Oklahoma State University, not unaccustomed to tragedy, the residents of Stillwater and all Oklahomans are mourning the deaths of four people who were struck and killed during last weekend’s homecoming parade.
Another 46 people were injured and the driver of the car arrested after the state was shocked by the loss of life and injury on a football weekend.
OSU officials decided to play the game against Kansas despite the tragedy and won, 58-10. The No. 10 Cowboys 7-0 overall; 4-0 Big 12) travel to Lubbock Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. game against Texas Tech (5-3 overall; 2-3 Big 12).
“At one time, there was some discussion, because of the impact on the families and the people involved, of whether to play the game or not,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said Saturday after the game. “Those decisions are made kind of higher than me. I was willing to support whatever direction they wanted to go. I don’t think that that’s something that’s up for discussion at this point, but it was really difficult for our coaching staff, our team and myself, being an Oklahoma State alum. It was a very unfortunate situation, so our thoughts and prayers from all of us go out to the families.”
“I wouldn’t have been upset if they hadn’t played a good game,” OSU Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer said after the game. “I grieve for those people. I’m staying focused because it’s my job, but it’s in the back of your head. There were a few times where I’m going ‘Are you serious? There’s people grieving who lost loved ones,’ and we’re out there playing a game.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those families that were affected this morning,” said Kansas coach David Beaty. “It was an unbelievable tragedy that took place, and certainly our Jayhawk Nation’s prayers are with all those families that were affected and the Oklahoma State family.”
Gundy tried to add perspective to the incident.
“I do want to reiterate that this one incident cannot take away from Oklahoma State University, and it cannot take away from homecoming and the celebration,” Gundy said. “That’s something that’s very important to us and to me, to make a point that it is a great time of the year. It’s a great weekend and a great day, and there’s a tremendous amount of pride and effort that goes into our homecoming, and that’s why it has been established the way that it is. I don’t want anything to be taken away from that.”
The Texas Tech game will match one of the best passing attacks in the nation against the Big 12’s best overall defense.
The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in scoring defense, total defense, rush defense, red zone defense, sacks and tackles for loss. Defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean have 13.5 combined sacks – the highest total for any duo in the country.
OSU’s offense has been effective with starter Mason Rudolph being complemented by J.W. Walsh. OSU ranks 11th nationally with 313.9 passing yards per game. Rudolph ranks among the top 20 quarterbacks nationally in both yards per attempt and yards per completion.
Walsh has 45 plays of total offense this season that have resulted in 78 points for the Cowboys. Walsh accounted for five touchdowns against Kansas on 11 total offense plays. He had three rushing touchdowns and threw two TD passes.
“We have a lot of good packages for me, and the guys around me executed perfectly,” Walsh said Saturday. “Today, it wasn’t so much what I did, it was what everyone else did and the coaches making great play calls because when you watch them they were just great play calls where everyone did their jobs. That’s just what happens when you’re clicking on offense.
“I’ve said from day one this year that I’ve just been around, seen a lot and my role is just to continue to lead with experience and to help the team out anyway I can. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do. When they ask me to go in the game, I’m going in. If they ask me to do something else, I’ll do that.”
“One of the first things I said is that we appreciate the maturity and the focus of our players,” Gundy said. “It’s not easy. We’ve had some tough situations here at Oklahoma State, and this one was as difficult as any we’ve ever had. When it gets to a certain point, how is one any worse than the other? They focused and went out and played, and that’s all we can ask them to do.”
James Washington had 103 receiving yards in the first half, marking the first time a Cowboy has had 100 receiving yards at intermission since Marcell Ateman against Texas Tech in 2014.
“He’s a threat with the ball, and he’s getting better when the ball gets into his hands,” OSU offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said of Washington “ On the short routes, he can make people miss. He’s doing a good job of getting up the field and making people miss. He’s got good hands and is strong off the ball, but the thing that really stands out the most is his ability to get off the ground. He’s got a great vertical leap, and you can see that whenever he goes up high for a ball.”
Texas Tech owns a 21-18-3 advantage over Oklahoma State all time, but the Cowboys have won six straight over the Red Raiders, marking the longest win streak for either school in the series. Texas Tech sports a 12-5-2 advantage over OSU in Lubbock, but the Cowboys have won each of their last three trips.
A loss to Tech would seriously damage chances for OSU to win the Big 12 as the Cowboys have yet to play No. 4 TCU, No. 2 Baylor and No. 13 Oklahoma – all in November (along with unranked Iowa State). The good news is that TCU, Baylor and OU are all in Stillwater (the ISU game is in Ames).
Gundy and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury are the only two head coaches in the Big 12 – and two of only 14 head coaches nationally – serving in that role at their alma mater. Tech lost to OU 63-27 on Saturday at Norman.