Cox Makes Opener, And Future Look Bright

STILLWATER – How often do you see a team not only win a season opener but also give a preview of season openers to come – all on the same day? It started with true freshman Perrish Cox taking the opening kickoff and shifting himself in and out of gears, and in and around would be Missouri State tacklers, for a 96-yard touchdown.

As the celebrated freshman out of Waco (Texas) University High School, just next door to Baylor, crossed the goal line on the west end of Boone Pickens Stadium, and the crowd of 41,393 erupted along with the Oklahoma State sidelines, coaching veteran and OSU assistant director of football operations Dale Patterson poked this reporter in the chest in celebration and said, "That's recruiting."

"When we recruited him we told him from the start that he needed to come to Oklahoma State so that he could return the opening kickoff," said head coach Mike Gundy. "That worked out pretty well, didn't it? That's exactly what he did. That couldn't have worked out any better."

Truth in advertising, Oklahoma State made good on its recruiting promise and the 6-1, 180-pound U.S. Army All-American more than lived up to the recruiting hype. Cox could easily be leading the Big 12 in kickoff and punt returns after week one. He averaged 24 yards a return on three punt returns, had the one kickoff return for 96 yards, and returned an interception for 21 yards. Oh, by the way, he also had a tackle. He can play.

"That was a great start for us and we talked about his ability to make big plays and we put him in there," said Gundy. "There was some concern at times about putting a freshman in there and taking a chance on him bobbling one. We felt strongly if he did that he would catch the next one, so we put him in and used his ability to make a big play."

First year players aren't permitted to do interviews, but Cox will have plenty of time to do that. The Cowboys, according to radio voice Dave Hunziker, start 12 freshmen or sophomore players, the most of any team in a BCS conference except Ole Miss, which also starts 12 pups.

Cox became the poster child for openers to come. That many young players -- and young players with that kind of talent -- will mean more success. The last Cowboy to return an opening kickoff for a touchdown after all did it two years in a row. That guy's name is Barry Sanders. Cox had his teammates pumped up including roommate Jacob Lacey, who had as much success as the Missouri State kickoff team in trying to find Cox to congratulate him.

"Man, the only thing that made me mad about that was that I couldn't find him after he did it," said Lacey. "It took me about 10 minutes to find him."

"That took a lot off my back," quarterback Bobby Reid said of the opening touchdown return. "P. Cox took the ball and used his natural ability and scored for us. I was just trying to get my guys to understand on our first chance we needed to do the same thing, use our ability and go out and play ball and we did."

Gundy said, "We have more playmakers this year than we did last year. We have more guys that have a chance to make somebody miss when they touch the football. We have more speed on defense and when they show up, guys make hits. We still have a lof ot football ahead of us, but we are a different football team than we were."

Cox was the catalyst, but there were plenty of players to get excited about, and plenty of players got a chance to get in the game because of the 38-0 halftime lead that ended up 52-10 for the Cowboys.

"It's a great opportunity for our football team, as a whole, to enjoy the win, and those football players that paid the price in the spring, in the summer, and during two-a-days this is their reward," said Gundy. "Sometimes it is difficult to look at them all the time and tell them to go out and practice hard next week, you're on the scout team, and then we get to tell them to go out and play. Our coaches had a lot of fun with it. They had fun and we get to grade them on tape."

"We just tried to use this game as a focal point," said Lacey. "We were trying to get back to game speed and get ourselves where we need to be to get off to a great season. I know my confidence is growing and I'm trying to play a role as a leader back in the secondary this season. Donovan (Woods) and I are trying to set a tone."

All those players will improve. Beating Missouri State doesn't guarantee anything. This week's opponent Arkansas State won a bowl game and the Sunbelt Conference championship last season and opened with a win over Army.

The opponents will get better, but this game did move Oklahoma State forward. Backward could be a narrow one-point win (such as Kansas State over Eastern Illinois 24-23) or heaven forbid the Big 12's first ever loss to a Division I-AA school (ie. Montana State over Colorado 19-10).

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