OSU takes back state bragging rights
December, 4, 2011
By David Ubben | ESPNDallas.com
STILLWATER, Okla. -- The proud Pokes finally did the deed.
The goalposts came down, and the Oklahoma State flags went up.
Red state? Blue state? For the first time since 2002, Oklahoma is an orange state.
The impact of Saturday's dominant 44-10 Oklahoma State win over Oklahoma was far-reaching. After voters from coast to coast slot LSU No. 1, they'll have to decide on No. 2: Alabama or Oklahoma State?
But on this night, the Cowboys had a chance to enjoy the simpler pleasures, too.
All that politicking and SEC mudslinging will last less than 24 hours.
This win on Saturday night? It'll last a whole year and bleed everywhere -- from coffee shops to elementary schools across Oklahoma.
Coach Mike Gundy says he's immune from the ever-present smack talk. But everybody else?
"I know it affects the players," Gundy said. "And coaches' families, their kids. I've got three kids that go to school, and all the coaches have kids. They want to win. That's what their dads do. That's just a fact. Whether you like it or not, there's legitimate reasons for us to win, so when they go in those restaurants, they don't have to listen to, 'Hey, y'all made it all the way to No. 2 in the country, but you still didn't beat OU.'"
They played this Bedlam rivalry for the 106th time on Saturday night. This was only the 17th time that Oklahoma State fans left with their heads held high.
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThis was only the 17th time Oklahoma State has beaten their in-state rivals Oklahoma.
"It's one thing to hear it around the rest of the state, but when you go home and you have to hear people talk to you about it, it makes it worse," said receiver Justin Blackmon, who hails from the heart of Sooner country. His hometown of Ardmore, Okla., is only about 80 miles south of Norman.
"I know they won't be able to talk," Blackmon said.
The simple truth: Wins like these are more special for the folks in orange. They don't see them quite as often, but that number is growing.
For a year, they'll relish the first outright conference title in school history and the first since they shared a conference crown in 1976.
Gundy called it the most gratifying football moment of his career, overtaking the first time he beat Texas in 2010.
"Nothing compares," said the career Cowboy, who has spent 21 years as a player, assistant and now head coach at Oklahoma State.
This one was special.
"We've earned their respect over the last four, five, six years, so it's different," Gundy said. "There were a number of years we didn't even have their respect. They respected us, and that helps, but still, you've gotta beat 'em. Otherwise it's always, OSU has got to this level or that level, but they've never beat OU."
And Gundy, in a fashion that turned the second half into a party atmosphere instead of a tense one, became the first coach since that coaching savant down in the Bayou, Les Miles, to knock off Oklahoma as the Cowboy-in-chief.
The Cowboys didn't beat Oklahoma. They beat the heck out of Oklahoma. The offensive line: "Phew, dominant," quarterback Brandon Weeden said with a shake of his head.
Weeden had enough time in the pocket for most of the night to craft each of his linemen a handwritten thank-you note to hand out in the postgame locker room, where Gundy obliged his team with another one of his patented dance sessions.
"I had no choice," he said. "I'm a YouTube sensation. There's no telling what'll be on there next."
That was only after a well-deserved Gatorade shower.
"God, that was cold," Gundy said.
Yeah, Oklahoma fans felt the same way.
Oklahoma State running backs Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle -- who combined ran 22 times for 178 yards and four touchdowns -- found holes from the offensive line wide enough that if the two were Siamese twins, their numbers might not have been much different.
The last time Oklahoma State took the field, Iowa State fans stormed it. Saturday night, it was the Cowboys' turn, all before slapping on orange shirts and white hats declaring them "Big 12 Champions."
Fans braved the nine-foot drop from the stands to the field at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Weeden stopped and posed for an endless string of photos. Players celebrated among the mob.
"I had my helmet on, and I got slapped in the head so many times, I might have a concussion," Weeden joked.
He stopped and shook Pickens' hand after. Those hundreds of millions of dollars that Pickens handed over to the school he loves so much? BCS National Championship Game appearance or not, it's paying off.
Oklahoma State, for the first time, is the Big 12 champion.
"To see [the players] enjoy that, that's a huge thrill for me, because there's so much that goes into this," Gundy said. "I just want them to be able to enjoy it."
They will. And so will the rest of the Oklahoma State family.