Unselfishness plays out on field, in locker room

Just who was the Player of the Game? If we left it up to the OSU players to decide, we still wouldn't know by season's end.

When teams lose, players fight over who takes the blame.

Each guy seems to want to carry the load alone.

When teams win, players point all ten fingers to teammates on a job well done.

Such is the case of the 2002 Oklahoma State football team.

No one thought they could bear the responsibility of hoisting the blue ribbon.

Starting with the head coach, the trend went like falling dominoes. "The coaching staff is what won this game," Les Miles said. "Mike Gundy called one heck of a game...Bill Clay...Todd Monken..."

Miles got the big one -- the elusive Nebraska "W" -- a game 41 years in the making. And, the man who gets the brunt of the attack in losing situations, stood up and told the media it wasn't his win. It belongs to his coaching staff and his players.

He didn't take one bit of credit.

Neither did All-America candidate Rashaun Woods.

Quarterback Josh Fields didn't take credit either. He passed it on to the next guy.

Tatum Bell? Nearly 200 yards rushing wasn't enough for him to say he was a crucial part of the game.

And even John Lewis, whose diving catch in the fourth quarter was perhaps the difference maker, called out the offensive line, the defensive line and anyone he could think of.

Anyone but himself.

The week of preparation leading up to the showdown with the Cornhuskers tells more about the game than the actual game itself.

And, the turnaround from a slim 17-15 defeat in Austin two weeks ago, to the 44-9 disappointment in Manhattan put the Cowboys on the right track.

Instead of the players adjusting on their own, the coaches earned their paychecks in practice this week. They knew in order for OSU to be successful, its gridiron sailors needed to see confidence in the eyes of the men in charge of the ship.

"It was more like an attitude change in the coaches," Woods said. "The coaches all week long were in our ear about being detailed. You wouldn't believe how much more vocal they were as far as getting us ready for this game, and we really responded well."

The coaches -- despite the amazing blocking by the offensive line, double-digit tackles by safety Elbert Craig, accurate throwing by Fields, and quick feet by tailback Bell -- are the deserving ones of the victory dance.

The daily doses of positive reinforcement given by the coaches gave this team confidence enough to stand up against four decades of broken hearts.

Sunday through Friday, the Cowboy coaching staff posed as co-conductors of the little engine that knows it can. It knew that 1961 could become a distant memory.

And on a date that will forever be etched in the memories of Cowboys everywhere, the engine finally made it over the hill.

It thought it could, and it did.

For once, all aspects of the game were intact. Everything clicked, and so many positive things happened, that no one knows who really deserves all that credit.

Running. Passing. Blocking. Kicking. Catching.

It was there, and it was electric.

"It's nice to be here talking about a win instead of talking about a loss," offensive lineman Jason Russell said. "I like not having fingers pointed at me for bad things."

They are still trying to give the credit to each other, passing it along like a secret in a sorority house. For once, the bickering is a little nice.

Fans can just sit back and watch the arguments ensue, smile -- and hold up a victory beer.

This article also appeared in The Daily O'Collegian's Special Victory Edition on Saturday, Oct. 19.

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