Cowboys Earn Some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

STILLWATER – You'll have to forgive Mike Gundy, but the Oklahoma State second-year head coach is still learning some aspects about being a head coach. You see Gundy has his own opinion of his football team and you get the feeling he would like to force his opinion of his team on nearly everyone around, particularly the media.

Gundy doesn't call out any individuals or groups, but those of us that know him pretty well can simply read a story or column and have a pretty precise idea of whether the former Cowboy star quarterback turned head coach at his alma mater will agree with it or not. Of course, it is not the media's job to write material that pleases a head coach. However, after Saturday's 41-29 win over 20th-ranked Nebraska, a victory that will be labeled as landmark, marquee, and program changing in the morning paper, you'd think only a real party pooper would find an aspect that would be anything less than complimentary. Count on it, there will be at least one.

There are some media members out there that will go unnamed that he will never have an appreciation for. They would go in Mike's "Jim Mora category" as in "they don't know and they will never know." That category is named after the one of the more famous quotes from the former NFL coach aimed at the media that just don't understand what it's like to coach or play the game. You'd be surprised how many fit that sample group.

Gundy threw out one wish following the win over the Huskers, and that is that observers be fair to his players and quit asking one question.

"There have been so many question every week, ‘How do you get your team ready to play? You've had a couple of tough losses, what are you going to do?'" Gundy said repeating inquiries he's faced over the past month. "I just hope now, out of respect to the players that we don't have to answer that question. There are just so many reasons that we shouldn't have to, including that the guys just decided to get it done. They don't worry about what people say and they take a lot of pride in going out and playing the football game the way it is supposed to be played. I'm just proud of them for staying in there and fighting."

Gundy has a point. Two gut wrenching losses -- 31-27 at Kansas State and 34-33 at home against Texas A&M -- yet each time the Cowboys followed it up with a win. Not just wins, but come-from-behind wins. The Cowboys were down 17-0 in the third quarter on the road at Kansas and outscored the Jayhawks 41-14 the final 19 minutes of the game. Against the 20th-ranked Cornhuskers on Saturday the Cowboys fell behind 16-0 only to outscore Nebraska 41-13 over the final 40 minutes of the contest.

While this maturing posse of Cowboys may not always have the quickest draw at the start of a game, and previously showed a tendency for not always finishing the job, no media member, fan or observer of any type can question their heart. Gundy and some of his older players have been trying to tell all of us that.

"Just the poise, when we got down 16-0 we were the most calm people on the sideline," said senior offensive tackle and team captain Corey Hilliard. "Even a freshman like Russell Okung, he was telling people, ‘We're still in this. It's just the first quarter.' Just to know that we can have this offensive output anytime is something reassuring for us."

"All that stuff after those tough losses it's real easy to get down and lay down and give up," said one of the defensive heroes Nate Peterson, who had the fumble return for a score that put the final knife in the Huskers. "This defense we stick together and all the criticism and things that Coach (Vance) Bedford has had to deal with that was something we just worked through together. We're not going to give up. We're just going to work hard and keep getting better and better."

"What kind of people they are (impresses me)," Gundy said of his team. "For example, a freshman like Patrick Lavine, who had a knee injury and couldn't practice Monday or Tuesday, did a little bit Wednesday and a little bit Thursday, and then said, ‘I'm not wearing a brace today. I'm going to go play.' Ryan McBean and Larry Brown, who have had stingers and shoulders that are sore. Rod Johnson had a groin (injury), and it goes on down the line -- (Brady) Bond and (Russell) Okung, Corey Hilliard and (Dantrell) Savage. Bobby Reid and all the players fighting to make a difference, that's what makes me most proud as a coach is that our staff has a relationship with our team that they will stay in there and fight. Those are values learned that will help them the rest of their lives."

This orange "Band of Brothers" is now 5-3 with a remaining schedule that is not for the faint of heart -- trips to Austin (next Saturday) and Lubbock along with home games with Baylor and Oklahoma. Gundy would just as soon the media sit back and instead of trying to guess or speculate on his team's emotions and level of resolve, simply observe and write the results.

For the fans, just the thousand or so that skipped Saturday's festivities with Nebraska, you better hop back on the Gundy Cowboy Express or be prepared to be described by defensive coordinator Vance Bedford in some new and disparaging term.

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