OSU-Texas Tech: An Honest Evaluation

This one hurt. It hurt Mike Gundy, hurt every assistant coach, hurt every doctor, hurt every trainer, hurt every manager ... anybody dealing with the Oklahoma State football program. It hurt all the Cowboy fans that have lived the excitement of this season thus far. Most of all. it hurt and cut deep into all of the Cowboys players.

It was a different kind of hurt than the one I saw two years ago in Manhattan, Kan., when the Cowboys blew a late lead over Kansas State. It was different than the hurt after the loss at Texas A&M last season when the Cowboys were leading 17-0 over the Aggies at halftime.

This loss was one at a different level. The embarrassment wasn't included. In those other games there was embarrassment combined with the pain of losing. When you lose in the situation the Cowboys were in Saturday night in Lubbock there is just the pain. It really doesn't make it any easier to deal with from the pain standpoint, but if all respond correctly, the recovery should be better.

Those other losses came while climbing the steep hill of college football respectability. Confidence is fragile when climbing that hill, especially when the climb is just beginning.

This program has reached a plateau this season and was in week 10 of the college football season, with a record of 8-1, playing unbeaten Texas Tech in a national championship playoff elimination game. Like many years, the national championship playoff this season is double elimination. The Cowboys 28-24 loss at then No. 1 Texas didn't eliminate them. Last night's 56-20 loss to No. 2 Texas Tech did.

The Cowboys took a big jump this season as it was week 10 and they were still involved in the national title sweepstakes.

What they do next week at Colorado, Thanksgiving weekend at home with rival OU, and in the subsequent bowl game will help determine a starting point and how polished this program will be for another anticipated run and participation in the national championship playoffs for next season. The rest of the season is still vitally important for Oklahoma State and all involved.

Losses don't hurt any less the closer you climb to the top of the mountain. The hurt is still there but for OSU and programs playing in the national spotlight at this juncture of the season there isn't any embarrassment. It's a nicer place to be, but the journey is far from over and there is still important work to do.

It is not often that I agree with Berry Tramel, but his column in The Oklahoman was spot on regarding the Cowboys loss to Texas Tech. It was a group effort. My daughter asked me if anybody had a great game. My answer was that no one did.

The effort was there all the way around but nobody had a great game. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew played well but he had a fumble. Kendall Hunter had more than 100 rushing yards but he had some runs that he could have made better decisions. Zac Robinson played hard but he had some mistakes. The offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, there were mistakes all the way around.

The one exception might be punter Matt Fodge, Fodge was spectacular on his punts including a career tying 72-yard effort.

From a football strategy and execution standpoint, the offense was out of sync and made mistakes like penalties and poor execution that led to empty possessions. Short gains on first down made for tough conversions on second and third downs for the offense. That all led to Texas Tech controlling the first half with their offense. Yes, the Red Raiders controlled it running 41 plays to the Cowboys 31. Time of possession was 18:09 to 11:51 in favor of Tech.

The Oklahoma State defense, which struggled trying to cover Tech receivers in man coverage, was left out there a lot in the first half. That added running game in Tech's offense isn't the best in the Big 12, but with the Mike Leach-designed passing attack it is very effective in making Tech even more difficult to defend.

Fodge's punting gave OSU a lift in special teams, but the return game did not as Tech covered kickoffs after their four touchdowns in the first half (and second) as well as any OSU opponent this season.

One mistake obviously cut deep for me. Zach Allen, my son, who I am very proud of, had a bad snap on the Cowboys extra point try after the third and final touchdown. As a parent, that crushes you because I know how important it is to him. I know how it cuts deep in him to let down his teammates. It also brings out the helplessness in my other role on OSU football Saturday's, my role as a parent. All I can do is love my kid, tell him he makes me proud with the way he acts, carries himself, and performs as a member of that team. My love for him, like it is for all those kids in that locker room, is unconditional.

Saturday night in Lubbock was painful but it was not embarrassing. Oklahoma State football is in a better place, holding a higher stature, and with continued work by players, coaches, and support staff, and continued support by its fans and backers, it will continue the climb.

As crazy as this sentence reads, the hurt is there but it is a better hurt.

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