Oklahoma State moving out of Sooners’ shadow
It’s not nice to stare, so avert your gaze from Norman, where the spin around Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford’s AC joint is in overdrive. Instead, shift your focus nearly 100 miles north to Stillwater, where something amazing and worthy of your attention is occurring.
Oklahoma State, after dumping Georgia, 24-10, is suddenly a big deal — ranked in the top five of The Associated Press’ Top 25 for the first time since 1985, star wide receiver Dez Bryant splashed across the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.
“Overall, (Saturday) may have been one of the best days we’ve had here for everybody involved,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said.
Really, it’s long overdue. It’s about time the Cowboys moved out of the sizeable crimson and cream shadow cast by their rivals.
It’s the same ol’ story with the Sooners — always good, but recently, never good enough in the big game. Oklahoma fans might counter that with the argument that at least their team reaches those big games, and they’d have a point.
But what’s one of the first things to spring to mind when you think of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops? I’ll bet it’s how little success the Sooners have had in BCS games. That’s become a considerable threat to Stoops’ legacy.
Now, at Oklahoma State, Mike Gundy doesn’t have a legacy. He hasn’t done enough — not as a coach and not as a former player. But he does have a reputation, and Saturday’s victory against the Bulldogs — we’re now obligated to reference the superiority of the SEC and its storied programs — might be enough to distance the Cowboys’ coach from all of the tired comments and jokes about his “I’m a man … I’m 40” remarks.
Or maybe not.
But ignore the Cowboys coach for a moment and concentrate on the team, which might feature the Big 12’s best offense. And it’s O.K. to keep watching when Bryant, quarterback Zac Robinson and running back Kendall Hunter leave the field. The defense, under another OSU alum, new coordinator Bill Young, finally has some bite.
“I know that (Young) had a lot invested in this because he’s the new guy on the block, and we haven’t played very well on defense here in a long time,” Gundy said.
Do you know who else has a lot invested? Financier T. Boone Pickens, who funded the nearly $300 million renovation of the stadium that, of course, bears his name. A record crowd of more than 53,000 witnessed OSU fall behind, 7-0, on the game’s opening drive, and the murmurs — not to mention the Tweets — were flying, all essentially with the same subtext.
Another Big 12 meltdown against a legitimate SEC defense.
Stoops should shoulder a large share of the blame for such logic given the Sooners’ struggles on the grand stage. And normally, the Big 12 does flail in such showcases.
But Gundy and the Cowboys didn’t fold, and expectations are grand.
Last year, 9-4 was considered a breakthrough season. This year, it’d be a disappointment.
This is elite territory, and the challenge now is sustaining the momentum — for the rest of the season (this week’s matchup with Houston is a classic trap) and moving forward. With its facilities — thanks to Pickens’ cash — OSU should always be a threat in the Big 12 and not every 25 years or so.
“Okie Lite,” as the school is sometimes mockingly referred to, should be no more. Especially if the Cowboys can handle No. 2 Texas at home Oct. 31 and then withstand their annual “Bedlam” grudge match with the Sooners in Norman on Nov. 28.
“Everyone’s still excited, of course, but we’re trying to move on to the next game,” fullback Bryant Ward said. “But it was a big win. It’s hard to move on, but we are.”
And all of you should, too.
Please, get over Bradford’s absence. Sure, he’s the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, but it’s Oklahoma — the Sooners should have a capable backup (or two). If his injury dashes OU’s title hopes, it’s unfortunate but it’s also football. These things tend to happen.
But in Stillwater, there’s something else happening, something worth following.
Something that doesn’t happen very often.
Jeffrey Martin is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com. He writes for the Houston Chronicle. He can be reached at can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.