Cowboys Work Special Teams Christmas Eve and Dru Brown talks Bowl Experience
HOUSTON, Texas -- The buses rolled through the empty University of Houston campus with the Harris County Sheriff's Office providing motorcycle escort with lights blazing and sometimes sirens used. The work was done for the day as the Cowboys were heading back to their headquarter hotel, Westin Galleria. There was only an hour or so on the field with special teams getting the focus, but prior to that the team had their meetings and walk thrus in the Cougars indoor practice facility. All told there was closer to two and half hours spent thinking and projecting football that needs to be played late Saturday afternoon and evening against Texas A&M in the Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl.
“Obviously, being with family is awesome, but any time you’re playing football at this time of year it’s something special," said quarterback Dru Brown, who will start the game and has traded taking first team snaps with a now healthy Spencer Sanders. This is similar to what they did back in fall camp.
"We’re enjoying ourselves here," Brown said. "I was able to go home for a little over a day. Got to check on my dog and hang out with my folks and stuff. It was a lot of fun, and I’m glad coach Gundy allows us to do that, so we get our family fix then come out here, put in a little more work and play in a game.”
I've been asked a lot this week about Mike Gundy's success in bowl games. Gundy is 9-4 in his previous 13 bowl games as head coach and the Cowboys have won their last three.
Gundy was having fun at Tuesday's practice as his top target from his time as Oklahoma State quarterback, the sensational Hart Lee Dykes visited the Cowboys practice. Dykes lives in Houston, but has stayed connected and is a huge fan o his alma mater.
It was early in Gundy's coaching career that he was talking to then Texas head coach Mack Brown about bowl preparation. Brown told him that he had done it a lot of ways, but he had discovered the best way was to do the heavy work at home and then get to the bowl site, keep practicing it and repping it, but keep the work light and let the players enjoy the trip.
"I can't say enough about how Coach Gundy handles things and let's us have fun at the bowl, but when we are out there practicing then we're working," Brown said. "The cool thing about bowl prep is you have your game plan and you get to practice it a lot. We’re not really wishy washy. We know exactly what we’re gonna do. We get a lot of reps at it versus a lot of different looks.”
Something that Brown, Sanders, the offensive line, and offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson all agree on is it helps having Chuba Hubbard. There are a lot of people questioning Hubbard's decision to play in the Texas Bowl. The executive director of the game, David Fletcher told me that he was pumped that Hubbard is playing. Mike Gundy told me it is a great example of "Cowboy Culture".
"I'm not sure if he is coming back next year and he hasn't made that decision," Gundy told me. "But Chuba cares about his teammates and this program and he wasn't going to leave that way. He was going to finish this season with them."
“It’s real important to have Chuba," Brown added. "He’s probably one of the best players in the country, so anytime you have a guy like that who decides to play, it’s going to help us.”
Brown is also trying to keep it in the background, almost out of sight out of mind, that he is playing his last college football game. The emotion bubbles up when he thinks about it.
"It hasn't really hit me yet, but like I've told you, everytime I play I try to prove something," Brown said. "It's bittersweet, but I wouldn't want to take the field with anyone else."
He's got a few days and yes, the Cowboys will practice on Christmas morning with a typical Thursday practice since Wednesday is really Thursday of game week.