(AP) – In 2011, an upset loss to Iowa State cost Oklahoma State a shot at a BCS National Championship.
Following a 49-29 win over TCU, the fifth-ranked Cowboys have suddenly inserted themselves into consideration for the College Football Playoff. Next up: A chance to redeem that 2011 squad in a matchup Saturday against the Cyclones.
Before closing out the regular season against Big 12 heavyweights Baylor on Nov. 21 and No. 12 Oklahoma on Nov. 28, Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0) must first face Iowa State (3-6, 2-4) on the road.
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The Cyclones, who just lost 52-16 at Oklahoma for their fourth defeat in five games, are an inferior opponent, but the Cowboys know they can’t afford to overlook them.
”Every opponent is the same, you prepare every week like you have been,” backup quarterback J.W. Walsh said. ”If you take care of the things you have been taking care of, and doing the little things, it’ll all work out.”
Oklahoma State, which jumped six spots in the College Football Playoff rankings to eighth, finds itself in a position similar to its 2011 visit to Ames, but is determined to get a different outcome.
That year, Oklahoma State was 10-0 and ranked No. 2 prior to its game against Iowa State, which was 5-4 (2-4 in the Big 12) at the time. The Cowboys led 24-7 early in the third quarter but lost 37-31 in two overtimes.
They missed a chance to play in the BCS title game, although OSU still won the school’s only Big 12 title after beating the Sooners the next week, ultimately finishing the season ranked No. 3.
Walsh, in his redshirt year, was on the sideline for that game and remembers the sickening feeling when it was all over.
”My stomach just dropped,” Walsh said. ”I wasn’t playing at all, but you just felt bad for everybody because they put in all this hard work, and they prepared as best they could for the game, but it was just a weird atmosphere. It was not a very good feeling.”
One unique aspect of that game, though, and the biggest thing that coach Mike Gundy still remembers from the experience, is that it occurred one day after Oklahoma State’s women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash, stunning the OSU community.
”Obviously, the plane crash is the most tragic part of it, still to this day, with the people that we lost,” Gundy said. ”The outside part of what’s going on in college football (and all the attention the Cowboys are now receiving) concerns me a little more with these guys, than what happened in 2011.”
Gundy denied that game provided any additional incentive. Staying on track for the Big 12 championship, taking one step at a time, is motivation enough.
”I’ve never really bought into scenarios of revenge and what a team might have done to us last year and so on and so forth,” Gundy said. ”We are a firm believer in preparation and (taking things) day to day, and that’s the easiest way for us to handle those topics.”
Walsh doesn’t believe lightning will strike twice, confident his team will be ready to seize the moment.
”It’s going to be on people’s minds, because the last time we were 10-0, we went in there and it was kind of the same situation, but we’re prepared for it,” said Walsh, who has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season in a supplementary role behind Mason Rudolph. ”We’re ready to get the week of practice started, and we’re just fired up for the opportunity to go be 10-0.”
The Cowboys have won three straight meetings since then, taking the most recent one at Ames by a 58-27 score in 2013.
Despite the Cyclones’ record, linebacker Chad Whitener sees them as a formidable challenge, especially at home, where they are 3-2 after dismantling Texas 24-0 on Oct. 31.
”We don’t treat them like a lesser team,” said Whitener, named Big 12 defensive player of the week after registering two second-half interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, against TCU.
”They’re really good at home. We saw what they did against Texas, they’re a good football team. You can’t take them lightly.”
Iowa State, though, yielded 279 rushing yards last week and Joel Lanning was just 26 of 51 for 260 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Sophomore receiver Allen Lazard did continue his emergence with eight catches for 101 yards.
Lazard ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 5.4 receptions per game and has gone over 100 yards twice in the past three weeks. With 573 yards, he’s 20 away from matching his total from last year, when he cracked the starting lineup as a true freshman.
”Allen is an unbelievable athlete,” offensive lineman Jamison Lalk said. ”What makes him a special player is that he just goes and lays out dudes.”