RA's Thoughts: A New Day In College Football

I had to pinch myself Sunday morning to make sure it was true despite being there in person Saturday: Oklahoma State 45, Nebraska 14 in Lincoln. For longtime OSU fans this was one heckuva turnaround. I can remember the Charlie Weatherbie fumble at the goal line in 1974 that cost OSU a victory, the attempt by Pat Jones to win 3-0, and the 63-42 loss in 1988. This one was as good as imagined.

Nebraska had their 1997 national champs there, Memorial Stadium was full and excited, and the Cowboys ruined the party.

I'm not going to tell you that Nebraska was fielding a team full of All-Americans, and if you read The Oklahoman then you'll think Nebraska has withered into a junior varsity program. The truth is some people, especially the tradition filled sportswriters of many Big 12 area newspapers, are going to have to be dragged into the new world and age of college football kicking and screaming.

Now The Oklahoman has to be given an exception here. After being embarrassed and basically slammed to the mat like an OU wrestler in a Bedlam match with the Mike Gundy attack on the paper and its editorial content, anything the Cowboys accomplish is going to be tarnished some in print.. In my opinion the win Saturday staved off what at some time, when Gundy is perceived to be vulnerable, will be a full out assault on the head coach that stood up and stuck himself out on the block in defense of a printed attack on one of his players (Bobby Reid).

It was also a full-fledged continuation to the introduction of the change in college football. That change was also very visible in Lexington, Ky., where basketball powerhouse Kentucky knocked off number one LSU in overtime. Last week it was USC losing to 41-point underdog Stanford, and the week before upstart and rebuilding Colorado disposing of mighty Oklahoma, and K-State doing the same to Texas.

Fans of the mighty can now beware because in some cases the once meek may inherit a top spot in college football. For the Dave Sittlers, who by the way wrote an appropriate and timely column after the game on Saturday, college football is no longer going to have an exclusive VIP list that includes Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska. Kansas, South Florida and Arizona State have the right to be undefeated and recognized for the accomplishment. Scholarship limits, widely enhanced television exposure, and, in cases like Oklahoma State, major pushes and victories in fund raising have given the other guys the opportunity to catch up.

For Oklahoma State and other schools like it that means truly on any given Saturday, and as the Cowboys discovered and punctuated on Saturday, not only on their home field, they can beat a legendary program. It's now happening every week, and the Cowboys must learn to take advantage of it on a more consistent basis.

The Cowboys also proved in Lincoln that they may be the most resilient group of players ever to wear the orange and black. Last season many of these same players weathered crushing defeats at Kansas State and at home in overtime to Texas A&M only to come back the next week and beat Kansas (on the road) and Nebraska, respectively.

They also prove to learn their lessons well. Previously, it was digesting and perfecting the teachings of Larry Fedora on offense. It took most of a season, but heading into season two the offense became a source of pride and for opposing defensive coaches and players a major headache. After a half season of seeing opposing offenses run roughshod (or maybe we should say pass) over the Tim Beckman-designed Cowboy Blackshirts, the defense is biting back. It has been a gradual improvement and is far from the finished product, but it is getting better every Saturday.

It is a new day in college football, one of more equality, one of parity. The Cowboys showed Saturday they can be in step with the new age. As Dave Sittler wrote in his Sunday column for the Tulsa World, it is one that has spawned opportunity for Oklahoma State here in the second half of the season in the year 2007.

In college football today, an opportunity either for national and/or conference supremacy is the first step toward getting it.

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