FORT WORTH — Players and coaches from BYU and Tulsa are enjoying the first-class hospitality served up by the Armed Forces Bowl.
Both teams attended a National Basketball Association game between the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and the Denver Nuggets on Monday night at the American Airlines Center.
"It was a great experience," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We were really taken care of. We had suites with really nice seats, a great view, with drinks and popcorn. It was really fun. A lot of our players thanked me afterwards. That might be one of the things they most appreciated of all the things we've done."
"They've really treated us nice," quarterback Riley Nelson said of bowl officials. "They made us feel real big-time."
Both teams attended the Welcome Dinner at Billy Bob's Texas on Tuesday night.
Among the events scheduled for today include "Welcome Home a Hero" at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in the morning, a visit to Cook Children's hospital in the afternoon, and a "comedy event" in the evening.
Both teams' hotel accommodations are in Fort Worth, though the bowl game will be played in Dallas, at SMU's 32,000-seat Ford Stadium. The bowl is usually played at TCU's Amon Carter Stadium, but that facility is undergoing major renovations.
PRACTICE TIME: BYU has held two practices — both at Burleson Centennial High School outside of Fort Worth — with mixed results. The Cougars will practice there again Wednesday.
"(Monday) was our first practice down here and, man, it was a long day because of Christmas break. We left (Provo) at 7:15 (a.m.)," Mendenhall said. "We had about 24 players that through connecting flights coming from home were delayed so we had a skeleton crew for part of practice and a full team for the second half of practice. But the kids were energetic and upbeat when it came to practice.
"(On Tuesday), the offense was a little bit sharper than the defense. Defensively, not quite as sharp as I would like and maybe a little bit bored. We've been preparing for the same opponent for a while. But overall, I'm pleased and excited with what they've done to this point. It's hard to gauge until you play."
On Tuesday, the Cougars practiced beneath sunny skies. Temperatures were in the low 60s.
"Practice went pretty well. We had to run at the end," said linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "We were making more mistakes than we need to be making. We're going to get focused for (Wednesday) and get back at it. I'm not saying we had a bad practice, but I don't think our effort was there. We're going to get that corrected and be ready to go execution-wise."
Said Nelson, "We're antsy to play. We've been running these same plays now for six or seven practices. So we're excited to go play."
BOWL GIFTS: As part of the bowl festivities, BYU and Tulsa players will be allowed to choose Sony gifts — such as a video game console, televisions, and digital cameras.
It's like Christmas all over again.
"I might get a camera," Nelson said. "I got my last one during my mission. That's kind of outdated. I got mostly clothes (for Christmas), so I need to get some electronics."
INJURY UPDATE: Running back Michael Alisa (ankle) is questionable for Friday's game. "The best I could hope for is a game-time decision on (Alisa)," Mendenhall said.
Head trainer Kevin Morris said that a few players have been battling a flu bug. "We're trying to contain it," he added.