Past remembered, future uncertain

The Cowboys (6-1, 2-1 Big 12) have a big test waiting in College Station Saturday. By staying true to its 2003 motto, OSU should take it one game, one step at a time. Looking back at the skeletons in the Cowboy closet can be much more effective than looking ahead to Christmas excursions...

Ask members of the Oklahoma State football team what their main goal is, and one by one they will answer: "To win the next game."


 Forget Oklahoma. Forget Texas. Forget a Big 12 championship appearance. Forget 2002.


"To stay consistent with our goals to win a Big 12 championship, we have to beat teams like (Texas Tech). Period. Everything that happened last year is old news," All-American wide receiver Rashaun Woods said.


They found out by watching the USC's get beat by the Cal's of the world that no one is invincible. They know from being on the other end of the rainbow the last two seasons, that Goliath doesn't always win, but sometimes little David does, Pistol Pete ten-gallon and all. They know that forgetting about this week's opponent could be fatal to Saturday's score.


They know that looking ahead to the prize means losing sight of the prize.


Starting December 28, 2002, talk of BCS bowls clouded their brains. All summer, the only thing people wanted to know was, "Do you think a Big 12 championship is in the cards?"


These Cowboys tasted a bitter defeat in Lincoln. Were they looking ahead too soon? Were they counting a victory before it hatched? Or, were they simply outmatched? Most likely, and in the minds of most, it was probably a smorgasboard of everything.


No doubt the hype that preceded this season's first kickoff played a role in the outcome in Nebraska. And now, the Cowboys seem to have learned their lesson.


It is the moral of every story found in the book of legendary OSU tales. There have been some great times outlined in the Poke football history book, but only a scattered few can be read bedside in order to put an orange-blood to sleep peacefully.


There is one good tale though, one that should be passed down from one generation to the next. It is sort of a rags-to-riches story, one where the prince never forgets the time he was a pauper.


And OSU -- a poor, peasant boy it was. 

  • Four winless seasons
  • Succumbing to the series domination of its rival, Oklahoma
  • Going four decades without a win over Nebraska
  • A mere 56-88-3 overall record since 1990
  • A tainted four-win year in 2000, followed by the firing of the head coach before season's end
  • NCAA infractions
  • Eleven-game losing streak
  • Several seven-game losing streaks
  • Scattered bowl appearances
  • Zero Big 12 championships
  • Zero national championships

The future is only indicative of what OSU does with its past. Is it truly an inspirational novel to the players, or simply a yawner, one that will never be picked up again?


Only the 2003 Cowboys can answer that question with their actions on the field. So far, so good – but with a rivalry game versus the Sooners still 11 days away, the true test of focus will come on Saturday in College Station, Texas. OSU must put all its effort toward the Aggies, or a game with the Sooners will probably no longer bear conference title hopes.


This team seems to be learning from its predecessors and listening intently to the narrator, Les Miles.


Miles has indeed instilled a new confidence in Cowboy football, but it isn't the kind of confidence that is likely found in a Keyshawn Johnson interview. Miles has made his players believe in their abilities, but challenged the team to not forget when its body was broken, its spirit battered.


"We can accomplish so much as a football team," Miles said. "The goals we have set aren't unrealistic or far-fetched, as long as we stay on track and take it one game at a time."


Baylor may be at the bottom of the Big 12 barrel, but it wasn't long ago when OSU was the Baylor of the Big Eight. Think back to 1991 when Lewis Field was a lonely place, a quiet place – a winless place.  


No, it isn't unrealistic to predict a Big 12 South title for OSU. In fact, it isn't far-fetched at all. Any college football fan can concede that the Pokes still might have a shot at a Cotton Bowl bid. It isn't a fairy tale, it isn't a pipe dream.


But, good teams do not look forward. Good teams play for today, they look to right yesterday's wrongs. Good teams also believe the goal is achievable.


"All we are concerned about is getting back in practice," defensive lineman Greg Richmond said. "We may have won (Saturday), but we need to go and fix the things we did wrong. The conference is too tough to not come out the next day and forget the win and move on to the next obstacle."


How right he is, speaking as a wise Cowboy leader.


Because seasoned players like Richmond and Woods know about those haunted days from 1991, they know about all the times OSU missed the postseason, choked in overtime games and lost to lesser non-conference opponents. They were even part of some of those squads.


Good football students do their history homework, good captains lead their teams in the right direction. O happy days for Oklahoma State that Richmond and Woods fall under both categories.


One foot in front of the other, one at a time. 


Off to College Station they go, as if it were the last game of the season.



Brandi Ball can be reached via e-mail at

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