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Monday, November 7, 2011
Air of serendipity envelops OSU run and rise

By David Ubben

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy built his program, now in its seventh year, on four principles.

Character, accountability, structure and discipline. Every year since he took over for Les Miles in 2005, the Cowboys' record has improved on or equaled the previous year's win total.

"You’ve got to show up, you’ve got to do the right thing, you’ve got to go to class," Gundy said. "I bit my lip and we held our breath a lot of times when we suspended players."

The stat Gundy might have been most proud of after Saturday's 52-45 win over Kansas State? The team had just one missed class reported all week.

Maybe Gundy's four building blocks are only a fourth of Bill Snyder's 16 Goals for Success, but it's paying off in Stillwater.

And those blocks aside, there's no doubting the factor that's aided the Cowboys along the way, too.

"We got a little bit lucky," Gundy said, later adding, "Anybody that says you don’t have to have a little luck? They’re crazy."

Recruiting these days is "easy to do," Gundy says, and the program's growing credibility is a huge reason why.

"We hit on a Dez Bryant, we hit on a Kendall Hunter, we hit on a Brandon Weeden. We hit on a Blackmon," Gundy said. "Nobody recruited [Justin] Blackmon.

"Weeden walked on,” Gundy said with a laugh. “So, we had a little luck.”

Blackmon blossomed from a modest recruit into the nation's best receiver and an early first-round draft pick.

What if Weeden had come to Oklahoma State instead of playing baseball? What if baseball had worked out? What if Weeden had come to Oklahoma State a year earlier? What if he'd come a year later?

"My Dad was just telling me the other day, 'Man, what a perfect time for you to decide to come back.'" Weeden said. "And it is, because I mean, who would have thought this in 2007 when we won seven games and we were excited to go to a bowl game? I’m telling you, the players get better every year and it gets more and more fun to come to the field and especially when you win big ones like this."

Oklahoma State's team will lose Weeden and almost certainly will lose Blackmon after this season, as well as most of its offensive line. Sound familiar? The Cowboys lost first-round pick Dez Bryant and one of the program's best quarterbacks ever, Zac Robinson, after the 2009 season.

They won 11 games the next season.

Is Oklahoma State building into a perennial power?

"We’ve got a lot of great guys in this program that are really young. We haven’t ever had kids like this around here," Gundy said. "I see a lot of things changing. It’s just different than it ever has been."

They're here and they know what's required of them. Gundy pounds it into them from Day 1. Run astray, and you don't play.

So sure, luck's played a big role in Oklahoma State's rise to the elite. But if it stays there, point to Gundy's building blocks as the biggest reason.

"The core values of this system are in place and the players know them," Gundy said. "That’s just the way it is. It’s the only way, because when you go to bed at night, if you don’t have that, you can’t sleep."

After wins like Oklahoma State enjoyed Saturday night, here's guessing Gundy slept pretty well.