Bad memories await Cowboys in game at Iowa State
Oklahoma State’s road to a BCS bowl game goes through Ames, Iowa this week – the site of one of the most devastating losses in Cowboy football history.
In 2011, OSU went 12-1 and finished the year with a win over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. The lone loss was a 37-31 setback against Iowa State.
Former OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden (now starting for the Cleveland Browns) threw for 476 but it wasn’t enough as the Cyclones pulled the ultimate upset.
OSU clobbered Oklahoma 44-10 the next week but was third in the BCS standings and missed a chance to play Alabama for the national title.
On Saturday, OSU will return to Ames for the first time since that game.
That loss had a deep impact on OSU receiver Tracy Moore.
“The main thing I remember is the feeling leaving from there,” Moore said. “It’s something you can’t explain, especially knowing that you were supposed to beat that team. It was a good thing to learn from but it was probably one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had.”
“On Sunday, I asked the guys to raise their hand if they made that trip two years ago,” said OSU defensive coordinator Glen Spencer. “A lot of seniors made that trip. As much as I tell them that doesn’t play into it, I hope, deep down, they go up there feeling that something was taken from them last time. That’s not how you prepare to win a game, but as coaches we’re always looking to get an edge and motivate.”
Even with one loss and ranked No. 13, the Cowboys have a lot at stake. When the first BCS rankings came out Sunday, the Cowboys were at No. 19. Should the 5-1 Cowboys win the rest of their games (including a game with league-leading Texas), OSU would earn a spot in the Fiesta Bowl as Big 12 champions.
But OSU still must play No. 5 Baylor, No. 9 Texas Tech and No. 12 Oklahoma. A loss at Ames would probably knock OSU out of the title race and severely damage its hopes to get an at-large BCS bid.
Even though OSU is ranked No. 19 in the BCS, there are still 19 games left between teams that are ranked higher than the Cowboys in the BCS (see chart on page 8).
Another interesting twist is a growing quarterback controversy in Stillwater between J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf.
“I’m not a defensive guy, but I don’t believe there are any advantages in Iowa State knowing who is going to play quarterback for us, our philosophies don’t change,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “It’s fairly simple. Other than a few scrambles with J.W. (Walsh) that we don’t do with (Clint) Chelf, the concept is the same. It’s not like having a wildcat quarterback and then a pocket passer.”
So who will start?
“You just have to see how it goes,” Gundy said. “I don’t think we can predict how it will go from this point forward. We’re very open and honest with both of them and I think that benefits our team. We just have to move forward and we’re fortunate that they’re good people. They’re both good kids.”
Gundy doesn’t see a downside to using both quarterbacks, even in practice.
“It’s been different every year,” Gundy said. “When I was coaching quarterbacks here and we had Josh (Fields) and we really didn’t have a backup so Josh got 95 percent of the reps and the other guy got a few and the third guy didn’t get any at all. The system we are in now that we’ve been in for a number of years – the quarterbacks get a lot of work. A lot of it is based on the tempo and the way we practice. There’s not as many running schemes like there were years ago.”
Using two quarterbacks about the same amount is new to new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich.
“I never have, but we feel we have two good quarterbacks and we need to make sure we’re doing what we can to help them improve and get them playing at a high level,” Yurcich said. “It starts with ball security. That is something we must have. We preach it and work on it every day in practice. It’s about getting the ball to our playmakers and creating space for them.”
Oklahoma State has now won 21-straight home games against unranked opponents dating back to a loss to Houston in 2009. That ties OSU with Michigan and Virginia Tech for the sixth-longest active streak in the country, trailing only Alabama (27), Clemson (26), Oregon (23), Northern Illinois (23) and LSU (22).
The TCU win was OSU’s seventh-straight home win dating back to last season’s loss to Texas, and it improved the Cowboys to 15-1 in their last 16 games in Boone Pickens Stadium dating back to the start of the 2011 season.
TCU managed just 325 yards of total offense against the Cowboys. That marks the lowest total by an OSU FBS opponent since the Pokes held Texas Tech to 270 total yards in 2011.
“The thing I was most proud of was how we responded to sudden changes,” Spencer said of the TCU game. “Sudden changes are what we call things such as when a turnover happens and we have to go out right away and respond. On four sudden change opportunities, they got three points. That was really good.”
“Everybody’s just playing as a family, and being relentless, too,” said safety Shamiel Gary. “I like playing under Coach Spencer. He’s a tough guy, but he’s a great coach to play under.”
OSU has scored 20 or more points in 45 consecutive games dating back to the start of the 2010 season. That streak is the second-longest since Division I split into the FBS/FCS in 1978, trailing only USC’s 63 straight games of 20 or more points from Sept. 2, 2002 through Nov. 25, 2006.
With 10 catches, junior Josh Stewart moved into sixth place on OSU’s career receptions list with 151. The 10 grabs marked also marked Stewart’s season high.
Stewart finished with 141 receiving yards, going over the 100-yard receiving mark for the seventh time in his career. That ties him with Adarius Bowman for the fifth most by a Cowboy.
The game also marked the second time this season Stewart had 100 receiving yards in the first half. He had 106 at intermission. (He had 123 yards at the half against West Virginia).
Stewart’s 95-yard punt return for a touchdown was the longest punt return in school history. The previous long was 90 yards, set by Jim Wiggins vs. Detroit in 1956 and Jim Spavital vs. Drake in 1946.
Stewart’s 124 punt return yards against TCU are the eighth most in a single game in school history.
“Josh (Stewart) is a great player,” said Moore. “He’s a little undersized, but he probably has the biggest heart on the team and one of the best work ethics. He’s a really good teammate to have. He’s not selfish and he’s not complaining about not getting the ball. But when he gets it, he does magic with it.”
Stewart’s punt return touchdown was his second of the season (67 yards vs. Lamar on 9/14), tying a school record. Dez Bryant (2008), Darrent Williams (2003) and Barry Sanders (1987) also had two punt returns for scores in a season.
“That was as good of an executed play as you get,” Gundy said of the punt return. “We had nine guys on nine guys. One guy missed his block and Stewart made him miss and then that guy recovered. Obviously that was a great return and punt returns are all about getting started if you have a talented returner who can make the first guy miss, and in most cases that has to happen. Very seldom are you going to block 10 guys, but we had nine guys blocked and it was very well executed.”
“I felt really good,” Stewart said. “I just wanted to make plays for my team. That’s the mindset going into the game. Going in, I didn’t do anything different than what I always do. I just wanted to make plays every opportunity I had and make the best of it. I felt good.”
Freshman Rennie Childs scored the first touchdown of his career on a seven-yard run in the fourth quarter. Childs also finished with a career-high 45 rushing yards on nine carries.
“I expected that, and I’m pretty sure everyone else did,” Stewart said. “Rennie runs exactly how he did in the game in practice. He runs straight and hard, not really side-to-side. He gets down the field. He sees a hole, and he’s going to hit it. That’s just how he runs. Nothing has changed from practice. I really think that he could be a big factor in our offense, and you saw that against TCU.”
Justin Gilbert’s interception in the second quarter was his third of the season and eighth of his career. The senior has five picks in 2011.