is the key, he said.

"Everybody knows that 34 is going to be one of the guys we feel is going to be a productive player so we got to get him the ball. When we're throwing it we have to be efficient. The biggest thing for us is staying out of second and third and long situations. They're going to score some points, we can't panic. We've got to be able to play our game, the old cliché, playing it one play at a time."

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