NEW ORLEANS – Make no mistake the central focus at a bowl game like the Allstate Sugar Bowl is on winning the game, but as we jumped into yesterday in our first daily report and in some of our videos from here in the Crescent City it is also about making memories and enjoying teammates, perhaps for the last time.
To get some of the important information, you know that primary focus staff out of the way, the Cowboys were back at Tulane's Yulman Stadium on Tuesday for their typical Wednesday practice in helmets and shoulder pads. After practice, the Cowboys left with virtually the entire team, minus any players needing medical treatments, for Ochsner Medical Center to visit children and families there. The scheduled activities wrapped up with a more formal team dinner at world famous Brennan's Restaurant.
Now when it comes to cuisine in New Orleans and what the players have been eating it runs the gamut as wide receiver James Washington said he likes the alligator. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said the fare at Bon Ton Restaurant for both coaching staffs and athletic officials on Monday night was pretty good. The appetizers including crawfish. shrimp, oysters were superb, but the grilled red fish as an entree and the whiskey sauced New Orleans bread pudding for desert were the highlights.
Then there are those memories we spoke of and the cuisine combined as quarterback J.W. Walsh and offensive tackle Zach Crabtree are roommates in Stillwater and with this being the last game for Walsh, unless the NCAA grants him a sixth year of eligibility because of time lost to injuries, they won't be spending as much time together.
"I don't know what it's called but there is one by our hotel," Walsh said in answering where he found the best po-boy sandwiches while in New Orleans. "It's right around the corner and I forgot what the place was called but it was good. Crabtree and I are roommates back home and we went and he had the oyster po-boy and I had the alligator po-boy. It was pretty good."
"New Orleans is awesome," Crabtree added. "The people are great and the food is amazing. Besides the po-boys with Walsh, I've been getting oysters and gumbo as much as I can."
Trust me there will be more Cajun and creole consumed tonight at Brennan's but there will also be some huge steaks being grilled up tonight for the Cowboys formal team bowl dinner.
After practice, as mentioned, most of the team headed to Ochsner Medical Center for an activity the players routinely participate in at home. This is a team that was quick to head to both Oklahoma City and Stillwater hospitals following the tragic Homecoming incident where a woman rammed her vehicle into a group of parade spectators. Some players visited victims that night, while many others were at the hospitals on their day off on Monday. Children's Medical Center in Oklahoma City and Hillcrest in Tulsa are routine stops for the Cowboys in their free time in the spring and summer.
"We like making these visits," Walsh said. "There is nothing better than when you can make somebody, some child, that is struggling, fighting to get overcome whatever it is and you can help. You can make their day better, maybe encourage them to push on."
"I like it because I know we get more out of it than those kids do," wide receiver Marcell Ateman added. "It's fun to interact with them and they make me smile. They inspire you."
Okay, for some football, the fact that Ole Miss will be without junior defensive end and early entry into the 2016 NFL Draft Robert Nkimdiche is still a hot topic.
The 6-4, 285-pound Nkimdiche is one of the most explosive front line defenders in college football. His activities that led to some injuries but also an arrest for marijuana possession in a hotel in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago has left him suspended for the game and he immediately announced his departure for the NFL. It's funny but we caught Ole Miss defensive end John Youngblood and his defensive coordinator Dave Wommack in a slight disagreement over how much Nkimdiche will be missed.
"In a way it is next man up but it does stink because they don't have that dynamic effect that he does lend to the defense," Youngblood carefully explained. "He's dynamic, he's a freak and there is no way around it. It does sting to not have him. Breeland (Speaks) and he is a good athlete and he's done a good job."
"I disagree with John, I think Breeland is... He's not as experienced as Robert (Nkimdiche) but he is very explosive and may be a little bit better athlete overall than Robert, at doing everything, but you hate losing those guys but you have to take the approach next man up."
Again, Oklahoma State isn't going light on preparing for the Ole Miss defensive line.
"They are a good d-line across the board even without him (Nkimdiche)," Crabtree said. "They are big, athletic, and we've been watching a lot of tape on them. We'll be ready for them."
Finally, to the topic all Oklahoma State fans are most interested in is who will play quarterback and how healthy is Mason Rudolph?
I guess Rudolph continuing to not be made available to the media can add to the mystery, but Walsh said they are both practicing and he thinks Rudolph has looked fine. He expects both will play and how much each plays could likely be decided by how the Rebels play on defense. Knowing that the pass was more successful against them this season, that would lead to Rudolph. That just means maybe more red zone run opportunities for Walsh.
"They are big and they play with a high motor," Walsh said of the Ole Miss defense. "They will be fun to play against because of the way they play and the talent they have.
"We will have to play very well and play fast in order to have success. I think the coaches have done a good job of understanding what is working at that moment (with quarterbacks). If we are rolling with Mason at quarterback then let him go and let's keep doing what we're doing. If it was me rolling, like at [Texas] Tech, then let me be out there. The offense does a good job of adapting to which of us is out there. As for what happens it will be something that develops in the game. We just need to get out there and play."
With three more days until the Friday evening kickoff the anticipation for that will just continue to grow.