Two years ago, a 9-3 season seemed a
pipe dream for
Last year, 8-5 solicited elation and praise from all of Cowboy country.
Three months ago, that same 9-3 record appeared doable as a best-case scenario.
Now, some OSU fans and players see 9-3 as a consolation prize.
What's the difference?
The overshot expectation that sometimes comes with improvement.
"We're shooting for the stars and
landing on the moon," said OSU kicker Luke Phillips after a 55-16 blowout at the
But what's so bad about the moon?
Neil Armstrong landed on that giant ball of cheese, and it seemed to work out well for him.
The Cowboys are on the verge of their first 10-win season since 1988, and the possibility of their first January bowl game since the 1940s.
After 12 losing seasons in the 13 years prior to last year's Houston Bowl journey, OSU can make the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 1944.
What's so horrible about that?
The Cowboys managed a winning record
during their toughest slough of games this season, beating
"Coming into this five-game stretch, a lot of people didn't give us a chance to actually go out and win games," Phillips said. "Going 3-2, it's not as great as we would have thought, but … I think the character of this team is one that is very high right now."
As it should be.
OSU's only losses have been to the No. 1, No. 6 and No. 18 teams in the nation.
How can that be any more than a mild disappointment, and why do fans still leave small pockets of seats empty at home games?
Dropping to arch-rival OU 52-9?
But, only a fool would say that one loss – unless it is, say, the national championship game – should define the season. And three losses shouldn't overshadow a season that could tie for the most victories in school history.
Especially when the Cowboys are doing it with a MASH unit full of casualties.
Over the past two games, OSU has lost defensive end Antonio Smith, offensive lineman Corey Hilliard, linebackers Pagitte McGee and Victor DeGrate, cornerback Darrent Williams, running backs Tatum Bell and Seymore Shaw for varying periods of time.
It complicated earlier and ongoing injuries to offensive linemen Matt Hardison and Ben Buie, linebacker Lawrence Pinson and safety Elbert Craig.
They've still managed a 7-3 record.
In fact, OSU has a shot at a combined record of 18-8 over the past two seasons, after a 13-year record, dating back to 1989, of 52-92-2.
Taking injuries and past record into
consideration, the Cowboys haven't lost their confidence, nor have they given up
the season because they haven't measured up to the lofty expectations they and
the fans had pre-Oklahoma and
"We haven't lost our swagger about our team," said Craig, who has played the latter half of the season with a torn ACL. "We're a good team. We got beat by the last two teams, but they're very good teams.
"We just want to win out."
No shame in that.