Penthouse Exit Is Tough To Take

You've heard the old saying, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." It is so true and never more true than in sport, especially college football. A week ago, Stillwater was alive with revelers celebrating the "we've arrived" victory over Georgia on ESPN. Another Sports Illustrated cover would come later in the week, along with the move up college football's ladder known as the polls.

It was kind of nice to be in the top five in the nation and keeping company with Florida, Texas, USC, and Alabama. All week long everybody around, including your's truly, were trying to plot the route to the Big 12 Championship and even the BCS National Championship Game.

The Cowboys had beaten Georgia and had kind of slipped into their spot in the college football hierarchy. Nobody thought that Houston might come in and want to steal the Cowboys temporary crown.

Oh, how do I feel foolish. A year ago, I worried and warned that Houston was double dangerous. Yet this season when a respected Cowboys assistant coach tells me, "Houston is like a snake and you don't want to pick it up," I thought a win over the Cougars was in the bag.

I was confident and I felt that Oklahoma State would thrash the Cougars defense and really rush the football. I said they might even have four 100-yard rushers as opposed to the 200-yard rusher, 300-yard passer, and 200-yard receiver they had in last season's 56-37 win.

Breaking it down, Mike Gundy and his staff did get outcoached and they will tell you they did. Gundy will also tell you they didn't get beat because they were complacent. The coaches prepared hard, worked very hard in putting together the game plan. The practices went well and the players were focused and took the Houston threat seriously.

You can practice well and still not coach and play well, and that is where Gundy found problems. In general terms he claimed the coaches didn't put the players in the best positions to accomplish what they needed to to win the game. Houston's coaches did a better job of that.

Now, coaching doesn't fumble the ball four times and lose three. Remember, even the fumble that wasn't lost came on third down as Zac Robinson lost control of the ball out of bounds, and that killed a drive.

Coaching didn't throw an interception, or even tip the ball up as it was on the play that resulted in Jamal Robinson picking off the pass and taking it 26 yards for the touchdown that really sealed the Cowboys free fall from the top 10.

"We fumbled twice in the backfield for whatever reason," said Gundy. "The flip side on offense is we made too many mistakes. We left the ball twice on the ground in the backfield.

"I don't know if the snap was low or he wasn't able to get it. They were plus two in the turnovers and that is just the opposite of last week. It is a different approach (coming off of a loss) this week."

Gundy said he would be back at work bright and early Sunday morning. His coaching staff will be too. The sun will come up but it may take awhile this week for it to shine again. That's a pun that the weather forecast (rain) this week may be a true speculation.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Besides players and coaches, blame media for hyping this team up so much, including me. Blame yourself for buying into the championship talk. This team still has deficiencies.

Remember, and if you are going to listen to the broadcast next Saturday, this team still has its warts or problems and they will continue to try and fix them.

These Cowboys didn't tackle well, at least not like they did against Georgia. Too many shoulders and big hit attempts and not enough wrapping up of Houston ball carriers. Houston rushed for 146 yards, not a ton but too many to compliment the Cougars passing game. They averaged 4.1 yards, the same number they did against Northwestern State in week one.

Houston was able to maintain some balance, which makes them even harder to defend. There was Case Keenum with all the screens, bubbles, tunnels, and all their other screens and shuttle passes.

"We faced a different approach on offense," said Gundy of Houston. "They got us into space and we didn't tackle as well as we would have wanted to, and they attempted close to 50 passes and we didn't have a sack. If you don't sack the quarterback and you don't put enough pressure on him and you have to tackle in space ... the flip side on offense is we made too many mistakes."

The only real good area for OSU was special teams and even that had its sour moments. The 82-yard return by Dez Bryant on the Houston punt was fantastic, as was Quinn Sharpe's punting and kickoffs. There was the negative of a key penalty erasing a huge slump.

Oh yeah, penalties, expect Oklahoma State to be last in the nation again this week in that category with nine penalties for 81 yards. Several of those for late hits, unsportsmanlike conduct, and various other issues were drive enhancers for Houston and drive killers for the Cowboys.

You can go on. The tight ends weren't very productive, even blocking. The offensive guards struggled, sometimes a lot. As mentioned by many a Cowboy fan, Zac Robinson is struggling some with his play. However, it is a group effort. The offense has been on a delayed fuse in both games this season causing the problem of falling behind. It was critical against Houston to avoid that and avoid a two score deficit.

The defensive line is still average. Too many times they got blocked. The linebackers are not as strong without last year's second leading tackler Orie Lemon. The secondary appeared to get tired some and that is not a good thing against an offense like Houston's.

The laundry list is nonstop and some of the items may not go away quickly, and some may not go away at all. Oklahoma State is a better program than it was a year ago, three years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago and more.

The coaching staff is better, and the players are, in many cases, better. There is no Barry Sanders on the campus. There is talent, but there are warts. Many we've identified, others may not have shown themselves yet. It won't be easy this season. It might even develop into a roller coaster ride but until you see a Cowboy football player easing up then you might want to stay on the ride.

This last go round wasn't much fun, no fun at all. The expectation is there will be plenty more that will be fun. But boy it sure does hurt to get tossed out of the elite of college football, and it will be nice to get back and stay a little longer next time. It might come before the end of this season.

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