A Wild Monday In San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – What a day in San Antonio for the Oklahoma State Cowboys as mid-morning saw what looked like the entire San Antonio Fire Department as well as multiple other emergency vehicles and police cars descending on the Marriott River Center, which is the Cowboys headquarters hotel.

Cowboy color analyst and OkBlitz sports anchor John Holcomb reported he had to scramble as the alarm went off as he was about to hit the shower. The Cowboys coaches and players were in meeting rooms going through their regular pre-practice meetings but avoided having to vacate the hotel when staff informed them the fire was contained and they could stay in their meetings.

It still added a little excitement to the normal bowl routine.

Fortunately, the day ended with less drama as the river barges all made their destination of the Arneson River Theatre for the most unique pep rally in all of college football with both teams, head coaches, and the band and cheerleaders rolling down the River Walk to the pep rally where the bands play, the spirit squads show off a little and the head coaches fire up the fans.

Other than all of that the day was pretty normal as the Cowboys went through their last significant practice as they covered all special teams angles (you can read more about that in the notes that follow).

The offense and defense went through their entire repertoire against the scout teams imitating the Arizona looks. The practice wrapped up the Cowboys work at Alamo Heights Stadium, home of the 2006 Class 4A Texas state champs.

Tuesday afternoon's walk through will be in The Alamodome.

Monday was the day that the Arizona defense and the Oklahoma State offense met the media at the daily press conference. Tuesday we will preview the game with a complete rundown of the match-ups and who we favor in each area. We will also include Big 12 bowl predictions.

There are some interesting side stories with the Cowboys offense and the departure of offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia as offensive coordinator next season and then in 2012 head coach of the Mountaineers.

Meanwhile, will the last defensive staffer at Arizona turn the lights out when he leavse. The end of the regular season has seen co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown and defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo heading to Colorado to join the new staff of former Buffaloes tight end Jon Embree.

The move is a smart one for Embree as with Colorado heading to the Pac-12 next season there is a need to add assistants to his staff that know the lay of the land out west. However, it has left Arizona head coach Mike Stoops needing help on defense.

Tim Kish is now defensive coordinator and he joked that he is living in the meeting room at the Convention Center across from the Wildcats' San Antonio hotel the Hyatt Regency. He also said that head coach Mike Stoops has been more active and they have included some of Coach Stoops wishes in the defensive game plan.

"You know, it's been interesting," said Kish, a veteran college assistant of 35 years. "We have a routine that we go through setting up the game plan and obviously I've been doing most of that myself.

"Certainly, Coach (Mike) Stoops has been voicing his opinion on some things that we want to have in the game plan and ready to go for Wednesday night. We want to have enough ammunition going into the game but we want it to be simple enough to go out and execute.

"We know the challenge we have ahead of us is trying to stop them and trying to make them out-execute us. That's kind of been the plan for this whole thing."

Kish added that the Wildcats have replaced one of the departed coaches in bringing in former Arizona defensive lineman Joe Salavea.

"You know, Joe Salavea is coming in as our defensive line coach," said Kish. "He's been here for three or four practices right now. It's great to have him around our guys. He's a great motivator and it will help having him on the field Wednesday and we'll take care of the other position after the bowl game."

Salavea is a "fire it up" kind of guy and the defensive players have rolled through all the change following the season pretty well. It is a motivated group as senior defensive end Brooks Reed explained. They don't want to go out on a five-game losing streak or back-to-back bowl losses (following last season's 33-0 drubbing at the hands of Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl).

"We have to try to redeem ourselves," said Reed. "The last four games we didn't get to the quarterback. It was disappointing knowing we left a lot of opportunities on the field, but we know that we are that close. If we come out great this game, that will just propel next year's class."

Oklahoma State is losing its offensive coordinator but Dana Holgorsen is in San Antonio to coach the game. The critical question would be, will Holgorsen's offense be just as potent with him on the way to West Virginia afterwards? My answer is yes, an emphatic yes!

That is for two reasons. The first is that in a short one-year period Holgorsen has become very close with his players, ranging from quarterback Brandon Weeden to wide receiver Justin Blackmon to fullback Bryant Ward.

The example of Ward may be one of the best examples. As quarterback, Weeden likes to say he was celebrating the hiring of Holgorsen knowing it was a perfect offense for a throwing quarterback. Ward wasn't sure there would be a spot for him and he wasn't celebrating Holgorsen's arrival.

"He was extremely mad when I got the job," said Holgorsen of Ward. "Wouldn't look at me, wouldn't talk to me. Probably a whole month went by and we started putting in the offense, he saw that he was gonna play a little bit and due to the fact that he was one of our better players he ended up playing about twice as much as he did last year. So, you're welcome."

"Thanks," said Ward, sitting one seat over on the podium Monday.

"I really care for these guys and I want them to win that 11th game. I want that for them and they deserve it," added Holgorsen.

"He reminds us that we mean a lot to him as an offense and he wants to win this one just as bad for us, because he has never won 11," said Weeden. "The reason he came back and wanted to coach was because of all the guys on this offense. We have done something pretty special, so he wanted to be a part of it."

The other reason is that Holgorsen and his offense will be on display for his future players on Wednesday. West Virginia plays Tuesday night in Florida in the Champs Sports Bowl against North Carolina State. You can guarantee that they will be watching OSU on Wednesday. This game will become Holgorsen's calling card for his new players in Morgantown.

"I will watch them tomorrow night because I really don't know that much about them," said Holgorsen. "I kind of want to see what they are all about and what I am going to be working with when I get there. Yeah, I would think they would be watching us. I know if I were an offensive player at West Virginia I would be wanting to see what I was going to be doing."

So, bottom line on these sides of the ball for each team, persevering through change has been the theme for the bowl preparation. Both coaching staffs say they are ready and haven't skipped a beat. My guess is somebody will skip a beat on Wednesday and that skip might lead to being on the wrong side of the scoreboard.


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