Back To Business For The Cowboys

STILLWATER - Fresh off a private jet flight back from Orlando, Fla., to Stillwater, in which he was accompanied by his wife, three sons, and All-American wide receiver Dez Bryant and Ray Guy Award-winning punter Matt Fodge, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy had his players back on Boone Pickens Stadium as preparation started in earnest for a Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl date with Pac-10 runner-up Oregon.

Gundy appeared to be in a great mood as the Cowboys practiced for two hours in front of a smattering of fans and several recruits.

The practice consisted of a lot of work on the passing offense and pass protection, with a lengthy pass pro drill with the offensive and defensive linemen and a team period with the emphasis on the pass.

Part of that could be because Cowboys All-American running back Kendall Hunter, about to be named to his second All-American team, was suited up but on the stationary bike and doing rehab exercises coming off that late season knee injury that started at Colorado. Hunter is expected to be fine for the bowl game and played in the season finale against Oklahoma.

There were plenty of reps for the first and second units as the scout teams were back in opposing team's color of green for the Oregon Ducks.

Zac Robinson seemed to appreciate the rest and the starting quarterback really zipped the ball. Dez Bryant made a number of catches and a one-handed catch by redshirt freshman slot receiver Josh Cooper and a spectacular grab by Hubert Anyiam provided highlights during the two-hour practice.

Down on the defensive end everything seems to be running smooth and the defense is as healthy as it has been since the start of the season. Veteran defensive coach Glenn Spencer is now working the linebackers and overseeing the entire defensive front seven and he feels good about the direction of the defense heading to the bowl game.

"There are no egos in that room and I basically have the front seven now," said Spencer. "Defo has the safeties and I have a couple of younger coaches helping out with eyes and everything. I have the front seven and Defo has the back end with Jason (Jones). We game plan it like we have all year and everybody has there area."

Spencer added that he will likely be in the press box for the bowl game since he has been up there previously as a coach and DeForest needs to stay on the sidelines to coordinate special teams.

Before the work started on Oregon in practice all the offensive and defensive linemen and linebackers gathered with the backs down in the west end zone for another three on three "nutcracker" drill. The battles raged for close to 20 minutes with Gundy an ardent spectator and redshirt freshmen running backs Kye Staley and Travis Miller doing the ball carrying.

Everybody was in with offensive linemen Andrew Lewis, Steve Denning, Russell Okung, Trent Perkins, Jonathan Rush, Nick Martinez, and Noah Franklin drawing commendations. On defense chalk up big hits by Chris Donaldson, Richetti Jones, Jamie Blatnick, Donald Booker, Ugo Chinasa, Nigel Nicholas, and Jeremiah Price.

"That is the kind of stuff you do in spring practice, but we're doing it with a bowl practice attitude," said Spencer. "We're going to get our work with the game plan part of it but then with the Donaldsons, the Richetti Jones, the Jarkas, and the guys that have played for us it is going to make them so much better in the spring because we have had this extra work. I'm going to sit back and count the extra reps that guys got because we went to a bowl game and I bet it is going to be about 400 reps."

The Cowboys will get a late start Saturday as several players, including Seb Clements, Ricky Price, and Matt Fodge, are graduating in ceremonies on Saturday. Graduation is during the day and practice will get started at 6 p.m. in Boone Pickens Stadium.

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