Time To Circle The Wagons, Again

The smoke from the constant barrage of Omar Hougabook passes and Troy celebratory fireworks often made Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium seem like a battle scene. And way too often Friday night it was the OSU Cowboys that were the physically and emotionally wounded. I have no doubt that every OSU fans is feeling the heartache after what has to be another low point in the history of Cowboy football.

There have been other low points –– recently a loss to Louisiana Tech in the 2002 season opener, a 31-0 drilling at home courtesy of Colorado in 2005, the 3-8 campaign in Bob Simmons' dysfunctional final season as head coach, a winless conference campaign with a single tie with Iowa State in Pat Jones' final season, and in 1991 during the throes of probation there was 0-10-1.

All of that is history, a history that caused Cowboy PA voice and good friend Larry Reese to once say, "It's tough to be us." It is tough at times to be an Oklahoma State Cowboy because in the premier of all college sports, football, the Cowboys have had more than their share of downs.

Friday night's trip to the backwoods of Alabama, to be greeted by an expected group of talented (yes, they have better than average talent for a Sun Belt team) Troy Trojans anxious to make up for two rugged trips to open the season at Arkansas and at Florida, has to rank in that list of lows. Oklahoma State knew what they were walking into, and even had a former Troy warrior in Clint Coe to fully explain the scenario.

And they knew what Troy had on offense and defense. The Trojans didn't really throw out any surprises, just a supreme effort pushed even higher by an enthusiastic student body and fans. There was no excuse not to be ready emotionally and from an X's and O's standpoint. The coaching staff had a good plan.

Coaches and fans can't make plays. Without getting into detail or pointing out individuals, all of these took place last night:

1) fumbles because of poor ball security,
2) careless penalties caused by momentary lack of discipline (there were also a decent amount of bad call, but those had to be expected with a Sun Belt crew),
3) dropped passes,
4) the quarterback not looking off receivers before throwing the ball,
5) poor pursuit to the ball,
6) missed tackles,
7) hesitant and not aggressive play on defense, and
8) a few emotional dropouts by players that caused negative plays.

You see, it is tough to be us -- whether you are a player, coach, or fan. Now the positive in the program's history is Oklahoma State has the unsinkable spirit of rebounding from bad luck, bad circumstances, and bad efforts. In some cases it has taken a year or two to rebound, and in others, like Mike Gundy's first season, it took just one campaign and the Cowboys were back in a bowl and beating Alabama for an off-season that led to so much hype going into this one.

The loss at Troy, while it hurts, did not crumble the west end zone project of Boone Pickens Stadium, did not wipe out the Pickens' hedge fund that is so rapidly increasing the Oklahoma State athletic bankroll, did not cause the talent currently in the program to evaporate, or cause the coaching staff to avoid going to the office Saturday to begin work on Texas Tech, which currently is rolling up spread passing yardage more rapidly that Troy did on the Cowboys last night.

This season is now at a severe crossroad. There is the ability to come back and make something very positive out of it. The loss to Troy didn't guarantee Oklahoma State losses against all the Big 12 heavyweights and middleweights left on the schedule. It just made for more outside disbelievers than there were before the monsoon subsided and the fireworks began last night in Alabama.

Cowboy fans will mourn, groan, and gripe. Players have to lick their wounds, although for some like center David Washington, with a lower right leg injury requiring medical attention, the sidelines may be a reality. The other players simply have to decide they will fight through the emotional hurt and fight for the edge they hoped to be playing with at this point.

A key element in future weeks will be finding the same intensity on the road that they seem to play with in front of the sea of orange at Boone Pickens Stadium, and part the Big 12 seas of other colors. The coaches will have to work that much harder -- first, to get the players to understand their potential, and second, to give them a better plan to realize it.

The promised land hasn't been reached yet, it is working its way into sight every day with the stadium project. That and the continued effort on the part of the players and coaches, on the field and in recruiting, is still needed.

Until then it is tough to be us. You have to deal with a loss like the one Friday night at Troy. We all have to witness the success of rivals and their glee in enjoying it. Remember, they earned it. The great thing about the sport of football is once the game kicks off most teams, and Oklahoma State is among those, have the opportunity to fight their butts off and earn it too.

In a strange, but true reality, it is the success that Troy had in beating Oklahoma State tha einsures the Cowboys the right to turn this season around. There is not that much difference between the winners and losers in 75 percent of Division I games -- the scholarship limits and parity in the game make that so. Everybody in this program simply needs to decide they won't listen to the detractors and won't check in their equipment whether that is a helmet, a whistle or a ticket.

OK, it is tough to be us, but over the next nine games it can become tougher or it can be a bounce back from a lousy trip to Alabama. Everybody can weigh in on this one.

(Robert's note: I write this perspective on about four and a half hours sleep, after going back and reviewing the entire 41-23 loss to Troy on tape, seeing Texas Tech, next week's conference opening foe, blow through Rice for a game-opening touchdown in around two minutes, and having read nothing on this or any other message board. I will get to the posts and inquiries.)

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