Oklahoma State Football: The Cowboys’ Season Truly Begins Against West Virginia


The Oklahoma State football team is five games into 2015, but the season hasn’t really begun yet in some ways.

If you’ve followed this team at all since the spring, it’s been a long, eventful, and somewhat unexpected road to 5-0.

Sure, if you asked most OSU fans in August if this team should start off 5-0, the answer was probably “yes.”

Even after a 7-6 season?

“Well, yeah.”

First of all, there was the whole ending to the 2014 season thing. Mason Rudolph comes in, salvages the season, Tyreek Hill returns a punt, Ben Grogan becomes Ben Grogan, and then the team puts together their most complete performance of the season in a bowl game win against Washington.

“Look out for this team next season,” we said.

Ok, fair enough. They did look like a different team in those final three games last season.

The rest of the internal conversation likely followed this line of thinking as the offseason wore on:

“Deficiencies from last season? Well, those will be shored up in several ways.”

Sep 3, 2015; Mount Pleasant, MI, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Chris Carson (32) hurdles Central Michigan Chippewas defensive back Josh Cox (14) during the second half at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. OSU won 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

“Offensive line struggles — A year of experience plus the arrival of UAB transfer Victor Salako should patch that right up. Oh, then there was that mediocre running game combined with the loss of Tyreek Hill — Well, this Chris Carson guy is coming, and he’s got great biceps, so obviously he can run well. Meanwhile, Rennie Childs has been benchpressing senior offensive lineman in between pulling tractors with a rope and eating nine steaks a day, so look out for him. Plus, the team was young, and obviously they should automatically be better in 2015. Obviously.”

“How about these skinny freshmen kids Jalen McCleskey and Jeff Carr? Just wait until you see them. Mike Gundy even said that schools would be kicking themselves for not recruiting Carr. He’s going to return like five kickoffs for touchdowns. Have you seen his high school videos?”

By the end of fall camp, with all the chatter coming in from every outlet heaped on top of all the praise from Gundy, you would’ve thought that Baylor and TCU were nervously looking in the rearview mirror, and Bob Stoops was already penciling in an ‘L’ on the schedule for that late-season game in Stillwater, while the rest of the conference watched from a distance, arms crossed in jealous frustration.

The attention for most then turned to mulling over the schedule again. You know, whenever you scan the schedule and try to come up with a projected win total based on how good you suddenly think your team is.

“Three non-conference games against directional and extension colleges. Well, that’s 3-0 right there. Hmm, and then there’s Texas, they still suck, so that’s 4-0. Oh shoot, Kansas State? I mean, it’s in Stillwater, and all their playmakers are gone, so yeah, 5-0, without a doubt.”

“Oh crap, West Virginia in Morgantown? That’s not fair. Whatever, we are 5-0, so why not 6-0? That one quarterback guy quit football towards the end of last season, so they have no offense or whatever. Next up is Kansas, so that’s definitely 7-0. Hmm, and then a bye week,  followed by Texas Tech, and they should still suck, because defense. Oh! We are totally starting 8-0…maybe. Yeah I dunno…but definitely 5-0, that much is certain.”

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I’m probably as guilty as anyone of thinking most of these things. But hey, some of those predictions have kind of come true, at least in some ways. Salako has helped, the team is more mature, McCleskey has had an impact, Carr has shown some moves and could still break out more later in the season, Carson can hurdle upright defenders for fun whenever he feels like it, and Rennie Childs has looked better.

But the wins, aside from that UTSA thrashing, haven’t come as easy as originally planned.

The win at Central Michigan was a dud, Central Arkansas wasn’t a blowout. The Big 12 slate so far has been helped by bad calls and special teams errors, combined with some incredibly clutch late game performances from Rudolph, Grogan, and the defense, the latter being the only part of the preseason hype that has lived up to expectations.

But here we are at 5-0. Just as planned. By the way some people are talking, you’d think they were 2-3.

The thing is, regardless of how this season has gone when compared to the lofty preseason expectations, the matchup in Morgantown was supposed to be the first real test. And guess what? That hasn’t changed.

Yes, West Virginia blew it last week in Norman, mainly because of turnovers. But make no mistake — this team is good, and they are a much more balanced team than in years past. Saturday should be the toughest game of the season thus far, and will likely provide the Cowboys their biggest test until facing TCU one month from now.

The wins have come in a variety of ways, but all have been glaringly deficient in one area or another. Will this game be different? It’s safe to say that the Cowboys have learned a lot since Sep 3.  Perhaps they finally put it all together against the Mountaineers. Perhaps they don’t. Maybe they’ll barely sneak by yet again. Maybe they’ll be on the receiving end of a stupid call. Maybe they get blown out.

Either way, Oklahoma State is 5-0, like most figured they would be.

So yes, the season begins on Saturday, in Milan Puskar Stadium, and it’s anyone’s guess how the rest of it will go. Should they manage to get past the Mountaineers, perhaps that 8-0 start wasn’t so far-fetched after all.

…It just didn’t go as we thought it would.

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