TTech, Okla St revisit program-changing shootout
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP)When Mike Leach last brought his Texas Tech team to Oklahoma State, he concluded the trip with a scathing assessment of his players as "soft" and lacking the toughness needed to win.
He called out his offense, which had racked up more than 700 yards, as "incredibly front-runnerish" for putting the defense in a situation where it had to get a late stop. And he criticized the defense for failing to stand toe-to-toe with the Cowboys and do its job in the 49-45 loss.
When the Red Raiders got back home, there was a change at defensive coordinator.
And Leach's post-game fireworks weren't even the most notable from that 2007 game. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy used his time at the podium to lash out at a newspaper columnist for an article on the Cowboys' change at quarterback, unleashing a pick-on-me-instead, "I'm a man! I'm 40!" tirade that has lived on in commercials and Internet videos.
Gundy was 12-15 as the Cowboys' coach at that time and the program was coming off a humbling loss at Troy in Zac Robinson's first start at quarterback when they beating the high-flying Red Raiders.
"That was a big win for us," Gundy said. "As a coach you don't realize that I think there's a lot of pressure outside that people put on players and coaches. And coaches don't really realize it because we just coach and do our job and we understand what's going on."
The shootout victory was a watershed moment for Oklahoma State. The No. 17 Cowboys (7-2, 4-1 Big 12) are 22-10 since then and appeared in the Top 5 earlier this season for the first time in 24 years.
But the game wasn't even a speed bump for the Red Raiders (6-3, 3-2). In fact, it was perhaps a catalyst for the program's rise last season, including a landmark win against Texas and a rise to the No. 2 ranking.
Ruffin McNeill, who got the job when Leach lost his temper, turned Tech's defense into a respectable unit, making the team more than just an offensive juggernaut.
"A lot has changed, just the whole mentality of the defense," said Tech defensive back Jamar Wall, a senior. "We were kind of sluggish around that game and you could tell. Everything has been different after that game, from running on and off the field to everyone running to the ball, all kinds of small detail things that you can tell led up to big things."
In that 2007 win, OSU had three players rush for 100 yards in the same game for the first time in school history. Tech defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich resigned the next day.
"That's when we made the change and played harder," Leach said. "Ruffin brings a lot of enthusiasm and inspiration. He's got a lot of enthusiasm personally and I think it rubs off on the players. We have a more inspired unit out there."
When the teams meet Saturday night, Oklahoma State will be trying to keep some pressure on No. 3 Texas and keep the Longhorns from clinching the Big 12 South title. At the same time, it's a chance to make up for a 56-20 defeat in Lubbock a year ago that was the Cowboys' worst performance of the season.
"I think most of us look back on that game kind of disappointed in the way it turned out," said OSU's Andrew Mitchell, who filled in at right tackle for the injured Brady Bond last week. "It got away from us pretty quick."
Tech's revamped defense held Oklahoma State to its lowest scoring total and a season-low 19 first downs last year.
The Red Raiders, meanwhile, racked up more than 500 yards against OSU for the second straight year - after the Cowboys allowed a school-record 718 yards in the 2007 game.
"It's going to be a pretty big task," Oklahoma State tailback Keith Toston said. "I wouldn't call it a rivalry game but it's a game that us as an offense, we have to go try and match whatever their offense does."