Today was cold and gray in Stillwater and the video was running throughout the Oklahoma State football offices in the West End Zone as the coaching staff continued working on Colorado for the Alamo Bowl. In Mike Gundy's practice schedule of two days on and one day off, Monday was an off day. Players had free time, while coaches continued game planning.
One of the most beautiful days and one of the most important results in Gundy's career as Oklahoma State quarterback came in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains there in Boulder, Colo., at Folsom Field. The 1988 Cowboys were loaded with eventual Hesiman Trophy winner Barry Sanders and receivers like Hart Lee Dykes and Jarrod Green.
On that sun splashed day in Boulder the Cowboys took apart a strong program that over the years had won more against them. Sanders flew over the Oklahoma State offensive line and Colorado defenders in a shot that Sports Illustrated would use as the primary image for a story on Oklahoma State football and its growing power. Gundy hit Dykes with several huge pass plays and the Cowboys won going away 41-21.
Gundy was 2-2 in his career against the Buffaloes as a player, but as a coach he is 2-1 with the last win coming in 2009 as Brandon Weeden came on in the second half and saved the day with a come-from-behind 31-28 win.
Now, Gundy will face the 10th-ranked Buffs as he tries to get his second win in the Alamo Bowl and as Oklahoma State, making its Alamo Bowl record-tying fourth appearance, tries to even the mark in the San Antonio bowl going 1-2 in the first three trips. Gundy coached the Cowboys to a 36-10 win in the last trip to the river city, a win over Arizona.
"I'm really excited about this matchup. (Colorado) is a good team," Gundy said in his office on Friday as bowl preparation got underway.
The Buffs have excelled on defense this year. They lead the Pac-12 in first downs defense, pass defense, red zone defense, pass efficiency defense and defensive touchdowns. CU ranks among the top 20 nationally in all of those defensive categories, plus turnovers gained, third-down defense, fumbles recovered, interceptions, scoring defense and total defense. First-team All-Pac-12 linebacker Jimmie Gilbert has been very disruptive this season, amassing 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, six fumbles forced and six quarterback hurries.
"Defensively, they could very well be the best secondary we've seen this year," Gundy said. "They have a nose guard that's really thick. They have a pass rusher that is really good. Their corners are really good. I would say they're a seniordominated defense. I would say that three, maybe four could play in the NFL. That's why their numbers are so good on defense.
"Jim Leavitt is their defensive coordinator. He goes all the way back to Kansas State back in the early '90's with the Stoops brothers and all of those guys, and he's done a really good job. Jim was a head coach at South Florida."
Colorado is better defensively, but they have a solid offense that features a dual threat quarterback in Sefo Liutau.
Colorado averages 32.8 points per game and has been fairly balanced in terms of how it scores. The Buffs are more of a running team than a passing team, but the balance is close enough that opposing teams need to prepare for both. Of Colorado's 50 offensive touchdowns this season, 29 came on the ground and 21 came through the air. The Buffs average 5.59 yards per play.
Running back Phillip Lindsay (230 carries for 1,189 yards and 16 touchdowns/47 receptions for 390 yards and a touchdown) and left tackle Jeromy Irwin both earned second-team All-Pac-12 recognition.
"Offensively, their quarterback is the guy that has really made them go," Gundy analyzed. "Three receivers, at least, that I've seen. They've got guys that can really run. They've got a running back (Lindsay - cousin of former Cowboys Tony and Gabe Lindsay) who has rushed for almost 1,200 yards. They're a good team. They've had some success in the return game.
"As I mentioned yesterday to the Alamo Bowl, they hit a home run on a matchup here. They have the No. 12 team and the No. 10 team, and I think it's going to be a very exciting game. If you rule out the playoff games from a national perspective, this will be a game that anybody will want to watch as much as any other bowl game."
The series with Colorado dates back to 1920. The two teams played every year as members of the Big Eight Conference and that extended into the Big 12 era. This is the first meeting between the two teams since Colorado moved to the Pac-12 in 2011.
The Buffaloes lead the all-time series, 26-19-1, but Oklahoma State has won three of the last four, including a 31-28 victory in 2009 when the two teams last met. The lone neutral-site meeting between the two teams was the first meeting between the two teams, played in Oklahoma City in 1920. Colorado was a 40-7 winner that day.
Champions of the Pac-12 South Division this year, the Buffs enter bowl season having won six of their last seven games, with the lone loss coming to Washington in the conference championship game. What coach Mike MacIntyre has done in Boulder is remarkable, given that Colorado 14-48 in the five seasons previous to this year. He was honored as the 2016 Pac-12 Coach of the Year and the National Coach of the Year. CU picked up quality wins at Stanford and at home against Washington State and Utah.
Tickets for the game on Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. in the Alamo Dome are available through the Oklahoma State Athletics Ticket Office.