Here are my thoughts following Saturday's 38-20 Bedlam loss, and they were all mostly created through a long silent ride home with my friend and sideline producer on the Cowboy Network, Dennis Smith.
1. I say it below. Yes, it was still a good season.
I'm as disappointed as anybody except the Cowboys players and coaches. I promise you, they are disappointed and they show a stiff upper lip because nobody wants to allow the world to peer into their soul and know they are grieving. Yes, you grieve some when you lose a chance to beat your rival and win a championship. You can't put in all that work and not have an empty feeling that aches inside. This team is made up of some really good kids. They have impressed me so much this season on and off the field and I will celebrate the 9-3, a record some predicted and better than many others predicted. Remember, Oklahoma State was the preseason third pick by most in the Big 12 and as low as fifth by some like Phil Steele.
Now there will be a bowl game. I think the conventional thought is Alamo Bowl vs. Colorado in San Antonio on Thursday, Dec. 29. However, the CFP has got to put a Big 12 team in another money bowl, New Year's Six game, and I could see either Oklahoma State or 10-2 West Virginia, who beat Baylor 24-21 on Saturday, being chosen. OSU beat West Virginia, so I would be up for a Cotton Bowl against Western Michigan.
2. Okay, that's the nice stuff, I'm sure the armchair quarterbacks are second guessing MIke Gundy's decisions.
Let's start with the first field goal, fourth-and-goal at the OU 2-yard line right after a fumbled snap on third-and-one. That hurt, and it was the second time this season for a fumble snap exchange at the 1-yard line. The other was in the opener after Barry J. Sanders punt return. That's got to get better, but that is not all on the coaches, that's player execution. It hurt because the touchdown was needed there, but I have to back Gundy's call to get points.
At the end of the half, Gundy let the clock run out instead of using his final time-out after Sanders had the kickoff return to the 50. I have no problem, it was a long shot at best and without a time-out it would have been hard to get even a field goal out of it. I wouldn't have trusted Rudolph on a throw to the end zone at that point. However, at the end of the day, you'd probably like to have it back. I just think it was a long shot.
Now, I'm really glad that a time-out was called and Gundy chose to go for it on fourth-and-one at the OSU 40. Absolutely needed to go for it. Then later in the drive I would have gone for it again on fourth-and-two at the OU 21. I realize that a made field goal gets it to a two score game, but at that stage you needed more and I wasn't that trusting of Grogan. That may not be fair. Truth is I felt a touchdown was needed for a chance.
3. What happened from one half to the next?
The best part of the first half was the fact the defense stopped the run the majority of the half and Semaje Perine and Joe Mixon both looked like the collision story from the Monday OU practice was absolutely true. Okay, Mayfield got some big plays, but it was 17-17 at the half and OSU had run the ball well, despite getting away from it some in the second quarter.
The second half and the game was lost by all three phases. We covered the missed field goal, which really was the only contribution from special teams as other than that they were fine, and Zach Sinor has been cheated like mad that he has not taken more honors. He is All-Big 12 if I've ever seen an All-Big 12 punter.
The defense backed off in coverage, never got the pressure they were trying to on Mayfield, and had trouble with their run fits as safeties were too far back and didn't get the run addressed and the backside linebacker kept getting cut off and OU ran for 301 yards in the second half. There is no excuse. Go back to stopping the run and take your chance with big pass plays on a day where wet balls reigned and Dede Westbrook was long gone after the collision in the first half with Jordan Sterns. With Westbrook out, why not go man coverage and then put some real pressure on Mayfield.
The offense got away from the run and tried to hit pass plays and it just wasn't happening. Talk after the game was Oklahoma worked with wet footballs in practice during the week in preparation. I didn't see it but I was told the Cowboys did use wet footballs on Thursday throughout practice and had no problems.
It was an opportunity today but you have to give credit to Oklahoma because with Westbrook out and a lot of injuries they still found a way to win. A wasted opportunity, but like many of you I still like the side of the state I live on and I wouldn't ever move.
Bowl game, recruiting, spring football, long summer, and then hopefully those coaches and kids can put the program in position again. Today was a wasted opportunity.