December 27, 2007

Touchdown in Tempe

The tree is devoid of gifts, the stockings are empty and your in-laws are gone (maybe; hopefully?).

Those are all sure signs that the transition from Christmas to the meat of bowl season is upon us all.

Another sign? When teams arrive at their bowl destinations. That's exactly what Oklahoma State did yesterday, flying out of Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport for Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport, where they landed Wednesday afternoon. That means the Insight Bowl between the Pokes and Big 10 representative Indiana is soon upon us all. The game is slated for a 4:30 p.m. start in the Central Time Zone (3:30 p.m. Arizona/Mountain Time) and will air nationally on NFL Network.

Taking his Cowboys to a second-straight bowl game under his guidance, head coach Mike Gundy said it was exciting to finally be in the Valley of the Sun and focus on the Insight Bowl matchup.

"As soon as all of the children could get over Santa Claus they were ready to get on the plane," Gundy said. "But we're looking forward to it. We are looking forward to the challenge of Indiana. We think it is going to be a great bowl game. I know that Indiana is very excited to be here. They haven't been to a bowl in a number of years. Fortunately for Oklahoma State, we've been to a bowl for five of the last six years and we are very excited about being here."

This bowl trip for the Pokes definitely backs up that old college regular-season saying: "I hope we go somewhere warm in December." In OSU's case, they're going from Oklahoma, which has had four winter storms this month, to Arizona, which has had temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to mid-60s the past week. That's far above the ice and snow weather that folks on the frontier have been experiencing. Even so, Phoenix can easily see temps in the 70s this time of year. That's probably why the third-year head coach commented about a heater running in the airport.

"I notice you guys have a heater going, but we're in short sleeves," Gundy joked. "It was snowing when we left home so this is beautiful weather for us.

"My three sons have short sleeve shirts on. We were de-icing and it was really cold (earlier Wednesday). My wife got up early to fix her hair and then she had to go out in the snow. It's nice to be here. My 11-year-old Gavin, he's been on the Internet checking out the weather. He sees upper 50s and low 60s, so that is swimming weather and short sleeves for those guys. My family and I have vacationed here before. We enjoy coming to this part of the country. Obviously with the weather, it's very attractive."

After the team left Sky Harbor, they checked into their hotel before heading to Tempe's Corona Del Sol High School, where they will conduct all their bowl practices leading up to the game against the Hoosiers. On paper, the game looks to be a battle of offenses and Gundy believes the IU offense did a nice job in 2007.

"Their quarterback(Kellen Lewis) makes a lot of plays. As you probably know, they have a wide receiver (James Hardy) that is 6-foot-7. As soon as you put a lot of people up there and stop the running game, they throw it out there to him. But their quarterback does a tremendous job for them. They are very well coached on defense. I don't think their defense gets enough credit. I'm more of an offensive coach, so I watch more tape on that side of the ball. They've done a great job of being in the right spot. They play hard. They run to the football and they tackle. Our coaches have a lot of respect for what they were able to accomplish."

The Hoosiers are bowling for the first time in 14 seasons. They're also finishing up a tough season. Not because of the 7-5 finish, but because of the death of former head coach Terry Hoeppner in June.

"They've been able to overcome a lot," Gundy said. "In our coaching fraternity, it makes it special when you see players respond to tough situations like that. So we have a lot of respect for their coaches and their players for what they have been able to accomplish. Coming to the bowl game here in Tempe is a great reward for them."

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