No. 2 Oklahoma State attains highest ranking ever

BY foxsports • November 7, 2011

In Mike Gundy's two decades as a quarterback, assistant and head coach at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys never climbed as high as No. 2 in The Associated Press' poll. Never did it in the 80 years before he set foot on campus, either.

It didn't come easy, with a 52-45 victory over No. 17 Kansas State on Saturday night coming right down to the last play, but the Cowboys got to No. 2 for the first time in the rankings released Sunday.

''I'm just proud of our team and glad that they've been able to get to this point,'' Gundy said. ''I only hope that they can continue to focus and prepare well and fight the battle that we have every Saturday.

''They've accomplished a lot, so I'm glad that people are recognizing who they are and what their achievements are.''

Oklahoma State was ranked No. 3 in 1984, just before Gundy took over as the starting quarterback, and got back for the first time this season behind star quarterback Brandon Weeden and All-America receiver Justin Blackmon.

That tandem contributed to the Pokes' struggles with two turnovers apiece against Kansas State, but also the key late plays that kept their undefeated season and national championship hopes alive.

Ranked second in the BCS standings, Oklahoma State appears to have a direct path to the BCS championship game if it can win its next three games - at Texas Tech on Saturday, at Iowa State and at home against No. 7 Oklahoma on Dec. 3 in the Bedlam rivalry game.

Only LSU is ahead of the Cowboys in both the AP poll and the BCS standings.

''If we get to the next spot, it would be at the end of the year, I think,'' Gundy said. ''We're very excited and I'm sure the players are excited about it, and we need to give them a day to digest it tomorrow and get back to work on Tuesday.''

The Cowboys (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) trailed in the final 6 minutes and needed one last stop as time expired to preserve the win against K-State, which drove to the 5 with 12 seconds left and had three shots at the end zone.

''Your team has to rally and understand there's going to be highs and lows in each game. Playing in this conference where there's so many teams that have the ability to win games based on the turnover battle and keeping kids playing at a high level week to week,'' Gundy said.

''They found a way to win the football game. ... Part of college football is just being able to find a way to come out on top each week.''

Blackmon had two fumbles - one that led to a field goal and the other at the 1 that kept OSU from scoring a touchdown - and Weeden threw two interceptions, including one that was returned 60 yards for a touchdown that put the Cowboys down 24-14 for their largest home deficit of the season.

Weeden rebounded to set a school record with 502 yards passing and four touchdowns and Blackmon caught 13 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. The pair hooked up on a 54-yard touchdown pass just two plays after K-State took a 38-37 lead in the final 6 minutes.

Crisis averted.

''In college football, no one ever plays a perfect game. It's not like baseball, where you can go out and be a pitcher and throw a perfect game,'' said Weeden, a 28-year-old who pitched in the minors for five years.

''It's impossible. You're going to learn from the mistakes more than you're going to learn from the good plays.''

Oklahoma State, which entered the weekend leading the nation in turnover margin, learned that it's risky to be loose with the football.

''We've played some good football teams this year and mentally you're kind of prepared for a dogfight until the end. The game was pretty much over at the beginning of the fourth quarter in some of those games,'' Gundy said.

''You go into a game like (Kansas State), you expect that it's going to be a battle and then you jump way ahead and you think, `Well, maybe this one could end up like the other ones.' You just can't predict what's going to happen and how it's going to happen.''

The Cowboys were got up 14-0 quickly, but then gave up 24 unanswered points just as fast to fall into harm's way. Instead of blowing out the Wildcats as Oklahoma had done 58-17 a week earlier, the game turned into a barnburner.

''The games you don't get to play the second half, we don't like that kind of stuff,'' said Tracy Moore, who set career-highs with nine catches for 146 yards with starting receivers Hubert Anyiam and Josh Cooper hurt.

''It's all nice but these are the kind of games that show what a team is made of.''

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