Cowboy Football: Two Weeks Off A Plus

STILLWATER - The Oklahoma State Cowboys moved up practice on Tuesday and everybody greeted the move with compliments for head coach Mike Gundy, the man who made the move. The west end zone expansion of Boone Pickens Stadium causes the sun to disappear earlier in the winter afternoon and the shadows cause a significant drop in temperature.

Tuesday practice was wrapping up as the sun fell below the west end of the stadium. In the sun and with just a light breeze the conditions were excellent for practice. Sure, it was cold, but in pads and sweats it was just right.

"Excellent move," said one player.

"The best practice decision of the season," added a staff member.

The Cowboys got a lot of work in with both the offense and the defense going against scout teams. The game plan is coming together for the 74th annual Cotton Bowl and the Jan. 2 date with Ole Miss.

It took a little while to get going after resuming practice on Friday last week following the completion of final exams because for the first time Gundy gave the team a complete two weeks off from the last regular season game against OU and the start of bowl preparations.

"It took a couple of days to get them going, but we had a good practice yesterday and another good practice today," said Gundy. "We're going about two hours at a time. We are going to take tomorrow (Wednesday off as coaches will recruit) then we will go Thursday, Friday, Saturday and take Sunday off. We will go a couple of days next week before letting the players go for Christmas break and then come back together in Dallas on the 26th."

Gundy said he felt that his team needed that time off. Quarterback Zac Robinson is nearly healed and as you can read in Terry Tush's story Robinson is nearly 100 percent and will be in time for the Cotton Bowl.

Gundy said he expects linebacker Donald Booker, a necessary player to defend Ole Miss, will be back practicing before the team breaks for Christmas.

As for the layoff, Gundy said the two sluggish practices coming back were worth it. Tuesday's practice was really sharp as was the practice on Monday.

There has been some contact and there will be more to follow. Ole Miss is big and physical and the Cowboys have no choice. It was a lesson learned last December in the Holiday Bowl loss to Oregon and it helped in preparation for the season opener against another SEC team in Georgia. The Cowboys beat the Bulldogs 24-10.

"I think our football team, over the last 12 games, has been more physical," said Gundy. "More overall than we were last year and this certainly is a game where we will be competing against a team that is physical.

"In watching the crossover tape of Ole Miss against the teams in their league, one area that you notice a difference is the linemen in that league compared to this league, top to bottom. The number of big guys, two deep, it is interesting that they have that many in that league," Gundy added.

One more thing with the head coach from Tuesday. The media had a lot of discussion on the OU loss and any hangover that might still be there heading to the Cotton Bowl. There is still a hangover with some fans. Gundy says his players have to be over it and he feels they are.

"First, I don't think they have a choice," answered Gundy. "You have to move forward and that is something we talked about as a team right after the game. I think the coaches have to be enthusiastic about getting on the practice field and the chance to go to the Cotton Bowl and spending time together.

"That is the way we approached it. Getting back to work for the coaching staff, for me personally. getting back to the practice field is like somebody pours cold water over you and that is what you enjoy being on the field and working with the players."

Gundy opened the Tuesday practice to the media as a gesture since he moved his news conference back 30 minutes in order to catch one of his sons in a Christmas pageant. At least two media members took him up on the invitation. There is no practice Wednesday as the coaches have hit the road for one day of recruiting activity.

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