Guerin Emig: The Cowboys were the more determined team Friday. Never underestimate desire. Never underestimate coaching. Gundy has too much respect for Chris Klieman to say OSU outcoached K-State, so I’ll speak for him: His staff had the Cowboys more prepared to play.
STILLWATER – Mike Gundy’s synopsis of Oklahoma State’s 29-21 victory over Kansas State Friday night: “I told the players I was proud of them. They practiced their ass off for two weeks. And coaches had really, really good game plans.”
Player effort was obvious. It matched the intensity of a Boone Pickens house so raucous you’d swear OSU came in 4-0, not 2-2.
Linebacker Nick Martin personified the frenzy with 17 tackles. He should have been exhausted postgame. Instead he said: “I feel pretty good, I ain’t gonna lie. I feel straight.”
“We had some tough meetings with some tough guys,” right guard Preston Wilson said of OSU’s extra practice week since losing 34-27 at Iowa State. “We sat down and realized, ‘Hey this isn’t us. We’re not playing the way we want to play. But we have the talent to get where we want to get.’”
The Cowboys were the more determined team Friday. Never underestimate desire.
Never underestimate coaching.
Gundy has too much respect for Chris Klieman to say OSU outcoached K-State, so I’ll speak for him: His staff had the Cowboys more prepared to play. It explains the more decisive half.
While the Wildcats floundered unusually, the Cowboys surged to a 20-7 halftime lead. That seemed odd, too, given the awkwardness of OSU’s 2-2 September.
Maybe if we’d known what was happening behind Gundy’s curtain.
The Cowboys stuck with Alan Bowman at quarterback, not just Friday night but over the 13 days of practice coming in.
“We needed to get somebody quality snaps,” offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said of OSU’s Tilt-A-Whirl quarterback situation over the Pokes’ first three games. “He got two weeks worth where he took essentially every snap in practice instead of it being divided (between Bowman, Gunnar Gundy and Garret Rangel). He’s starting to feel more comfortable back there and making better decisions.”
That’s no coincidence. Should OSU coaches have entrenched Bowman before going to Iowa State Sept. 23? Probably. But at least they stuck with him coming out of Ames.
That made a big difference in Bowman’s 199-yard first half against K-State, highlighted by his pair of 45-yard completions to ignite a downfield passing game absent when OSU was 2-2.
Gundy credited his early run game for making K-State’s safeties honest, thereby opening deep-ball potential. Let’s credit OSU’s run game in general, also absent over OSU’s 2-2 start outside of Ollie Gordon’s 71-yard burst at Iowa State.
“All my linemen were handling their blocks, our front seven when we brought tight ends in,” Gordon said after carrying 21 times for 136 of OSU’s 174 rushing yards. “With them doing that, I could go anywhere I wanted to.”
Tip of the cap to offensive line coach Charlie Dickey and tight ends/fullbacks coach Jason McEndoo, then. Gordon’s 33-yard first-quarter run opened when center Joe Michalski moved his man aside. His 36-yarder in the third quarter came courtesy of Dalton Cooper and Jason Brooks at left tackle and left guard. His 2-yard game-opening touchdown came behind fullback Braden Cassity.
Execution like that showed OSU wasn’t just more inspired Friday night but better drilled.
So it went on defense as well.
K-State quarterback Will Howard cut the Cowboys some. He got the Wildcats within 29-21 with nine minutes still to play.
He also threw three interceptions where OSU defenders could have been the intended receiver. His offense failed to convert on fourth down three times over its last six possessions, the final time coming near midfield with two minutes remaining.
More proof of Cowboy inspiration meeting preparation.
“We played the way I know we’re capable of playing,” defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo said, “and I think things are starting to click.”
Asked what he did to help that cause the past 13 days, Nardo said: “Staying consistent. You have to be the same person regardless of the outcome of the game, as frustrating as that might be.”
I don’t know how much OSU coaches’ tones changed the past two weeks. I don’t know that they needed to, given the fact that player buy-in never wavered. It didn’t waver or you wouldn’t have seen the Cowboys sell out like they did Friday night.
What isn’t disputable is how much coaches helped. Without it, the Pokes could not have out-executed the Wildcats en route to a pivotal result.
“This is what we really needed,” Gordon said, “to get back on the horse and keep going.”
If players rode it to victory, the coaches gave them one serious boost to climb aboard.