Mike Gundy: Merry Christmas and we'll see you Saturday in New Orleans

Cowboys head home after Wednesday practice to spend a the Christmas holiday with their families, and will reconvene in New Orleans on Saturday to continue preparations for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy and his two younger sons were excited to see St. Louis Cardinals slugging left fielder Matt Holliday, the Stillwater native and former Stillwater Pioneers standout quarterback, at the Cowboys early morning Wednesday practice that wrapped up the Stillwater portion of the preparation for the upcoming Sugar Bowl against Ole Miss.

They weren't the only ones excited about Holliday as offensive line coach Greg Adkins tweeted a picture of himself with Holliday. The Cowboys players were more excited about the holiday as later in the day quarterback Mason Rudolph tweeted a picture of himself and a teammate catching a flight for home. Home for the holidays is great and having Rudolph healthy is great too.

"For the most part, as Mason comes along, we’re a healthy team," Gundy said. "Our practices have been good. We’ve worked very hard. We’ll let them go and meet back up at the bowl site."

The bowl preparation schedule was really kind of customized in order to maximize Rudolph's progress and do the best in preventing a backward step for the quarterback coming off a foot procedure as the result of an injury in the Baylor game.

Orthopedic specialist for the Cowboys, Dr. Mark Pascale, performed the procedure and also did the research calling around to NFL and major college doctors to find out how they had handled similar circumstances. As a result, Oklahoma State worked a two-day on and one-day off schedule the past 13 days. It seemed to have worked because Rudolph has come long very well.  

Gundy realizes that Rudolph will be needed if the Cowboys are going to beat Ole Miss. Yes, J.W. Walsh will be needed too, as Gundy earlier this week gave two necessities that will need to happen for the Cowboys to win.

"I don’t know exactly how much ground we can make up on either side of the ball," Gundy stated. "There’s two things that need to happen in this game. [One], we need to play better and be more gap sound on defense to stop the run than we were in the last few weeks of the season. [Two], on offense, we have to find a way to establish 125 yards of rushing to balance out our ability to throw the ball down the field and use a passing game that can give us the chance to score some points. We’ve stressed that. We’re coaching it. We’re working hard on it. The players feel that."

Something else the players have felt is how hard the practices have been. They have been really hard with lots of scrimmage work. Talking to Richard Cross the sideline reporter on the Ole Miss IMG Radio Network on my radio show, Cross admitted that Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had the Rebels working harder with more physical contact after the overtime loss to Arkansas. A need to play more physical was the reasoning of Freeze, and with OSU going against that physical Ole Miss offensive and defensive line, my guess is Gundy is thinking the same thing. Players have felt it.

"We've spent a lot of time scrimmaging against the defense and I think that's been nice to have full-speed scrimmages," center Brad Lundblade said, obviously not wanting to complain. "It's good for us to get back in the swing of thing."

Other older players have moaned and groaned a little, but not publicly. It's all okay now because they are all heading home to food, gifts. and lots of family love.

“It was great finishing up," Lundblade said. "It's nice to have some time off to let your body rest and recover, and to spend time with your family. It's always refreshing."

Gundy's message to his players was, Merry Christmas and see you on Saturday in New Orleans.

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