OSU optimistic despite bowl defeat

January 9, 2014

One of the best classes in Oklahoma State football history ended the season with a tough 41-31 loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

The Cowboys, who were near the top of the standings of the Big 12 all year, finished with two losses, including a Bedlam disappointment against Oklahoma.

With the loss to Missouri, OSU finishes the season 10-3. The Cowboys are now 15-9 all time in postseason bowl games, which includes a 5-3 mark under Coach Mike Gundy.

OSU’s senior class finishes with a 41-11 mark over the last four years, matching the 2011 Cowboys as the winningest senior class in school history.

OSU is 1-3 all time in Cotton Bowl games, winning in 1945 vs. TCU and also losing to Ole Miss in 2004 and 2010. The Cowboys are now 15-2 in their last 17 non-conference games.

“It’s a tough way to lose the last two games,” Gundy said. “It’s really hard on our team. I was proud of our effort. We had our chances.

“We’re very, very proud of the 28 seniors. They fought all the way till the end. We just didn’t make the plays in the end. They made the last couple plays.”

Those two loses were particularly painful considering how close they were.

“Essentially we came up short the last two games of the year on basically what would be the last play of the game,” Gundy said. “So we have to find a way to win those games. The young players, I shared that with them in there. We have to work hard in the off-season, continue to build this program, develop. Our future’s bright. We have to continue to move forward.”

Senior quarterback Clint Chelf set an OSU bowl record with 57 pass attempts, and his 381 passing yards are second only to Brandon Weeden’s 399 yards vs. Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl. Chelf also finishes with 578 passing yards in bowl contests, the fourth-highest career total by any OSU quarterback.

“We just couldn’t get in a rhythm,” said Chelf. “It seemed like we’d get a good gain, then we’d kind of stall out. We never really got our rhythm going.

“Once we kind of found it, obviously we started rolling. Anytime you turn the ball over three times, that’s obviously going to limit your opportunity to score points. That and not getting into rhythm were the big keys.”

Senior wide receiver Tracy Moore finished with seven catches for 100 yards against Missouri, marking his second 100-yard receiving game of the season and fifth of his career. Tracy Moore also finishes his career eighth on OSU’s career receiving yards list with 2,064 yards.

OSU junior wide receiver Josh Stewart moved into sixth place on the school’s all-time receiving yards list. With 84 yards against the Tigers, he now has 2,208 in his three seasons.

Stewart also finished the season with 368 punt return yards, the fifth-highest single-season total in school history.

“What a game,” said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. “Oklahoma State is a really good team. Just all the drama that you don’t want as a coach in the fourth quarter we had. We had a lot of adversity. I thought our team handled the adversity very well. Fortunately we made the plays we needed to make to win it at the end.”

Linebacker Shaun Lewis ends his OSU career having started 45-straight games, while fellow seniors Caleb Lavey and Daytawion Lowe each started the final 39 games of their respective careers.

OSU senior cornerback Justin Gilbert finishes the season with seven interceptions and 12 for his career. His seven INTs this season are the most by a Cowboy since three-time All-American Mark Moore had seven in 1985 and is tied for the fourth most in a single season in school history.

Lewis is optimistic for the team he is leaving behind.

“Being in the locker room and mingling with some of the guys, not only do we have like some of the best athletes competing in the Big 12, but we have some of the best character athletes, guys that have good values and guys that take their academics seriously,” Lewis said. “I think both athletically and academically the program is heading in the right direction. Things can only get better from here.”

Gundy agreed.

“A loss like this will hurt forever, but they’ll be better people for it in the future,” he said of his players. “They’re quality, quality young men. That’s why you get the response that you get, is because since they’ve walked on this campus four years, four years and five years, right, they’ve been trained that way. It’s been instilled in them. They understand that.

“It’s very painful, but they also know that adversity will make them better.”

OSU has scored 20 or more points in 52 consecutive games dating back to the start of the 2010 season. That streak is the longest active streak in the country and 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.