Cowboys back to practice ahead of Cotton Bowl
For No. 13 Oklahoma State, just getting back on the practice field Friday and having another opponent to focus on was therapeutic.
After falling to No. 11 Oklahoma a week earlier in a game that slipped away in the final 19 seconds and cost them the Big 12 championship, the Cowboys (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) are trying to move forward and get ready for the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 3 against No. 9 Missouri (11-2, 7-1 SEC).
''We're back to work, we had an hour-and-a-half practice (Friday) and the players have all shown up from their break,'' coach Mike Gundy announced. ''Their finals are over, so they're back to football 100 percent now. We'll give them the weekend off and start back on Monday, work out for seven or eight days before we let the players off for Christmas. And then they'll meet us down in Dallas and we'll get back to bowl prep.''
Senior quarterback Clint Chelf, who completed 19 of 25 passes for a career-high 370 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma State's dominating 49-17 win over then-No. 3 Baylor on Nov. 23, but was merely OK against Oklahoma, admitted that the mood in the locker room was still a bit somber.
''We were in a little bit of a funk today,'' said Chelf, who was 19 of 35 for 200 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, in the 33-24 loss to the Sooners. ''That's understandable, guys obviously took that loss pretty hard. We felt like we let one slip away. That's just something we have to deal with. The older guys on the team have to get the younger guys on the team re-focused, regrouped and ready to go for Missouri.''
Senior fullback Kye Staley wanted to erase the Oklahoma game from his memory and direct all of his attention toward the bowl game.
''It was an upsetting loss but we can't dwell on it. It's the past,'' said Staley, who rushed for 25 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries against Baylor but only got the ball once, for no gain, against OU.
''We didn't even watch film, we just go on to the next team. We're very excited to play Missouri, an SEC team, in Dallas. We have a lot of Texas kids that probably dreamed of playing there, so it's going to be a fun, exciting time. Just move forward, you can't look behind you.''
Gundy viewed the disappointing defeat as a life lesson he can impart on his players.
''These guys are accustomed to winning, so when you lose, it's difficult for them to take, and when you lose in a game where you have a chance to win a conference championship, it's even more difficult,'' Gundy said. ''But that's the way life is. They have to understand that. The good news is, we get to play another game. They get to go out as a group and play a very talented team and so-called redeem themselves, go have some fun and play a quality team in a great bowl game.''
The Cowboys are excited about the matchup with Missouri, which also lost its last game in disappointing fashion, falling 59-42 to No. 2 Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.
''Any time you can play an SEC team, you want to do it. They're obviously regarded as the top conference,'' Chelf said. ''Getting a shot at a team that was in the conference championship is a good challenge for us.''
With three weeks to go before taking the field at AT&T Stadium under the giant video board, the players will have to adjust to a different game preparation routine than they're used to.
''I think we'll be focused,'' Chelf said. ''There's not really a whole lot to do here in Stillwater right now with everyone gone (on Winter Break), so practice is really the only thing you can be focused on.''
Staley looked at the extra time as being important to getting ready both physically and mentally.
''I think the main thing is we want to be well-conditioned and have our legs,'' Staley said. ''Coach Gundy is going to do an excellent job getting us in shape, and we'll be game-planning, watching a lot of film on them, breaking down what they do best, what their weaknesses are and just focus on dominating those weaknesses.''