Cowboys Seek Repeat Of 2002

STILLWATER – Darnell Smith was one of the few current Oklahoma State Cowboys on the field the last time the Nebraska Cornhuskers made the trip to Stillwater. But Smith, even though he was a redshirt freshman and didn't play in the game, has no trouble remembering the Cowboys' 24-21 victory on Oct. 19, 2002.

Behind the play of quarterback Josh Fields (two touchdown passes and a rushing TD), the running of Tatum Bell (182 rushing yards), the receiving of Rashaun Woods (134 receiving yards) and a defense led by tackle Kevin Williams the Cowboys beat the Cornhuskers for the first time since 1961 at what was then called Lewis Stadium.

Cowboy fans stormed the field, tore down the goalposts and with the help of then assistant coach Mike Gundy carried them out of the stadium and through the streets of downtown Stillwater (Gundy just helped get them across the field and out of the stadium).

"That was a big win for us," Gundy said Monday. "We were starting to play better, and they were playing OK (the Cornhuskers would finish 7-7 that season). I just remember thinking that this is a game where if we don't turn the ball over and we run it effectively, we thought we could win."

That win helped the Cowboys to a 7-5 regular season record, and a 33-23 victory over Southern Mississippi in the Houston Bowl.

The Cowboys opened the 2003 season with a 17-7 loss to the Cornhuskers in Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium, but the two teams have not met the past two years. OSU, 4-3, will host 20th-ranked Nebraska, 6-2, in a nationally televised game (ABC-TV) Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

"It was a very thrilling experience," said fifth-year senior Darnell Smith, who along with D'Juan Woods and Kurt Seifried are the only current Cowboys who witnessed the victory from the sideline. "I believe they said it was the first time we had beaten them in 41 years so just to be a part of that was just a thrilling experience, especially being a young guy playing college football. Having the fans jump on the field and everything, it was pretty exhilarating.

"Actually I almost got hit in the head with the goalposts," said the Cowboy defensive lineman. "We ran onto the field (when the game ended) and I was running with my helmet up in the air, and then fans just collapsed (on us).

"All of a sudden I see fans rocking on the goalposts, and I'm saying, ‘Is this thing really going to come down?' Then I saw it coming down and I turned my head because someone patted me on the back, and I had to put my helmet on real quick (to avoid getting hit on the head). I was right in the mix of things when the goalposts came down.

"I was trying to get to the locker room. The fans were smacking me so hard that I felt like I was getting hit. I had to put my helmet back on and celebrated with the team when I got back in the locker room."

Gundy, Smith and the Cowboys would like nothing more than to have a chance to celebrate like that again. But stopping Cornhusker quarterback Zac Taylor (63.5 completion percentage, 1,824 yards, 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions) is going to be different than stopping Joe Dailey (who started for Nebraska in 2002). While Bobby Reid, Mike Hamilton (or Dantrell Savage or Keith Toston), and Adarius Bowman are among the leaders on the Big 12 stat charts, they have yet to win the big games that Fields, Bell and Rashaun Woods did during their careers.

"I don't know what their overall winning percentage is, (but) I would imagine it's pretty good over the past 80 years," Gundy said of the mystique that Nebraska has among college football fans. "It's a big-name school, and (head coach Bill Callahan) has got them moving in the right direction. They are a much different team, in my opinion. His team has progressed every year and has gotten better, and I think he's got them moving in the right direction."

The Cowboy head coach believes the key to beating the Cornhuskers is similar to what transpired in 2002.

"We have to take care of the football and we have to be able to run the ball because if we can't run the ball it doesn't allow us to do stuff down the field throwing it," Gundy said.

Darnell Smith has some advice for Oklahoma State fans if they upset Nebraska.

"I'd say celebrate with us but do things responsibly and legally. I'm not going to tell them to do anything that they don't want to do, and I'm not going to try to promote anything (like tearing down the goalposts) but if that's what they want to do and they felt like they needed to do that, or if they feel like they need to stay in the stands and celebrate, then that's what they need to do.

"I just want them to celebrate and cheer us on, and whatever you do, if it's against the rules don't do it."

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