There’s already just one week left of the college football regular season. It seems like only last week when it was September, and we thought this Oklahoma State football team was bad and no way it was good enough to play for a Big 12 championship. Oh, wait…
The Cowboys recovered from an abysmal loss to UCF last week with a 43-30 comeback win against Houston on Saturday. The victory has the Pokes still in Big 12 contention, and a win against BYU at Boone Pickens Stadium for the regular-season finale should all but punch their ticket to Arlington unless things get real wonky. But it’s the Big 12 and OSU, so brace yourself for chaos.
Here are grades from OSU’s win after a sluggish start and what’s ahead.
Second-Half Ollie: A+
Ollie Gordon is like a new pair of Jordans– the more you wear them, or the more you give Gordon the ball, the more comfortable you are.
Not only does Gordon not seem to get tired as the game goes on, through limps and all, but it’s like he actually gains energy as the end draws near. He’s like my toddler the closer to bedtime it is.
This has been a trend the entirety of Gordon’s impressive run, and Saturday was no different. Gordon did almost all of his damage in the second half, as 126 of his 164 rushing yards and all three of his touchdowns came after halftime.
Of Gordon’s 164 rushing yards against Houston, 45 came in the fourth quarter. That would have been the most of any quarter if not for a 62-yard run in the third. Again, as those trying to tackle him grow weary, the more vigorous Gordon becomes.
OSU’s Big 12 Championship Game Chances: B+
I explained it in better detail in this week’s Big 12 update (LINK), but as long as the Pokes beat BYU on Saturday, they should be playing Texas for a Big 12 title the next week in Arlington.
However, anything is possible and things can still get weird. There’s a scenario where even if OSU wins but Texas and K-State lose then the Cowboys are on the outside looking in. Every team that needs to win is favored, though.
The most logical slip up is just for OSU to lose to BYU. Grading the Cowboys’ chances at making the Big 12 championship game for the second time in three years is essentially grading their chances against BYU.
Cowboy Culture: A
As long as I’ve been covering Mike Gundy and the Cowboys I’ve listened to him ramble about the culture of his program. That word leaving a coach’s mouth is worthy of a teenage eye roll, especially when you know there’s nothing different there, but maybe that’s as big a part of the Pokes’ success as Gundy suggests. Dare I say that I’m starting to buy into that mumbo jumbo?
Gundy again mentioned the program’s culture after this win, saying, “Felt a lot like [last week]. That’s why I told them this is a good culture win. For a quarter and a half, if it would’ve started raining heavy, it would’ve felt just like last week. They kept playing.”
Part of culture is overcoming. As frustrating as this season has been at times, from last week’s debacle after a Bedlam win, to that ugly 2-2 start, and even the first half against Houston, the Cowboys have bounced back every single time. And even still have a chance to win a Big 12 title with just one week of the regular season left.
What actually led me to this, besides Gundy’s quote, was looking at the difference in penalties. OSU had five penalties for 53 yards, while Houston had double that with 10 for 79. One penalty in particular may have dug the Cowboys too deep of a hole to crawl out of. Houston had OSU stopped deep in its own territory while still ahead 14-3, but after the third-down tackle, there was an unsportsmanlike penalty because of contact after the play that gave OSU a first down. The Cowboys went down to score their first touchdown of the game and narrow the margin.
This is another reason to revisit Bedlam, as well. If not for some big penalties, including one by OU coach Brent Venables, I’m not so sure OSU marches down and takes that fourth-quarter lead.
There’s more than Xs and Os to winning. I learned that during my time as a baseball and softball coach, and the 2023 Cowboys are a reminder.