How 2002 was the biggest breakthrough year for Oklahoma State football
Success of the 2002 football season
The 2002 season was a breakthrough year for OSU football because that year’s successes helped set up further wins and gains for the program for years to come. Even with the departure of Les Miles to LSU after the 2004 season, there was a brief hiccup before the team continued its forward momentum under a young Mike Gundy.
OSU had a magical run in the late 1980s, featuring All-Americans like Thurman Thomas and Hart Lee Dykes in addition to Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders, along with Mike Gundy. The team won 10 games in three separate seasons and was a regular in the AP Top 10.
But after 1988, things changed. The Cowboys endured a 13-year stretch with only one winning season (1997) and no postseason victories. The 1991 season even saw a Cowboys team finish with an 0-10-1 record, the program’s first winless campaign in 71 years.
Les Miles, although his late-game clock management puzzled OSU fans long before it made national headlines during his time in Baton Rouge, brought talent and a winning attitude to Stillwater.
The Oct. 19, 2002 victory against Nebraska was one that OSU fans will remember for a long time. The 24-21 Cowboys triumph was the team’s first victory against the Cornhuskers in 41 years. Although that year’s Nebraska team was no match for its national title-winning counterparts of the 1990s, OSU fans tore down the goal posts to celebrate the big win.
Following wins against Texas A&M, Baylor, and Kansas, OSU fans had the chance to tear down the goal posts a second time in 2002 with regular-season finale victory against No. 3-ranked OU. The 38-28 victory at home is the most recent time that OSU has defeated the Sooners in consecutive seasons.
The Cowboys (8-5, 5-3) would go on to conclude 2002 with a 33-23 Houston Bowl victory against Southern Miss, which had actually beaten OSU in the regular season twice in the two seasons prior.
In 2003, the following season, Miles and the Cowboys reached nine wins, another high-water mark that hadn’t been reached in 15 years. Consider that in OSU’s most recent 13 seasons, the Cowboys have failed to reach nine wins only five times.
With some marquee wins and outstanding individual performances, the 2002 Oklahoma State football team deserves its share in the spotlight to helping mold the Cowboys as a successful college football program today.