No Quit In These Cowboys

STILLWATER – Normally we'd bring you five questions but following Oklahoma State's gallant, yet losing, effort to Texas, the No. 1 team in the Bowl Championship Series standings, Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy wanted to talk about one question that he'd been asked a lot and that he felt his team gave a rousing final answer to Saturday night. The question Gundy and his players have been asked repeatedly has been about the team's attitude and whether they are still fighting.

The answer, after watching OSU spring out to a 28-9 first half lead and battle through injuries and a resurgent Texas effort to hang in much better than a more talented and experienced Cowboy team did a year ago, was a resounding YES. This team is still fighting.

"I thought our team played extremely hard and that our coaches had good game plans on both sides of the ball," Gundy said. "The one thing that I think we really accomplished tonight is they executed and did everything we asked them to do. Unfortunately they came up short on the scoreboard and that is not always the telltale sign of success.

"I told the postgame media this, the one thing I don't think we have to answer any more is this, 'Are we concerned about our team quitting?' I told them I would appreciate if they would not ask that question anymore this year. And, with all due respect, the players shouldn't have to answer that, and I shouldn't have to answer that anymore."

Gundy wasn't alone in recognizing the Oklahoma State effort. It also caught the attention of Texas head coach Mack Brown as he watched his team get outplayed in the first half for the second year in a row.

"Give Oklahoma State and Mike Gundy credit, they have had a tough three or four weeks here with a lot of turnovers, given up a lot of rushing yards, and their kids had nothing to lose tonight," Brown said. "They played like they were the number one team in the country and played really, really hard. They forced two turnovers and blocked a couple of kicks in the first half that made a difference in the ballgame. They made some really great plays."

No one on the Oklahoma State side was accepting the verdict as a victory, or even a moral victory, but it was an improvement. There were breaks but most were created by smart game planning on the part of the OSU coaching staff or from strong play out of the Cowboy players. One example of such a break was the Al Pena pass that deflected off Texas safety Michael Huff that D'Juan Woods ran up and made a nice one-handed grab on and ran it into the end zone. It was not quite as dramatic but the catch was reminiscent of the Immaculate Reception made by Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Championship Game win over the Oakland Raiders in the early 1970s.

"I started looking around for Chuck Noll, Lynn Swann, Rocky Bleier, L.C. Greenwood, Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham and all those guys," said Gundy. "Sometimes if you are a good football player and you are in the right place at the right time things like that happen. You take 'em, and we've had a few breaks go against us, so we deserved it."

Plays like that and efforts like Ryan McBean's block of a Texas field goal, Mike Hamilton's 194 yards rushing on 31 carries, defensive end Victor DeGrate's many plays including a forced fumble on Vince Young, Daniel McLemore's interception and punt return, and the overall effort by banged up offensive and defensive lines can help build some late momentum for this team.

"When you get a night like this you just want to do some more," said Hamilton of his career-high and OSU season-high 194-yard rushing effort. "We have two weeks, and when I get my chance it's going to be on."

"We aren't going to stop. Never stopping," said defensive tackle Ryan McBean.

"We have three left and we just have to go out in each one of them and play hard just like we did against the number one team tonight," said cornerback Daniel McLemore. "We play like this against those other teams then we should come out with a V."

"Football is a week to week journey and that journey (Texas) is over and now we're on another journey. We have two weeks to get ready to play Tech," said Gundy. "They are together, they are working hard, they care about one another, and I think we are all seeing it."

The open week comes at a good time because players like quarterback Bobby Reid, linebacker Lawrence Pinson and offensive tackle Charlie Johnson should be recovered from injuries and be close to, if not, full strength for the final home game with Texas Tech. Others injured Saturday night were defensive end Nathan Peterson (hamstring) and linebacker Rodrick Johnson (several minor injuries), but both should take advantage of the off week and be ready to play against Texas Tech.

There are three game left - Tech, at Baylor, and at Oklahoma. Gundy and his team can't, and won't, look past Texas Tech. But all three games are winnable and the Cowboys, as much as they been tossed aside by some, could still have a positive answer to the question many had at the start of the season: Will this OSU team go to its fourth straight bowl? After Saturday night the rest of the season certainly looks worthy of more than just the coaches and players paying attention to it.

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