LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Notching a win against Kansas was necessary for the Oklahoma State Cowboys to continue their quest to bowl season.
It was crucial and essential to the bowl representatives. It was demanded by OSU fans.
A loss to the Jayhawks would have been unacceptable.
KU, finishing its season at a lowly 2-10, isn't thinking about a December vacation, but it is just waiting for the next phase of first-year coach Mark Mangino's stay in Lawrence.
KU is more than ready for its dreadful play to come to an end.
Hey, guy wearing the orange sweatshirt — before making that telephone call, (Hello, kettle? This is an OSU fan. You are black.) think about what the years of 1989-1994 held for the Cowboys.
It is amazing how an ascension into more glorified season records can blind fans to the past. A past that was even haunted by losses to KU.
The OSU faithful, as difficult as it may be, need to remember back to the hard times.
Ah, the worry that came with watching the sports tickers, the worry of going without a win.
And, aside from the 6-6 tie versus Iowa State in 1991, OSU was just that. Winless.
Then, there was 1993 and 1994.
Three-win seasons. Not great accomplishments in the OSU record books.
This season, KU beat Southwest Missouri State and Tulsa.
In 2002, the Jayhawks sported a big, fat zero in the Big 12 Conference. Even worse, they lost to conference teams by an average of 31.8 points a game.
Mangino, who came to Dorothy's homeland via I-35 after a stint in Norman, is ready to ascend the ladder with his team.
He knows it won't be easy. He also knows that every other team in the country has been through the same thing; Oklahoma has, Kansas State has, OSU has — even Notre Dame has.
And, it isn't far-fetched to believe Mangino can turn the Jayhawk bus around and put it on a winning highway.
He has been associated with the two of the biggest rags-to-riches stories in college football.
As an assistant at KSU, Mangino aided Bob Snyder in making the Wildcats a given in the postseason.
KSU, with the coaching efforts of Snyder and crew, are now a powerhouse in the Big 12, and in the country.
As an assistant at OU, Mangino stood alongside Bob Stoops as the Magic returned to the Sooner Nation.
OU, trying to live down embarrassing seasons dealt by John Blake and Howard Schnellenberger, won a national championship during the second year of the Stoops era.
Needless to say, the mind of Mangino has been fine-tuned to football success. As an understudy of perhaps two of the best head coaches in the country, Mangino knows what needs to be done at KU, and only fools will doubt his ability to do so.
Of course, there are obstacles, and Mangino knows it. He hopes the Jayhawk fans know it, too.
"As far as recruiting goes, we're on some quality players from all over the place, and we're gonna' get some really quality players in here," Mangino said. "But we have to develop the players we have in the program.
"We're not going to go out and recruit a whole new team next year — that's not gonna' happen."
Mangino didn't come to Lawrence to have his team perform in front of a nearly-empty stadium. He knowingly made a hard transition — change is never easy. But the man in charge is optimistic. A two-win season didn't sway him to check out the classifieds for a new gig. Quite the opposite.
"We have to raise the talent pool a little it, we have to get this stadium filled," he said. "I want our kids to be at the stadium everyday, so that they look out at that field everyday and they feel a sense of ownership. I want this stadium to be a sacred place."
Sounds like he is ready for winning to return to the KU campus.
Just like it did in Manhattan, just like it did for the crimson and cream — and just like it is doing for the Cowboys.
What was once tough to chew for Cowboy fans is slowly turning into happy happiness.
Football season is becoming a good thing in Stillwater again.
Years like 1991, finishing at the bottom of the Big Eight, are what make teams crave winning. OSU was, and is.
Years like 2002, finishing at the bottom of the Big 12, are what will make Mangino's little chicken hawks swim in postseason pandemonium.
The past is sometimes painful — but it leads to really great places.