Bowl Report: Santa Found Shreveport

SHREVEPORT, La. - Santa Claus did find Shreveport and the Cowboys all nestled in their Holiday Inn rooms Sunday night and the evidence was there Christmas morning as wrapping paper and boxes from new toys and sporting goods equipment littered the area of the hotel where the coaches and their families are staying.

Even further evidence came after the Cowboys returned from the Horeshoe Hotel and Casino from a Christmas dinner. Santa was there to personally wish the children of the Oklahoma State traveling party a Merry Christmas and take pictures. The staff then had a private Christmas party.

The evening dinner was fabulous and featured a wide selection of salads and deserts with main course selections of steak, shrimp, pork chops, and seasoned red fish. The players were presented their Independance Bowl watches from the bowl committee.

The spirit of the season was obvious around the hotel this morning as "Merry Christmas" replaced "Hello" everytime people greeted each other. While it was Christmas and most businesses were closed and traffic was light, it was a work day for the Cowboys.

The police-led motorcade found little opposition as it made its way from the Holiday Inn to the nearby Independence Bowl Stadium at 10:20 a.m. for practice. The Cowboys drilled in the rain and chilly conditions for the second day in a row in the stadium. The spirit was evident as the team went through a heavy rep practice that lasted just more than one hour and 45 minutes.

"When we go out to practice we go out to practice with a purpose, to have fun," said senior defensive end Darnell Smith, who will play in an Oklahoma State uniform for the final time on Thursday in the 3:30 p.m. game with Alabama. "You can't get through practice unless you have fun. With the seniors our days are limited here, so we just want to set the tone out there. If we have fun then we'll have a good practice and go beat Alabama."

"When you talk about being 6-6 at the moment and having one more game left that puts special significance on that game because either you are 7-6 and classified as a winning season or 6-7 and classified as a losing season," said senior wide receiver D'Juan Woods. "That is what is most important about it for me because I have only had two losing seasons my entire career, and hopefully I won't have another."

The purpose is obvious and head coach Mike Gundy has been pleased with the effort and work in the practices despite the less than ideal conditions. The skies did lighten up as the Cowboys practiced today, their third in Shreveport.

In fact, the rain had stopped as the Cowboys boarded their buses to head back to the hotel for meetings and a little free time. It was at that time Alabama was taking the stadium turf for its first practice since arriving in Shreveport on Sunday. The updated forecast for game day on Thursday is partly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of rain and a high of 66 degrees.

Sunday night following the dinner at the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino the players and travel party were able to walk off the dinner in the hotel and its retail outlets, but the casino was off limits as it has been since they arrived. The gambling action that will have to wait for those that can legally participate (minimum age to gamble in Louisiana is 21).

"I do love poker and I would love to go out there and play a little poker," said D'Juan Woods. "I will be there after the bowl game. I am going to get dressed, get on the bus, go back to the hotel with the team, and then get in my car and go to the casino. I am ready to go all in. I'm trying to double my per diem. I just want to do it. I want to check it out at the Horseshoe."

Alabama already has as they have allowed their players who are legal by age to gamble. There were several Alabama players spotted at various casinos last night and Alabama is staying at the Sam's Town Hotel and Casino.

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