Bowl Report: Kines, Tide Have Added Incentive

SHREVEPORT, La. - The day before a game, even a bowl game, is usually quiet. The pregame festivities Wednesday afternoon and evening with a pep rally and a battle of the bands at The Louisiana Boardwalk were held without coaches and players from either team as they are isolated the night before the 3:30 p.m. kickoff between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Cowboys completed their final walk-through at the Independence Bowl as ESPN and the Cowboy Radio Network were setting up their equipment to broadcast the game. The final window dressing to the stadium was being done, and what tickets are left (estimated at 1,000) were still being sold.

Earlier in the day both teams attended the annual Minuteman Luncheon. The event was emceed by the CBS Sports college football studio team of Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman. OSU defensive end Darnell Smith was honored by the Independence Bowl for his scholastic success.

Even before the luncheon, both teams participated in separate news conferences that were covered by no less than 100 media members and a row of 20 television cameras. The Cowboys contingent of head coach Mike Gundy, wide receiver Adarius Bowman, offensive tackle Corey Hilliard, and defensive tackle Larry Brown were appreciative of the Independence Bowl, respectful of their opponent Alabama, and confident in that their preparations went well and they were ready to bring a winning effort to the game.

"I just want to thank the people of Shreveport for the week," said Gundy. "Our players, staff and families have been treated great. We look forward to playing a team with the history and prestige of Alabama.

"Our practices have been very good as we have spent a full week here and stayed with our regular game week routine," continued Gundy. "Our players have a purpose and when it has been time to work they have worked hard. We are ready to give Alabama our best game, and we will need it to win."

The Alabama press conference was more interesting. Interim head coach Joe Kines and the three senior players he brought with him, including running back Kenneth Darby, talked of the difference in the last month in the Crimson Tide program since the dismissal of head coach Mike Shula. Kines talked of the staff, despite uncertainty of their future, continuing to work hard, recruit, and the desire to make the program better for the future whether they were part of it or not.

The players bragged on Kines and the staff and how they have coached them well in preparing for Oklahoma State in the bowl.

Then Kines was asked in the midst of all the positive talk about the staff, players response in bowl practices, and talk of the future, whether he would want to be the next head coach at Alabama.

"Yes," was his one word answer. It was a very serious yes that required no follow up.

The talk had been that this game meant more to Oklahoma State and that Alabama had been going through the motions in getting ready for the contest. That one word answer should have, and likely did, signal a different attitude toward Alabama and how prepared the Crimson Tide will be and how hard they will compete in the 2006 Independence Bowl.

A full-time promotion of Kines is unlikely, but the obvious fact that Kines wants it, his staff wants it, and the players are endorsing it is reason to believe that the Crimson Tide have found a purpose for being in Shreveport. Any thought that it might be easier for the Cowboys goes out the window.

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