An Early Attempt at Making Sense of 2017 Cowboy Football

Written by Steven Mandeville

We’ll have plenty of time to dissect, digest, compare and sleep on what the vertigo-inducing 2017 Cowboy football team really is. But let’s heed the great philosopher Andrew Baines Bernard and try and rightly perceive the days we’re living in before it’s too late.

Guerin Emig perfectly described the joy and misery of following the 2017 Cowboy football team over the weekend.

This team is a theater troupe. It can be frustrating, occasionally infuriating.

It is also invigorating. At least, you know you’re alive following this program. And there’s this: Way more often than not, it works out in the end. OSU is 14-1 in single-digit games since 2014.

The Cowboys are out of the College Football Playoff. They’re a long shot to make the Big 12 championship game. For a team splashed across the cover of Sports Illustrated, that’s going to cause its fans some woe. Like Saturday caused some.

Just ask yourself: What happens when 2018 comes along, a lot of these guys are gone, and games end 26-13 instead of 49-42? What happens when the drama and tension and delight all stop, and we’re left to follow a more ordinary college football team? [TulsaWorld]

A theater troupe, worth twice the ticket price, heartburn medication, and celebratory beverages. What in the world do you make of this team?

Not only could should you assume that the Cowboys will come out on top in any non-Bedlam close game but it’s almost *gasp* bankable. 14-1 is triple-A debt type stuff.

Now, I’ll cede you TCU this year – the Fort Worth Wizard dropping the umbrella coverage wet blanket on the best fast break in Stillwater. But need I remind you that if junior-slumping Jalen McCleskey eats it instead of thinking he’s Antwaan Randle-El, the Pokes are in another late-game punching exchange?

Look at the track record – it’s Cowboy Magic.

2017 has seen the Pokes sneak by Texas, Texas Tech and Iowa State, roll past Baylor and West Virginia in Morgantown and witness TCU and Oklahoma slip through their fingers.

But historically, if you’re Iowa State would you rather have that one night in 2011 or six years of excruciating defeats that have followed?

What about Texas and the newly opened Gundy’s Bar and Grill where every other year raw Bevo is served?

West Virginia bootlegged a win out of the road-weary Pokes before the all-time defense and all-time leading scorer could figure things out early in the season. But other than that?

We’re nearing a decade since one of OSU’s most low-key entertaining rivalry games against Texas Tech has ended in defeat.

Mike Gundy has traded punches with two of CFB’s best in Bill Snyder and Gary Patterson but he’s gotten his haymakers in. 2016 Kansas State was a victory snatched from the jaws of death in a way you’ll rarely see.

It’s a hard adjustment but math tells us when it’s close, we shouldn’t inhale for extended periods but rather exhale and be confident.

Dread should be replaced by an eager grin and a curious mind asking how are they going to pull this one out?

How the Pokes get into close games is a tricky but explainable concept to put a finger on.

The Cowboys, thanks in part to their defense came home a perfect 6-0 on the road this regular season. As of this point no other Division I football team is a perfect 6-0 on the road this season. Texas, West Virginia, and Texas Tech are all road games where the Oklahoma State defense played key roles in getting the win.

Texas was especially a glorious day for the Oklahoma State defense. Heck, that interception by Green was the game clincher. The issue is this Oklahoma State defense often has long periods in games where the other offense seems to get into really comfortable periods of success. [GoPokes $]

As far as what we’ve expected to be an offensively-dominant but defensively-deficient team goes, this team sufficiently leans on two phases of the game to save the day at different times.

As you enjoy your Sunflower State deserts in Boone Pickens Stadium, relish in what this team is and (as I’m prone to do) try not to be frustrated by what they’re not. Life’s too short.

Ask Andy Bernard – the good old days don’t last forever. Saturday when Mason Rudolph Marcell Ateman’s a solid K-State secondary to death and Justice Hill one-cuts through a really solid defensive line behind a road-grading Zach Crabtree, be a squeezed sponge that’s expanding and soak it in.

Where wins aren’t guaranteed but are now expected feels a bit like college football heaven.

  • MarkJ

    It sounds a bit like you’re suggesting this is as good as it gets. Maybe it is, but let’s hope for more. Love the writing.

  • zachattachone

    These games don’t make me feel alive. It’s occurred so often that I’m just numb inside. Winning close against decent, but what often look like inferior teams is a common thread. Last year had some nice outliers with thorough beatdowns of WVU, Colorado, and TCU. Obviously TCU improved significantly from last year and same with Iowa State, but it’s disappointing to be unable to put together a complete team performance. Same numb feeling now when losing to OU.

    It’s great that the program has improved so much to the point that dominating the majority of Big 12 opponents is expected. With where we are at now, we have hit a glass ceiling that this incarnation of the team just hasn’t been able to push through on our own. Sure it’d be nice if we back-door into the Big 12 championship thanks to a TCU implosion and get another crack at OU, but we gotta start taking advantage of the opportunity in our hands.

    Sometimes I wish our fan base would be just as blindly passionate and loyal to a fault as Iowa State’s, but I like how honest we are about ourselves and being so close to a Top-5 program is certainly a sobering experience.

    • Happy but sad


      Love this school, love this team, and I love winning football games. But until the day where we go out and beat the teams we’re expected to beat, by more than one possession, we won’t get respect from people who matter. The playoff committee will continue to write us off, and so will the AP voters. We have to learn to win big, and put teams away, because it does make a difference.

      In this article he talks about how the OU and TCU games were just within reach, and that’s the truth! The reason we didn’t win those is because of how we play, and allow teams to stick it out with us. Can’t beat good teams when you play like that. Sure we have our outliers, but until we learn to win games like we should, we will continue to fall short.

      In regard to the article, it’s totally true. I fully expect OSU to win every game, every year, every scenario. That’s due to the way we pull wins out of the air. Down 17? No worries. Defense will get the stops, offense will make the plays. We will win. Gundy has made me believe we’re the better team each and every week and I do love that confidence. I just hope one day soon that I can feel confident and be up 17 instead of down 17.

      I know OSU is improving, it’s easy to see it. 2015<2016<2017 but all teams will finish with at least 2 losses. Not quite good enough. OSU has yet be blown out this year though, and that is a massive improvement over the years of the past.

      • Big Daddy

        Beat teams we are expected to by more than one possession ?
        We are one of the best teams in covering the spread.

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    • Lad Chow

      That’s called insulating yoursel so you don’t feel so bad after a loss. It’s not bad… 30 years as a poke fan. I’ve gotten to where sometimes I say “don’t get too excited, it’ll hurt less.”

      • Pokeinchief

        Insulating, that’s a good word.

        I was at the Bedlam game. Was at the Bedlam game when Blake Bell beat us in the last minute. Been to a ton of games over the years. Every one, I’ve entered with a certain level of detachment, not allowing myself to get too wrapped up or emotional. It’s only a game played by kids. Living outside of Oklahoma really enabled me to separate emotionally from OSU athletics because a) I wasn’t surrounded by it, and b) there were few OU fans to rub everything in my face.

        For me, I enter every season with the expectation that OSU will lose to OU as well as someone they shouldn’t. And that’s okay. My lack of faith has no impact on the on-field performance. But it’s how I protect myself, my insulation.

        The best gift I could give to OSU would be to stop rooting for them. Same for the Rangers, Chiefs, Texans, and Thunder… Sorry, guys.

  • jake

    So one minute you’re harping about how the best is yet to come, and now it’s “enjoy it before it all comes crashing down”. Okay.

  • Lad Chow

    People are spoiled. Outside of a few Miami Hurricanes teams, even OU struggles week to week. I just don’t see how people are like “we should blow everyone out” we basically have when it’s expected. Our competition is good. ISU is a top 25 team. On the road. After a tough loss. Unless we ever have NFL caliber OL and DL, we’ll be spotty from game to game.

  • Cory H

    How many games has OSU won by catching an interception in the endzone to end the game?

    • INT

      At least three come to mind. Texas and ISU this season, along with KState in 2016

  • stepdaddy

    Why are we constantly lowering the bar for this team? This is crazy! Before the season the consensus on this site and others was that anything short of playing for a another B12 champ games was a disappointment. Some even argued anything less than winning a B12 champ with this team and the talent we have was a disappointment. Now the same people are telling us what a great team this is based on a come back win against IOWA STATE????. Now all the sudden ISU is a football powerhouse? Does ISU have better players than OSU at any position? Are you seriously suggesting that the fact that we are winning close games against teams we should be beating by two touchdowns is a point of pride? How about this suggestion? Let’s play up to our potential and blow people out like ISU! Wouldn’t that be more significant indicator of where the program is? How about a little honesty every once in awhile? Why not say “This team has not met the expectations, but here are some positives?” Wouldn’t that be more honest? Gundy clearly cant’ slam dunk the basketball? Rather that just state that as a fact you guys just keep lowering backboard. Yes. He can slam dunk on 9 ft goal. In 2017 he beat everybody in the B12 except OU and TCU. In 2016 he beat everybody but CMU, BU, and OU. I am not arguing that ISU wasn’t a good win. It was a good win on the road after a close Bedlam game. Again when will our expectations for the Gundy and program equal the expectations for the other so-called “great coaches” in college football? Is winning the conference to much ask? Is OSU’s only real purpose to serve as an annual win for OU on their path to another championship? Now that the expectations have been lowered yet again, seriously what is the reasonable expectation for OSU in the B12 going forward? Is it really 10 wins and Alamo Bowl? If so, do we really need more money to accomplish that? If donors give more money, is it reasonable for the expectations to rise? If, so how much do the donors have to give to expect a B12 title?

    • spokepokes

      All good questions.

    • sfrr123

      How do I give ten more thumbs up for stepdaddy’s thesis. All excellent questions.

  • OSUgary

    ….very well written/entertaining article ..
    Gundy’s Bar and Grill where every other year raw Bevo is served? …..crack me up …!

  • dooley23

    What I want out of 2017 is at least an 11-2 record.

    What I want for 2018 is a new OC with a real air raid offense, and a new DC that can stop TCU once in the first 3 quarters, or just preventing the other team’s QB from looking like a Heisman cadidate.

    It’s the perfect year to switch up with a new QB while bringing in an offense that doesn’t depend on throwing up 50/50 balls. Granted, with our WRs the odds are greater than 50/50.

    • OKsailor

      Defensive upgrade is what we need to take the next step.

  • ssbn599

    This season has to be seen as a major disappointment when viewed in the glare of pre-season expectations. I’ve enjoyed the games. I love these Pokes, but it just seems like more should have been accomplished with this team. You have to wonder if Washington and Rudolph would have come back for their senior year if they thought we wouldn’t (probably) even get in the conference championship game.

    • sfrr123

      Absolutely… think about the pre-season hype.

      1. Rudolph was to be in New York City with some Heisman hardware.
      2. Washington may have even accompanied him to New York City.
      3. The Big XII Championship was Oklahoma State’s to lose with two possible Bedlam wins in one year.
      4. The team had as good a chance to be in the college football playoff as any other team.
      5. An opportunity for a senior Big XII Coach in Gundy to take a series advantage over a Gooner coach.

      I am not disappointed with Rudolph, Washington, or any other player. I am again left believing the coaching staff did not place the team in a position to achieve any of these goals.

      Instead of achieving any of these goals, a Gooner will likely win the Heisman, Oklahoma State has to win out and have Texas Tech or Baylor beat TCU to get a Bedlam rematch, the Gooners are knocking at the playoff door, and a freshman Gooner coach has taken a series advantage over the Cowboys.

      How many years will winning 10 games while losing bedlam and missing the Big-XII title be acceptable to Oklahoma State?

      • ssbn599

        It may be that the new, laid back persona Coach Gundy has adopted has established the high water mark of the OSU football program under Gundy and we must look forward to a decline in the future.

        • okstate4life

          Why should it be any other way?? Think about it, Gundy just signed a fat contract this past offseason and for what? Has he won any championships since his last raise? No. Has he recruited better since his last raise? No. Has he averaged more wins per season since his last raise? No. Yet “because he’s the best coach OSU’s ever had” we gave him a raise based solely on that merit alone. I dream of the day my director comes into my office and says “we’re giving you a big raise and you don’t have to do anything more than you’re doing right now.” That’s essentially what we did with Gundy. Throw in the fact that he’s under contract with a huge buyout if he’s fired and Gundy is sitting pretty for the next few years at least. At least until the day we start demanding more from our program. As for those who say “well okstate4life, who can we get that’s going to do a better job huh?!?” I donno, but I’m sure we can find someone. Last I checked bottom dweller ISU hired a guy that beat two top ten teams this year and gave our “best ever” coach a run for his money with a far inferior talent team. Maybe we can ask him if he has any buddies??

          • sfrr123

            There are some in the fanbase who would call the above comments from okstate4life and stepdaddy, “sacrilege”. I say bravo! I say there are Oklahoma State fans and Mike Gundy fans. Eventually, they will become mutually exclusive.

            In reality Mike Gundy fan club members do not expect excellence from their alma mater. These fans are resigned to fitting into the little-brother mold. You know, such created by those crimson-fans, deficient in dental hygiene, who never darkened a University of Oklahoma classroom?

            Why do Mike Gundy fans believe the program must lower the bar with its hiring practices and/or hire only Loyal and True alumni? You here them claim, “No one will coach in Stillwater, it is not a good job,” or “why hire decent assistants who will just leave when the program has further success?” They forget Gundy proved Oklahoma State can win (2011) so what has he been doing since?

            These Gundy fans all predict more 0-10-1 seasons if their man is separated from the program. Ridiculous… they neglect to consider the 0-10-1 season as a direct result of near-death penalty probation, and a coach who no longer gave a damn about the program because the facilities were near last in the Big 8.

            Did this defeatist attitude begin with Gundy’s his head coach Pat Jones? Remember Jones, the coach interviewed at the half during the 1984 Nebraska game? He was asked what he was going to do in the second half.

            His response, “We are going to come out and try to win this game 3-0” As a sophomore at Oklahoma State I laughed, thinking he was joking. He was not.

            I watched stunned, as Oklahoma State played prevent offense for two quarters. Jones sent Charles Crawford slamming into the line on first, second, and third downs before the inevitable punt.

            Nebraska managed a field goal; then a punt return for a touchdown; then a door closing touchdown. All of Nebraska’s scoring occurred in the 4th quarter. Final from Lincoln… Oklahoma State 3 Nebraska 17.

            When asked why he had been so conservative Jones answered, “I thought at any minute he was going to break a big one.” The next season Mike Gundy would take over for Rusty Hilger.

            stepdaddy’s comments above are spot on. They get to the core of how program exceptions are lowered punt by punt throughout a season culminating in the annual Bedlam sacrifice.

            As T. Boone Pickens said, “I am tired of losing.” Who else is tired of runner up in the Big XII? Who else scratches their head when teams like Iowa State can hire a guy that actually takes down the Boomers? How many more 10-2 seasons will Oklahoma State accept until it realizes Bedlam and championships are expected?

            There are programs that consider a loss to rival as a signal to turn up the heat. The record is now 2-11 to me, not 112-52.

  • Mkobize

    I hate to say this, but is Boone Pickens finally lowering his expectations because he realizes he’s not getting any more return for his investment under the present circumstances? You need to challenge OSU Boone! Arkansas just fired its AD. We need to reconfigure this situation so we can WIN. We have a new coach at OU, the best QB we’ve had, maybe ever. The best receiving corps in the nation. And we can’t get to the Big 12 Championship game? And we are obviously sliding downhill from here? Boone’s gotten us the facilities, Mr Hargis, you need to step up sir and fix the human factors that keep us from moving ahead!