Sunday Rewind: Cowboys Headed To Cotton Bowl?

Eventually the Oklahoma game video will be graded but by early Sunday morning and certainly as the day progressed the Oklahoma State coaching staff and head coach Mike Gundy were moving on past the disappointing end of the regular season to what is ahead. Gundy spoke with the media from his home admitting that he had not gone into the office for the first Sunday probably since July.

He had checked on injured players. Gundy noted that Andrew McGee and Patrick Lavine were both dinged up (think stinger) but would be okay. Linebacker Donald Booker is the most serious. Gundy called it a significant sprain but felt there was no structural damage. His bowl availability is wait and see.

He noted to The Oklahoman's John Helsley that offensive tackle Brady Bond had a high ankle sprain causing him to miss the last three games of the season but he is expected back for the bowl game. There was one other ankle injury and he should be back for the bowl and that was to quarterback Zac Robinson.

"It happened on the second play of the game," said Gundy. "I saw him get rolled up but it was a lateral ankle sprain. He never told us and in the second half it started to swell up and bother him. One thing about Zac is you never question his toughness and he has never shied away from playing the better teams.

"I've coached guys that would look forward to playing the guys you could play well and accomplish a lot against but didn't really want to be out there against the better teams. Zac has never shied away from playing those teams."

There is no doubt the ankle could have impacted his performance but there wasn't much opportunity in the second half when the ankle really started to hurt the Cowboy senior quarterback. Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden took the last series of three plays.

There were only 16 offensive snaps in the second half, meaning Robinson only played 13 plays the second half. In fact, OSU which averaged almost 71 plays a game going in to Bedlam had only 52 offensive plays Saturday. Gundy was shocked at both numbers, especially the second half.

"No, 16 plays. I sure didn't think that or that it would come out the way that it did," said the Cowboys head coach. "There were match-ups we were concerned about and for good reason. Our staff has become pretty good at having a feel for those match-ups, ones we can take advantage of and ones that are a concern.

"They have a good defense and took advantage of those. It snowballed and we couldn't slow it down. For the first time I noticed some of our guys get disgusted, but they continued to compete. They (OU) were difficult to handle. They played a good game and they are a talented team on defense."

Gundy was at home but he explained that many of his coaches were heading out on the road. He will meet with the team on Monday and said he was not sure whether he would hit the road this week or not.

Gundy cited that recruiting is different and the Cowboys have commitments (26 commitments by our count) for many of their scholarships and the coaches would be in the schools and homes of those players this week. The head coach gets just one home visit and Gundy tends to like to do those either just before or just after the recruit comes to OSU for his official visit. He left the door open as to whether he will be on the road later this week.

Now as for the Cowboys next playing assignment, which the Tulsa World's Bill Haisten said he had from good sources would be the Cotton Bowl and my sources concur, Gundy said he had not heard any word. In fact, he admitted that he hadn't had many calls at all.

"Nobody called me today," he said. "I couldn't even get my own family to call me. You know everybody thinks you lose a game like that and you go in the tank, so I couldn't get anybody to call me. Kevin (Klintworth) was the first one to call me to remind me I had this teleconference with you guys."

The head coach was more than ready to talk about the immediate future and a possible Cotton Bowl date. The game is Saturday, Jan. 2, with a 1 p.m. (CT) kickoff. Sources have confirmed that Oklahoma State is a virtual lock for that bowl game with the opponent from the SEC in question.

LSU is now the only nine-win team that is highest ranked out of the SEC and likely heading to the Capitol One Bowl. The other possibility is Mississippi, but the Rebels were in Dallas a year ago and that staff was in Dallas the year before that with Arkansas. Other possibilities include Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky. The first three are the most likely of the seven-win SEC teams.

"We were on the brink of the BCS but that didn't happen. However, now to have the opportunity of going to the Cotton Bowl that is a super opportunity for our team," said Gundy.

"I think it is great for our fans, most people in Oklahoma can get there in five hours or less. Our players can go home for Christmas and then come on in (from home in Oklahoma and Texas)."

Gundy didn't shy away from talking about the Bedlam loss, which the media on the call didn't really press. The Cowboys head coach was seemingly in a mood to evaluate and review the season. Many teams lost players to injury or other circumstances this season, but it is important to understand that of the projected preseason starters the Cowboys had these losses to injury.

Offense
WR Dez Bryant - 9 games (NCAA suspension)
WR DeMarcus Conner - 2 games (knee injury)
TE Jamal Mosley - 12 games (transferred)
OG Jonathan Rush - 12 games (shoulder injury)
OT Brady Bond - 4 games (ankle injury)
QB Zac Robinson - 1 game (shoulder injury)
RB Kendall Hunter - 6 games (foot injury - played one play vs. Texas)
FB Bryant Ward - 4 games (head injury)
Total - 50 starts/games

Defense
DE Jermiah Price - 5 games (thumb injury)
LB Orie Lemon - 12 games (knee injury)
SS Victor Johnson - 3 games (knee injury)
CB Perrish Cox - 1 game (shoulder injury)
Total - 21 starts/games

Grand Total - 71 starts or games

Because of circumstances, Gundy was not shy about being pleased overall with how the season turned out. By the way, 50 games combined of lost starters is like losing four starters for the entire season.

"No question, I wanted everyone to keep that in perspective and I'm convinced of it," said Gundy of being happy with winning nine games. "It is a 12-game season and while that was a big game, Bedlam, and everybody wants to win it, these guys accomplished a lot.

"We were all very disappointed, the players, coaching staff, but we have to look at the big picture and we finish, what tied for second in the Big 12. I guess that is what you'd call it. With everything that we've gone through as a team, and we've had to try and prepare after dealing with, I am very happy with what this team has accomplished up to this point."

So would nine wins have been a satisfactory result back at the start of fall practice?

"Not on August 5th, but as we had things happen to us and we lost experienced players that are going to play in the NFL," answered Gundy. "Those are difference makers, those are players that turn eight wins into 10 wins and into 12 in seasons.

"Back in August there was no doubt in my mind that we could win every game, Now I was not going to say that because that is not the way I do things, but I felt we had impact players and the leadership and cohesion on this team to do that.

"As the season progressed and all those things hit us I was hoping we would win enough games to go to a good bowl because I felt these guys, the seniors had worked hard and deserved that. I was worried about the impact of losing key players but to these players credit we kept winning and finding ways to win games," Gundy continued.

Part of the reason for that is the younger players that filled in, players that will assume major roles next season when, as Gundy put it, there will be some rebuilding to do. The bowl practices will help greatly with getting more experience for young players that did not have to jump into the lineup this season. Gundy said it will also help with camaraderie and establishing the kind of positive team chemistry that has permeated the squad the last several seasons.

"I think we did find we had more depth on this team than we thought," he added. "You never know until you have to play some of those guys. It did impact us. You know at receiver instead of having Dez Bryant and asking Hubert Anyiam for 10 to 15 plays when Bryant is gone you are now asking for 55 plays. We ended up having to ask the (Justin) Blackmons, (Justin) Hortons, (Tracy) Moores for more plays instead of just gradually bringing them along."

Now he needs to continue bringing them along to beat an SEC foe in the Cotton Bowl and prepare for 2010. Bedlam is over. It still hurts but there is more football to be played and a football program that needs to keep getting better.

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