Cowboys provide drama, keep dream alive
November, 6, 2011
By David Ubben | ESPN.com
STILLWATER, Okla. -- Kansas State escaped a fourth down, extended a drive and took a late fourth-quarter lead, its first since early in the second quarter.
All of a sudden, Oklahoma State's high ranking in the BCS appeared in jeopardy, taking the Cowboys' historic, spotless record with it. Everyone in the silent stadium knew it.
So did Mike Gundy. He's not much different than those clad in orange among the record crowd of 59,895 in attendance.
"It all goes through my mind, and honestly, I think any coach who says it doesn't, I think he's just BS-ing you," Gundy said.
Maybe it doesn't for his coordinators, Gundy said, because with all the commotion of calling down to players on the sideline and making adjustments, it gets hectic. But for a man who, during games, mutes his microphone, keeps his mouth shut and lets his coordinators do their jobs, he's got plenty of time to think.
"It goes through my mind. How can it not?" he said. "If anybody says it doesn't, I think they're crazy. Because it just does."
Another week, another puff of air in the high-pressure balloon surrounding Oklahoma State's program. With a pair of late touchdown drives and a last-second defensive stop, Oklahoma State escaped with a 52-45 win over No. 14 Kansas State and will wait until Sunday to grab Alabama's vacated No. 2 spot in the BCS standings after the Crimson Tide lost 9-6 to LSU on Saturday.
Gundy's spent nearly a quarter of a century as an Oklahoma State player or coach. He's seen a whole lot of Oklahoma State teams blow it, and not make that defensive stop when needed. He's seen that untimely turnover derail a season with so much hope when a touchdown was needed.
Saturday, Oklahoma State took that punch in the gut and punched back.
Kansas State deflated Boone Pickens Stadium with a 14-play, 70-yard drive to take a 38-37 lead. The Cowboys answered with Brandon Weeden's 54-yard touchdown pass to Justin Blackmon, who finished with 205 yards and two scores on 13 catches.
K-State answered with an 80-yard kickoff return by Tyler Lockett and a game-tying touchdown three plays later.
J.P. Wilson/Icon SMI"College football has turned into March Madness and starts in September," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "I just don't know that there are going to be many teams that can make it through to the end that don't have some close calls."
Oklahoma State's answer? Sixty-five yards in four plays, a vintage Oklahoma State drive to take the lead for good. On their final possession, the Wildcats marched 66 yards on 15 plays, but the 14th and 15th were incompletions that set off a celebration as the offense sprinted on the field to mob a successful defense breathing a sigh of relief in its end zone.
"I've never heard Boone Pickens Stadium as loud as it was," said Weeden, who broke his own school record with 505 yards passing, while adding four touchdowns, three bloody knuckles on his throwing hand and two interceptions.
The gravity of a historic night in Boone Pickens Stadium didn't occur to Oklahoma State's 28-year-old passer, but as for Gundy, he's more than willing to drink in a season that OSU fans have waited their whole lives for.
"I don't think they ever thought the day would happen when we'd be in the top 10," Gundy said. "You could take a straw poll around here for the old-timers."
Now, Oklahoma State is knocking on the door of a No. 1 ranking and is three wins away from a national championship game appearance.
Periodically, Gundy says fans will stop him and simply say, "Thank you."
To send those fans into nirvana, it too often requires nail-biters like Saturday night's squeaker.
"College football has turned into March Madness and starts in September," Gundy said. "I just don't know that there are going to be many teams that can make it through to the end that don't have some close calls."
Consider this one Oklahoma State dodging a late buzzer beater off the back iron, I suppose.
"Anytime you can pull out a squeaker like that, it'll build a lot of character and really show what your football team is made of," Weeden said.
Whatever Oklahoma State's made of, it's good. Back in September, the Cowboys erased a 17-point lead at then-No. 8 Texas A&M to move into the driver's seat for a spot in the Big 12 title game.
After Oklahoma's loss two weeks ago, the Cowboys became a contender for the No. 2 spot in the BCS.
As for guys like Boone Pickens, who provide bags of money, and loss-weary fans thanking Gundy for the ride of a lifetime?
"He deserves it. The people that come to these games for 40 years deserve it. These kids deserve it," Gundy said. "I don't really care about me ... but all the people that have been around here forever, they're the ones that deserve it."
So, what's the harm in a few nail-biting moments along the way?