Les Miles said all his Cowboys had to do was beat the team that showed up today.
The team that showed up was not the same Nebraska football team that Oklahoma State or the Cowboy coach was used to seeing, and the Cowboys beat the Cornhuskers in a physical game, 24-21.
Forget the fact that NU has yet to win a road game this year. Forget the fact that the Huskers dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1981 this season.
History was on NU's side. The Cowboys (3-4, 1-2 Big 12) hadn't beaten the Huskers (5-3, 1-2) since 1961.
"Across the board, it was a program win," said Miles after the game. "The players and coaches deserve all the credit. They did a great job, and it's a nice mark for the rest of the season.
"It puts us in position to be more emphatic about bowl goals."
The Cowboys' had 387 yards of total offense, their most against NU since racking up 455 yards in 1988. It was the first time since Nov. 13, 1999, that the Cowboys beat a team from the Big 12 Conference's North Division, and OSU's first league win of the season.
"It's our offense — it is what we're supposed to do," Miles said. "I thought Tatum Bell ran well, Josh Fields threw and took pressure well, the wide receivers on both sides of the ball — Rashaun and John Lewis played a competitive game."
Tailback Tatum Bell and wide receiver Rashaun Woods led the Cowboys offensively. Bell had 33 carries for 182 yards, a career high. It was also the most yards for an OSU player since Reggie White ran for 187 against Tulsa in 2000.
Woods had 11 receptions for 134 yards from quarterback Josh Fields, who was 17-of-27 for 192 yards on the day.
"Keeping bowl hopes alive — that is the big, No. 1 thing here is to go to a bowl," Woods said. "We have to keep pressing on."
The first half was all about the Huskers' rushing game and the Cowboys' defense, as NU had 139 yards rushing, but was held to only one touchdown by a dominant OSU defense led by Elbert Craig and Kevin Williams. Craig and Williams both had 10 tackles in the game.
"Kevin Williams played an emotional, dominant, courageous game of football," Miles said. "He is my pick for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week."
The third quarter was the difference-maker for the Cowboys. OSU came into the second half down 7-3, it's lone score on a 45-yard field goal by Luke Phillips in the second quarter.
Fields had a 3-yard TD run with 6:43 left in the third to put the Cowboys up 10-7, then connected with Woods five minutes later on a 5-yard TD pass to swing momentum in the Cowboys' favor and put them up 10 points. Phillips was perfect on both PAT attempts.
"We felt really confident in our offensive line today," Fields said. "And that's why our coaches were so confident."
NU started to rally back in the fourth, when the Huskers' David Horne ran in a 2-yard TD. OSU wide receiver John Lewis responded with a diving TD catch in the endzone on a 12-yard pass from Fields.
"Before the catch I was saying, ‘Stay in it, stay in it man — we are gonna need you,'" Woods said to Lewis before the play. "And he really came through — that was a great catch he made keeping his leg in or his foot in or whatever. I saw the replay, I don't if I could have topped that one."
The Cowboys were up 24-14 when NU quarterback Jammal Lord ran in a 1-yard TD with 2:24 left in the game. OSU started its final drive with 2:06 left, and it was all Bell from there. Bell rushed for 14 yards on two carries to get the first down that sealed the game for the Cowboys.
"We are going in the right direction," Miles said of his program. "You tell them they can win big games, and when they do, it is affirmation that all the hard work does pay off."
NU had 229 rushing yards to OSU's 146, but the Cowboys dominated the passing game, with 148 yards to NU's 56.
"It becomes a nice memory for the coaching staff and the players," Miles said. "It becomes a great point where you have done something new and different at Oklahoma State.
"They can write their names down in the history books as THE team that changed that tradition of losing to Nebraska. It is easily the best game we played this season. We played a good team in a tight ballgame, and we won.
"This is what you play for."
Katy Jones is the Sports Editor for The Daily O'Collegian. This article appeared in the Special Victory Edition of the O'Collegian on Saturday, Oct. 19.