Are Cowboys Ready For the Road?

STILLWATER - Mike Gundy has a history of going on the road to play Sun Belt Conference teams. The Oklahoma State head coach was a true freshman when the 1986 Cowboys traveled to Lafayette, Louisiana for the season opener against the Ragin' Cajuns. Gundy is making a return appearance more than 25 years later when his 22nd-ranked Cowboys play the Ragin' Cajuns in a nationally televised game Friday.

Gundy did not play in Oklahoma State's 21-20 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 6, 1986, and has little recollection of his first road trip as a Cowboy quarterback.

"I don't really remember a lot about it," Gundy said. "It was really hot. It was early in the season. Being my first road game I was more in awe of traveling with a college football team, being on buses, having the police escort. I remember more of that than anything else."

That's why Gundy and the Cowboy coaching staff has to be a little worried as they prepare for Friday night's game against Louisiana (the school is now known as Louisiana and not Louisiana-Lafayette).

Oklahoma State is 4-0 with all four victories inside the friendly confines of Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys will have 14 players who will be starting in a true road game for the first time in their careers Friday night at Cajun Field (31,000 capacity). Plus, like Gundy was in 1986, 14 freshmen will be playing their first college game away from the friendly confines of Boone Pickens Stadium.

"Each week is a challenge for us with the youth we have," Gundy said. "Hopefully they're maturing enough that they understand the importance of preparation. They're aware Lafayette will be very fired up and their coaches will have them ready to go. Our guys have to have a great week of practice."

A number of those young guys – running back Joseph Randle, linebacker Shuan Lewis, and cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Devin Hedgepeth – have played significant minutes throughout the first four games and be asked to make significant contributions in the Cowboys' first road game of the season.

If the youngsters don't do the job, it could be a rough trip to Lafayette, La., even though the Ragin' Cajuns are just 2-2 with wins over Arkansas State (31-24) and last weekend against North Texas (28-27).

OSU starting star linebacker James Thomas, one of those who will be making their first start in a road game, remembers the last time the Cowboys went on the road to face a Sun Belt Conference opponent in a nationally televised game. Thomas was a redshirt freshman when Troy easily defeated Oklahoma State 41-23 in the third game of the 2007 season in a game broadcast by ESPN.

"It was one of the worst road trips ever. I didn't like it one bit," said Thomas, who had a 63-yard fumble return for a touchdown in last Thursday's 38-35 victory over Texas A&M. "Everybody thought I was Dantrell Savage (because we both wore No. 22), and they let me have it. The fans were real close to the bench and they were in my ear all game. They were hitting me with the worst of it, and then we lost on top of it."

Thomas says his role is to make sure youngsters like Lewis, Hedgepeth, Gilbert and Randle come ready to play Friday night.

"Just give them examples, like that Troy game for instance. We just try to remind them constantly that you can't overlook anyone. Everybody has their off day and everybody has a good day, we just try to make sure we have a good day." he said.

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