Sunday Rewind: No Joy In Leaving Austin

The last bags were being packed onto the Oklahoma State football 18-wheeler as moments earlier the four buses carrying the Cowboy team and travel party had pulled out from Travis Street in front of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium heading toward the airport.

In the visitors locker room there wasn't a single sign that only minutes earlier a nationally ranked football team had been in there sharing their emotions with each other. Emotions ranging from anger, frustration, to a chilling sadness that comes from giving every ounce of energy you have into a game against an equally skilled and physical opponent and coming out a 28-24 loser to No. 1-ranked Texas.

The head coach had told his players that he was taking the blame for this one. He should have done a better job of calling plays is what he told the media. Players thought to themselves, what could I have done better? Players that made little or no mistakes at all were searching for something they could have improved upon to change the outcome.

The Cowboys' old neighborhood sees teams ranging from 15th in the polls to getting some votes in the polls. The new neighborhood is the top 10 and, yes, despite losing a hard-fought game the Cowboys showed they have impressed their potential new neighbors and those that monitor them by not dropping out of the top 10 after the loss to the Longhorns.

Heck, college football's new top guru, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit even came out and said that of all the team's playing on Saturday it was Oklahoma State that impressed him the most. He told the pollsters that the Cowboys should stay where they are, that they are welcomed to that elite neighborhood.

"I've not put much thought into any of those guys," said Oklahoma State head coach MIke Gundy on his Sunday teleconference with the media. "Now that he has been that nice, I have to say I support him."

After that statement, Gundy was asked if he wanted to know where the Cowboys landed in the polls and he showed a little more interest. Told that they were ninth in the Associated Press rankings, Gundy seemed happy. When he asked who moved up, he was told Texas Tech and that at ninth OSU is the fourth of four Big 12 South teams in the top 10.

Back to that team leaving Austin. There was no satisfaction in playing the number one team close. Gundy, while hating the outcome, liked the response of his team in defeat.

"Very similar to what it is in most cases. Guys put a lot into it and they were disappointed that they didn't win," said Gundy when describing the mood on the plane ride from Austin to Stillwater.

However, when the plane landed there were somewhere between 150 to 250 people at the Stillwater airport. They were there with kids, with signs, with pure hearts to show their team that they were proud of the way they played on a national stage with a team that many consider the best in the nation.

"I was happy for the players," said Gundy. "There were more people than I've ever seen, and I've been around for awhile, more than any time for me as a player or as a coach. The players enjoyed that, everybody wants to hear that they did a nice job.

"What I liked was that wasn't enough for them and they expected to win the game and they were upset about it. The fact that people showed up and showed their loyalty to the team, I think that is great for the players."

Now it is time to move on. Asked if the players know that they can still make it to the Big 12 Championship and that they could still compete and win the national championship, Gundy provided a simple answer.

"That's right. Our goal is to prepare to play well and win every Saturday," said Gundy. "Then our goal is to win the Big 12 Championship. The team that won the Big 12 last season had two losses and then the team that won the national championship had two losses. They know that," added Gundy of his players.

In this new neighborhood the Cowboys are threatening to crash for an extended stay -- the neighborhood known as college football's elite -- Gundy believes his team, coaches and players know what it takes to set up residence.

"I think that they understand what it takes each week, what it takes to prepare for a football game," continued the OSU head coach. "Guys at Wall Street keep going even though it hasn't been going well, but they know they still have to go back the next day and hope it gets better. We've had a lot of good games around here. They realize you can't change the outcome and all you can do is go out and make it better."

Gundy had high praise for his offensive line and some questioning of the stat crew in the press box at Texas. The Oklahoma State offensive line blocked for 217 rushing yards, including Kendall Hunter's effort of 161 yards on 18 carries. The Texas stat crew credited the Longhorns defense with five sacks for 11 yards in losses. That's a high number of sacks with a very low number of yards lost.

"They played as good as they played all year," said Gundy of the offensive line. "They played really well."

As for those sacks, Gundy had his own stat. "There were only two sacks from a football coaches point of view," said Gundy.

The Cowboy kickoff return game was again outstanding with five returns for 135 yards (an average of 27 yards a return). Both Victor Johnson and Perrish Cox burned the Longhorns for big returns. Then when Texas pooch kicked short Beau Johnson got another five yards. Earlier this season Donald Booker took a short pooch kick nearly the distance. Gundy was asked if he expected to see more teams "pooch" it on the Cowboys.

"That depends on the philosophy of the kickoff team and their kicker, it's not as easy as you think to do that and keep it in bounds," said Gundy. "We are fortunate because we have both Donald Booker and Beau Johnson in those positions. They are real athletic, practice it and we keep those guys ready to go."

Gundy said they found out early that Booker had the potential to help out in that area. "Early in the year we do a lot of drills on defense that involve catching the ball and he has good hands to ball coordination, plus he plays fearless and physical," said Gundy.

Back to work and how much does Gundy know about Iowa State?"There has been no cross-over tape, so the first I will see on them is this afternoon," he said. "I need to go watch tape so we can get a first down next week."

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