Robert Allen's Alamo Bowl Report

After morning meetings, the Cowboys went through a two hour and 20 minute practice at Alamo Heights High School Stadium on Sunday in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. It was a snappy workout that tested the game plans on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It also included getting a lot of players, both starters and backups, plenty of work.

One major adjustment for game day will be at right tackle where Adam Gourley (6-6, 290) will get the start in place of Kellen Davis. Davis suffered a concussion in Thursday's practice and was knocked out cold. He will sit out the Alamo Bowl.

As for the practice, head coach Les Miles seemed to think the Cowboys are on track.

"I think the game plan has gone well to a point, to a point where two more days will get it fixed," said Miles. "It's gone well to this point."

After practice the team bused back to the hotel and then left at 5 p.m. to go to the SBC Center where they watched the hometown San Antonio Spurs take on the Boston Celtics and former Cowboy basketball player Tony Allen. Allen was a first-round draft choice of the Celtics last spring.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Tony," said strong safety Vernon Grant. "I remember when he was at OSU he used to talk to me about what he'd do if he was a wide receiver. We used to have some pretty good conversations. He's a great athlete, but he couldn't beat me running a pass route."

While the players from both teams watched the Spurs and the Celtics, the coaching staffs from both teams were invited to the annual Alamo Bowl Coaches Dinner with Alamo Bowl staff members.

Monday will feature practice, the Sylvania Alamo Bowl pep rally on the Riverwalk featuring the cheerleaders and bands from both Oklahoma State and Ohio State. Both teams go from the pep rally to the Alamo Bowl Team Fiesta Dinner.

The Cowboys have two Ohio natives in the program, head coach Les Miles and All-Big 12 offensive guard Sam Mayes. Miles explains that for the two of them this game does hold special meaning.
"When you are born and raised in Ohio and grew up around a great college program you'll enjoy competing against it more than some other guys," Miles said. "Ohio State was such a great football team for years. My senior year I had the good fortune of going to Michigan and seeing if I could help change that around for a few years."
When asked further about the significance, especially for Mayes of playing the Buckeyes, Miles added.
"You grow up in the state it's the benchmark of Ohio football. It's fun to compete against them."
Mayes has made it clear he has a little chip on his shoulder when it comes to Ohio State. That is where he wanted to go to school, but then head coach John Cooper told him he was too big and too slow. Mayes added that he was offered a scholarship by Jim Tressel, then the head coach at Youngstown State. He felt if Tressel had been at Ohio State when he was a high school senior that he would have been offered a scholarship to be a Buckeye. Still, for John Cooper, Mayes would like to go out with a win over the Buckeyes.

With the suspension of Troy Smith, the original starting quarterback for Ohio State this season, Justin Zwick is back in business. The offense changed in game seven following the shoulder injury to Zwick as Smith took over. The Buckeyes went from a more classic "I" offense to a spread offense with lots of shot gun and gun and one formations. Ohio State also spread out the wide receivers and even used a multiple back formation with freshman wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. in the backfield. Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles doesn't think the Buckeyes will change much going back to Zwick.
"It's virtually the same offense, it's just interpreted differently with a guy that can run with the football so well," theorized Miles. "Zwick is not immobile. He can move his feet and do things like Smith, maybe not as dangerous."
Ohio State offensive coordinator Jim Bollman, later in a scheduled news conference, said pretty much the same thing to a room full of media.
"It's not going to change," Bollman said. "We're very fortunate that he's had the experience that he's had this season and along with the receivers developing, younger guys coming along and playing more and more and better throughout the year. I don't think it's going to change much for us in this game."
Zwick said he is up to the task and feels he can step right in, primarily because the young offense is much more mature now than it was when he started the season at quarterback. Zwick in his duty this season completed 81-of-160 passing for 1,020 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions. He only rushed for 39 yards on 32 carries.
"I've been preparing as if I was going to get this opportunity since the injury," said Zwick. "No matter what, whether I was playing or not you get some time off at the end of the year. I'm just going to go out and lead the offense and try and get some points on the board."

There is no doubt that Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Clay has been a target of Cowboy fans during the 2004 season. Several games that saw the O-State defense riddled had Cowboy fans going as far as asking for Clay to resign or retire. He has no intention of doing either, but when asked to introduce himself on Sunday as a press conference he showed he still has his sense of humor.
"I'm the defensive coordinator," said Clay. "Some people may think I'm offensive, but that's my title, defensive coordinator."

COMPETITION ANTICIPATED Oklahoma State fans are already discussing the anticipated competition this spring for the quarterback position. Redshirt freshman Donovan Woods has performed admirably all season breaking several freshman records at quarterback. He will compete again this spring with Texas schoolboy sensation and national blue chip quarterback Bobby Reid, who was forced to miss most of the season with a shoulder injury from last spring. Miles commented first on the play of Woods.
"I think he's given this football team a chance to win," said Miles. "He's done what we've asked him to do. He's come along and we've been very fortunate to have him as the start at quarterback and to improve from there."
And what does he see for the quarterback position in the future?
"It's what level can you rise the position to either as Donovan Woods the returning guy or what competition is there that elevates it to a higher level. I certainly like what we've had out of the position this season right up to the bowl and I'm not looking much past that."
Miles also gave his opinion on what he has seen from Reid since he came back in late September from his injury.
"He's getting stronger. It's going to be fun for him. It's difficult for these guys that are capable and can't play right now. Getting the chance to play, he'll enjoy it."

At the defensive press conference Sunday in San Antonio strong safety Vernon Grant and defensive end Darnell Smith, a native of San Antonio, sure made it sound like this Oklahoma State team is a happy bunch heading into the game on Wednesday.
"I feel good," said the very talkative Grant. "This is a great experience for me being up here with my coach and teammates, playing in my third bowl game in my college career. I just look at it as a good thing. Let's make the best of it, we're here. I'm just glad you all invited me here."
Darnell Smith quickly jumped in and asked if he could add his two cents to Vernon's statement.
"I'd like to say the greatest satisfaction of playing at Oklahoma State is playing with each individual player, playing with guys like Jamie Thompson, Vernon Grant, Pagitte McGee and Clay Coe," said Smith with emotion. "Even though we may have our down times and our up times we always play together as a team. We all play for each other and we play together as a team and then get together as a family. That's one of the greatest satisfactions that I could have."

The oddsmakers have Oklahoma State favored over Ohio State by anywhere from two to three and a half points. Therefore, the game could come down to a field goal. The Cowboys are confident in freshman kicker Jason Ricks who kicked a 55-yard field goal in the final regular season game at Texas Tech. But Ohio State has this year's Lou Groza Award winner as college football's top kicker. Nugent hit a 55-yard field goal on the last play to beat Marshall and in his career is 8-of-9 on field goals of 50 yards or more. He was asked his range for Wednesday night's game inside the Alamodome.
"Sixty-three or sixty-four," said Nugent. "I can't say no problem because those goalposts get real small from that far out, but if I hit every kick like I hit an extra point then it should go from that far."
That's confidence.

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