OSU, Texas Biggest Game In School History?

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State's football team may be involved in the biggest game in school history – at the very least the most important since the 1984 Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma – next Saturday. The eighth-ranked Cowboys took care of business with a methodical 34-6 victory over Baylor on a beautiful Homecoming afternoon Saturday to set up a showdown with the Texas Longhorns.

The Cowboys, now 7-0 for the first time since 1945, will travel to Austin, Texas to face the nation's No. 1-ranked Texas Longhorns.

Oklahoma State also will be ranked among the nation's top teams with the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings of the 2008 season are released Sunday. The Cowboys were seventh in one BCS projection (www.BCSguru.com) this past week.

Only three teams in school history won the first six games of the season (in 1945, 1997 and 2008). The Cowboys opened the 1997 season with six consecutive victories and rose to No. 12 in the rankings following back-to-back wins over top 20 teams Texas and Colorado. But they lost the next week in double overtime to Missouri, and finished the season 8-4.

Longtime OSU fans had to begin having flashbacks to 1997 when Baylor freshman quarterback Robert Griffin led the Bears on a 65-yard drive for a touchdown midway through the first quarter. The point-after-touchdown was blocked by Derek Burton but the Bears led 6-0, and the Cowboys offense had just 17 total yards, one first down and a turnover after its first two possessions.

But the Cowboys dominated the rest of the way. OSU's offense moved up and down the field, although they struggled after getting inside the 10-yard in the second half, and the defense was outstanding for the second game in a row. The Bears gained just 139 yards on their 10 other possessions after the first-quarter touchdown drive, and finished with 204 total yards of offense.

"It was a great win for us but once you get this far along they're all great wins," Cowboy head coach Mike Gundy said. "The defense played very well. They gave up a long drive and a touchdown but from that point on they were able to slow them down a little bit, and then offensively we got a roll there and kind of put the game out of reach for a while.

"The real story is how our defense played. They continue to get better each week. I'm very proud of them. I'm very proud of Coach Beck and the staff, and the plan they're putting together. They bought in and they're playing hard. The plays that I saw, even when their guys made some plays it looked like our guys really hit them, and hit 'em hard.

"I've always (said) I can't wait for the day that we say the defense is carrying the load. I'm for the defense. It's the same guys, with the addition of a few junior college players who give us some depth and some speed. It's the same guys. They have a different frame of mind. They have to continue to have a level-headed frame of mind and keep working hard. They're performing on Saturday because of what they do on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If you'd watch them in practice, you'd understand because they're having fun now, they're enjoying it. That's why they're having success."

The OSU offense struggled the first two times it touched the ball – going three-and-out and turning it over to Baylor on a fumble. But there was still plenty of time for Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant to get the offense going, and that's exactly what they did following Perrish Cox' 36-yard kickoff return after the Baylor score.

As a matter of fact, the nation's second-highest scoring offense was at its best the remainder of the first half. The Cowboys scored on their next four possessions, and the only way the Bears stopped the high-scoring offense was by running into the locker room at halftime.

Robinson and the Cowboy offense scored touchdowns on drives of 61, 62, 81 and 47 yards on four consecutive possessions – while the OSU defense was shutting down Griffin and the Bears.

The OSU quarterback only threw the ball twice in directing the Cowboys on an 11-play, 61-yard drive to take the lead. Running back Keith Toston scored on a 4-yard run to cap the scoring drive and Dan Bailey added the extra-point kick to give the Cowboys the 7-6 lead.

Robinson and Dez Bryant connected on their 10th and 11th touchdown passes and catches this season on the Cowboys' next two possessions. The Robinson-to-Bryant combination worked for a 37-yard TD, capping a four-play, 62-yard drive to put the Cowboys up 14-6. Then, after the defense held the Bears to a three-and-out, Robinson and Bryant teamed up again on a 9-yard TD when the 6-foot-2, 210-pound wide receiver outjumped Baylor cornerback Antareis Bryan for the ball.

The Cowboy offense would add another TD – on Toston's 2-yard run – with just 19 seconds left in the first half to make it 28-6.

Bryant finished with a career-best 11 receptions for 212 yards and the two TDs. The 212 receiving yards ranks as the sixth-best in school history, and is now No. 2 (nine catches for 236 yards vs. Houston earlier this season) and No. 6 for most receiving yards in a game.

"Obviously Dez Bryant had a very good game. If defenses gang up to stop the run like that it's going to give him an opportunity to make a lot of big plays, which he does," said Gundy of Bryant, who had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified when the Cowboys were called for a block in the back.

The score could have very easily been more along the lines of 49-6 but three Cowboy scoring drives stalled inside the Baylor 5-yard line. Bailey kicked a 20-yard field goal when OSU's second drive of the second half stalled at the Baylor 3-yard line. He added a 21-yard field goal late in the third quarter when the Cowboys' 64-yard drive was stopped at the Baylor 4. Then in the fourth quarter, Gundy elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line when the game was out of reach.

The Cowboys can now begin looking ahead to the showdown with the Longhorns.

"We talked a little bit about (being 7-0 and ranked among the nation's top teams)," Gundy said. "I still think I have the best job there is in the country. I know there are other jobs that people think they may have more built-in tradition or more money but for me, personally, to coach here where I went to school and to live here and to be involved with what's happening here, it doesn't get any better than that.

"They're all big. It still blows me away when people will say it's a big game this week. Well, they're all big. It's a thrill for me to be involved."

Cowboy fans couldn't agree more.

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