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OSU Has Shown an Historic Ability to Win Close Games in 2021

No team has done this in 36 years.

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

After Oklahoma State’s 32-24 win over Texas in Austin, ESPN displayed an interesting stat across the screen during a SportsCenter recap of the Pokes’ comeback victory.

It read that Oklahoma State’s 7.0 scoring margin was the lowest by a team to start 6-0 since Penn State in 1985 (4.0 points). During the AP poll era (since 1936), the only other team to manage a lower scoring margin in such a start was Notre Dame in 1939.

It’s a remarkable stat and accomplishment, but I’m not sure it’s one Mike Gundy set out trying to achieve.

It means the Cowboys have fought through adversity and that — by either grit, luck or (more likely) a combination of the two — they’ve found a way to come out on top. It also points to a team that plays with enough fire to border on pyromania. Logic would dictate that if they keep it up, the Pokes will eventually get burned.

It played out like this. OSU beat FCS team Missouri State by 7. But you could point to it being opening week, a backup taking snaps and that the Bears scored their only touchdown with three minutes left to make it appear closer than it was. There were fewer excuses against Tulsa.

The now 3-4 Golden Hurricane had the Pokes on the ropes, taking a lead in the fourth quarter before LD Brown ran back a 98-yard kickoff return to give OSU life. The Pokes pulled ahead by 1 in the waning moments of the second quarter in Boise before both teams stalemated for the entire second half. Each of the Cowboys’ Big 12 games have been a nail-biter in the fourth quarter.

If it’s excitement you crave, the Cowboys definitely deliver, but I’d recommend consulting your healthcare professional before following this team.

“There’s a lot of talk about, you know it’s good to win close games,” said Gundy this week. “It helps you later in the year. I don’t know if anybody’s ever been able to scientifically prove that that’s right or wrong, but I would say that being in a number of close games and understanding that you can find a way to win if somebody will make a play, and the term that’s used a lot is find a way to finish a game.

“From that standpoint, I think it helps our team because we’ve done it. Unfortunately, pretty much every game we’ve been in this situation. So, if we get in that situation, you would like to think that we wouldn’t panic, we could make plays down the stretch.”

I’m not sure how much history can tell us about the sustainability of living on such a razor-thin edge, but the 1939 Fightin’ Irish team finished its season 1-2 after that hot start with losses to Iowa and No. 4 USC. And that 1985 Nittany Lions squad? It would push its win streak to 11 before playing Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. They lost by two touchdowns to the Sooners. On second thought, hopefully OSU has learned its lesson on close wins and is due for a boring fourth quarter.

With a second half of its schedule that includes this weekend’s trip to Ames, road trips to Morgantown and Lubbock and a Bedlam finale, comfortable wins will be hard to come by. But I think Gundy is right about one thing. The Cowboys won’t panic.

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