Cowboys Show Off For Sanders, '88 Crew

STILLWATER -- Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy trusts his old teammate, after all Barry Sanders helped take Gundy and the rest of the 1988 Cowboys to some lofty heights. It was no big deal when Gundy introduced his old teammate and asked Sanders to address his current Oklahoma State team. Sanders had a warning for the current Cowboys.

"You guys don't realize how fast it goes. I'm in my mid-40s and it doesn't seem so long ago that I was right where you are right now," said the Cowboys only Heisman Trophy winner.

Then Sanders looked around and laughed and said that he wasn't exactly in this big, spacious and beautiful locker room that is now in the West End Zone complex.

"You need to enjoy these times, enjoy practice and playing college football because it will be over before you know it," continued Sanders. "These are big games coming up and I'll be watching you and expecting big things."

When he was done, Gundy had a big smile on his face and told his team that he had not discussed anything with Barry beforehand, but was pleased his old teammate backed up many of the things that he tells his players on a daily basis.

Sanders, along with the some odd 60 teammates that returned to Stillwater to join in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of 1988 season and that Heisman Trophy, had to feel comfortable right off the bat.

Both the 1987 and '88 seasons started with Sanders returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Saturday, Justin Gilbert took the opening kick at the goal line and came out with it and went the distance. It was Gilbert's Big 12 record sixth career kickoff return for a touchdown.

"When I first got the ball, I saw a big hole and I knew that's where I was going from the beginning, so I hit it," Gilbert said. "I saw the safety and the kicker on the back end, and made a move on the safety. He adjusted so I went back the other way and just had to get past the kicker. When I passed them, I looked at the big screens to see how close they were. That helped me get into the end zone."

The significance was not lost on Gilbert nor Gundy.

"There's no better way to start a game, especially with Barry Sanders in the building," Gilbert said in the locker room. "It was good. I wanted to show him how it's done."

"Obviously, Justin Gilbert started the game off very well," added Gundy. "Yes, that guy here watching has done that a few times himself. It was pretty good to get it started that way in the kicking game."

The star of the day was the defense as they hassled and harassed the Jayhawks offense most of the day. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett had a sack, a career high tying five tackles, and plenty of fun.

"As soon as I got the sack and I got up I started looking for my two D-ends, Tler (Johnson) and Sam (Wren) because I saw what happened and I felt the triple team but as soon as I came out of it I saw Sam get pressure from the backside and then Tyler come around the corner and they just kind of collapsed on him and I had to help him got down," Barnett said of his sack in the game, a true teamwork situation. "It all works together at the end of the day."

"It was a good win for our team. I thought our defense was consistent in our play," Gundy said. "We didn't defend the load option very well. Kansas committed to running load option and using clock, and we weren't very good with it. There's an answer for it.

"As the field starts getting reduced and you get closer to the end zone, it's more difficult to run those type of plays unless you three-way go and the old triple option. Then we tackled, made some plays and would get them in a second-and-long, and it was difficult for them to overcome that. Other than that, defensively, we were very good."

Gundy said the offense was a mixed effort on the day, although they got what they needed. Desmond Roland scored two touchdowns even with the Cowboys only rushing for 85 yards in the game. Clint Chelf threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns, two to veteran Tracy Moore.

"It's been a long time since I've scored twice in one game, so it felt pretty good," Moore said of his 15th and 16th career touchdown receptions.

"Offensively, we were good at times and very sluggish at times. It was a good win for us, and we have a lot of work ahead of us," Gundy added on the offense. "I'm looking forward to next week."

The worst news of the day came very early when Kansas punted to Oklahoma State. Josh Stewart, the nation's leading punt returner and a major all-around weapon for the Cowboys, fielded the punt perhaps too close to the goal line, but everybody was eager to make a play and Stewart does have a 95-yard return this season.

On the play Stewart suffered a left ankle injury and was helped to the training room by the sports medicine staff. The x-rays were negative, but Stewart did not return.

"Anytime you have a player that has worked his butt off and competes and loves to play the game, you are always a little bit leery of losing them," Gundy added. "That's just the way it is, but hopefully we'll get those guys back (Shamiel Gary and three injured wide receivers from earlier this season along with Stewart). I know the x-rays were negative and we'll have to see this week."

We'll see whether Stewart can possibly make it back as the Cowboys will be ready to take Barry Sanders's advice and go to Austin and eliminate Texas in the Big 12 chase.

"When you're trying to win a conference championship, every game is a big game," Lyndell Johnson said. "We can't take any games or days off, so we have to approach it with the right mindset. Our goal was to get the win and we did that, but now it's time to prepare for Texas and correct our mistakes. We have to prepare extra hard this week."

By the way, Texas came on and won a squeaker in overtime at West Virginia 47-40 as the Longhorns stayed unbeaten in Big 12 play at 6-0 and 7-2 overall. It's the Cowboys and the Horns in an elimination game next Saturday.

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