Bowl Report: Christmas Eve Cook Off

SHREVEPORT, La. - It was not your traditional Christmas Eve in either cuisine or setting Sunday night. The Oklahoma State Cowboys and their travel party to the PetroSun Independence Bowl enjoyed a welcome dinner that included both the Cowboys and the team and travel party from Alabama, a cook-off between players and coaches from both teams, and a typical cajun dinner.

The River City Center in downtown Shreveport was the location as fried catfish, jambalaya, red beans and rice, hush puppies, cayenne peppered french fries, and cole slaw were served in large portions.

While the two teams ate, some of their teammates and coaches participated in an Iron Chef-type cooking competition featuring shrimp, steak, a myriad of seasonings and complimentary ingredients, and a secret ingredient of alligator meat. Each team had three smaller teams working on particular portions of the fare.

The Oklahoma State special teams trio of Coach Joe DeForest, kicker Bruce Redden and deep snapper Zach Allen took first place for their seasoned steak on a bed of dirty rice complimented by alligater stuffed portobello mushrooms. The OSU offensive team of Coach Curtis Luper, offensive lineman Corey Hilliard and running back Keith Toston placed second in the shrimp category with a shrimp pasta dish and third in the steak cateogry with grilled steak topped by seasoned alligator meat.

The OSU defensive cooking team included Coach Nelson Barnes, defensive end Victor DeGrate and defensive tackle Xavier Lawson-Kennedy.

All participants were given a gift card for any of the merchants at the Louisiana Boardwalk, while the special teams group and the Alabama offense, which took first in the shrimp category, all won deluxe George Foreman Grills.

While Alabama just arrived earlier in the day and will not practice for the first time until Christmas Day, the Cowboys had a couple of hours to dry out between the end of their two-hour, 20-minute practice and the welcome dinner. The practice included plenty of repetition of the game plan on offense and plenty of work for the defense against the expected array of plays from the Alabama offense. There was also a two-minute drill and sprints that completed the practice conducted in the Independence Bowl Stadium during a steady drizzle.

"It was a good day to practice," OSU head coach Mike Gundy said. "There was a steady rain out there and from what I understand it might rain on Thursday. It was good to practice in it and get used to it.

"(The players) were fine," continued Gundy. "These guys are going to go out there and practice hard. One thing the staff has done a good job of getting across to them is that we are going to practice for two hours. They might as well have fun out there. The leadership on this team has brought the young players along and they understand that."

The players didn't seem to mind the weather as a quick survey of the Cowboy assistant coaches revealed the opinion that both Sunday's practice and the first practice held late Saturday afternoon have both gone well.

"It is not that difficult to practice in the rain," said Cowboy running back Dantrell Savage said. "There are some things you have to watch out for. You learn to get through those things. Practice is about focusing on getting better."

For defensive end Nathan Peterson it is great to finally be able to practice and feel good physically. The time he was held out during the practices back in Stillwater have paid off.

"Today was the best I've felt," said Peterson. "I loosened up and then I was flying around and didn't feel any pain. I should be ready to go full speed on Thursday. I had no pain today."

The Cowboys will practice at 11 a.m. Christmas Day and then spend most of the remainder of the day celebrating the holiday. They will meet in the afternoon, have some free time, and then bus to the Horseshoe Casino for a team Christmas Dinner.

In the morning players will find that Santa did find them as each player will have a Christmas stocking stuffed with goodies.

OSU and Alabama will kickoff the PetroSun Independence Bowl on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN in high definition and can be heard on the Cowboy Sports Network.

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