OSU Seniors Have Extra Incentive Against KU

Prior to Saturday night's opening kickoff Oklahoma State fans will get a chance to show their appreciation as 21 seniors make their final appearances at Boone Pickens Stadium when Oklahoma State hosts fifth-ranked Kansas. OSU fans will be saying goodbye to four-year players like Martel Van Zant, Nathan Peterson, David Koenig and Donovan Woods, and transfers like Adarius Bowman and Dantrell Savage.

It could be a difficult week for the Oklahoma State players for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is knowing they'll be preparing for their final home game in front of the 40,000-plus Cowboy faithful who will be cheering them in Saturday night's nationally televised game (ABC Sports).

But the Cowboys, 5-4 overall and 3-2 in Big 12 play, will be trying to regroup following this past weekend's heartbreaking 38-35 loss to Texas. OSU led by 21 points in the fourth quarter only to see the Longhorns scored 24 unanswered points, including a game-winning 40-yard field goal on the game's final play, to capture the victory.

"We have to rely on the senior leadership. Earlier this year, if you guys remember, I told you that I thought we had really good senior leaders on our team. They're the ones that have to grab the young guys and get everybody back on track," said Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy.

Does Gundy believe the younger Cowboys will practice just a little harder and give that extra effort Saturday to ensure the seniors walk off the field one last time as victors?

"There are always highs and lows to every season, and sometimes players play harder than others, but they should want to play hard for the seniors, the guys who put a lot into the program. And then some day the young guys will want to play hard for them (when they're seniors)," Gundy said.

Several seniors are sure to get outstanding ovations when they are introduced, along with their parents, prior to Saturday's game. Van Zant, who is deaf, has been a crowd favorite since he arrived on campus four years ago. Peterson is among the school's all-time leaders in quarterback sacks. Koenig followed his older brother to OSU, and has started 33 consecutive games the past three seasons. Woods has always put the team first, and has started at three different positions (quarterback, safety and linebacker) during his career.

"There are several guys who fall into that category," Gundy said when asked about players who always put the team ahead of individual goals. "Mo Cummings is a guy who runs around out there Saturday, and we couldn't get much out of him because he's beat up a little bit but he's trying hard. We had to get him off the field because he couldn't make a play. But he was out there giving us his best effort and that's what it's all about.

"The positive thing about it is they're all going to be within six hours of graduating on time. That's what's important because there are going to be a very small number of them that get a chance to play beyond this level, and if they do they'll be lucky to play for three or four years, and then they'll have to go out there and get a real job."

Peterson has been an undersized defensive end since the day he arrived on campus. If a player's production was measured by heart and desire, than Peterson would be a four-time All-American. His three quarterback sacks this season give him 17 1/2 for his career, which ranks sixth best in school history.

"Nate has always been special to us because he's one of those guys that could donate his body to science. When you're 6-2 and 230 pounds, and you've been through as much as he has your body's really not meant to play Division I college football. But because he loves to play the game, and he plays it so hard, that's what it's all about. He's going to graduate on time, he's going to do real well in the professional world because of his dedication. He understands hard work, dedication and he's structured," Gundy said.

"He's one of those guys you look forward to coming back in five or six years ... He's a part of our program and when he comes back on alumni weekend or homecoming, it's going to be important to him. He's meant a lot to the program," Gundy continued.

Savage and Bowman have only been a part of the program for the past several years but that doesn't diminish what they've brought to OSU.

"Those guys have been very, very productive on the field but they're both on track to graduate. In fact, I think AD's six hours from graduating," Gundy said. "They've had a lot of success out here (on the field), but they've been leaders from the fact ... somebody asked the question earlier about getting ready to play this week, and those two guys compete, and players who willing to compete no matter what the situation they're going to generate and put a spark into your team and that's what those guys do."

The 21 seniors who will be playing their final games at Boone Pickens Stadium (listed alphabetically): Bowman, running back Zach Carter, safety Clint Coe, running back Julius Crosslin, Cummings, receiver Tommy Devereaux, defensive end Marque Fountain, linebacker Rod Johnson, Koenig, defensive back Billy Lewis, running back DeAaron Martin, receiver Jon Morris, linebacker Jeremy Nethon, running back Chris Offor, Peterson, Savage, tight end Paschal Smith, Van Zant and Donovan Woods.

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