No. 5 Oklahoma State tries to avoid letdown at Iowa State
Following a 49-29 win over TCU, the fifth-ranked Cowboys have suddenly inserted themselves into consideration for the College Football Playoff. Next up: a chance to redeem that 2011 squad in a matchup Saturday against the Cyclones.
Before closing out the regular season against Big 12 heavyweights No. 4 Baylor on Nov. 21 and No. 12 Oklahoma on Nov. 28, Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0 Big 12, No. 14 CFP) must first face Iowa State (3-6, 2-4) on the road.
The Cyclones, who just lost at Oklahoma 52-16 for their fourth defeat in five games, are an inferior opponent, but the Cowboys know they can't afford to overlook them.
''Every opponent is the same, you prepare every week like you have been,'' backup quarterback J.W. Walsh said. ''If you take care of the things you have been taking care of, and doing the little things, it'll all work out.''
Oklahoma State finds itself in a position similar to its 2011 visit to Ames, Iowa, but is determined to get a different outcome.
That year, Oklahoma State was 10-0 and ranked No. 2 prior to its game against Iowa State, which was 5-4 (2-4 in the Big 12) at the time. The Cowboys led 24-7 early in the third quarter, but lost 37-31 in two overtimes.
They missed a chance to play in the BCS title game, although OSU still won the school's only Big 12 title after beating Oklahoma the next week, ultimately finishing the season ranked No. 3.
Walsh, in his redshirt year, was on the sideline for that game and remembers the sickening feeling when it was all over.
''My stomach just dropped,'' Walsh said. ''I wasn't playing at all, but you just felt bad for everybody because they put in all this hard work, and they prepared as best they could for the game, but it was just a weird atmosphere. It was not a very good feeling.''
One unique aspect of that game, though, and the biggest thing that coach Mike Gundy still remembers from the experience, is that it occurred just one day after Oklahoma State's women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash, stunning the OSU community.
''Obviously, the plane crash is the most tragic part of it, still to this day, with the people that we lost,'' Gundy said. ''The outside part of what's going on in college football (and all the attention the Cowboys are now receiving) concerns me a little more with these guys, than what happened in 2011.''
Gundy denied that game provided any additional incentive. Staying on track for the Big 12 championship, taking one step at a time, is motivation enough.
''I've never really bought into scenarios of revenge and what a team might have done to us last year and so on and so forth,'' Gundy said. ''We are a firm believer in preparation and (taking things) day to day, and that's the easiest way for us to handle those topics.''
Walsh doesn't believe lightning will strike twice, confident his team will be ready to seize the moment.
''It's going to be on people's minds, because the last time we were 10-0, we went in there and it was kind of the same situation, but we're prepared for it,'' said Walsh, who has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season in a supplementary role behind Mason Rudolph. ''We're ready to get the week of practice started, and we're just fired up for the opportunity to go be 10-0.''
''We don't treat them like a lesser team,'' said Whitener, who was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after registering two second-half interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown, against TCU.
''They're really good at home. We saw what they did against Texas, they're a good football team. You can't take them lightly.''