Cowboy Football: The Pulse is Racing & OSU Sports: Three Things I Dig and Two I Despise

John Helsley

If we took a measurement for the pulse of Oklahoma State football, we’d need to dial 911.

In the span of a few weeks, from the aftermath of an uninspiring Texas Bowl to now, the heartbeat among fans for 2020 has gone from off-putting to off the charts. Hearts are racing, some uncontrollably.

Here’s all you need to know: Cowboy football – run by Mr. Lowkey himself, Mike Gundy – plans a pep rally. Not for next summer on the annual Caravan circuit. Not for the Spring Game.

For Tuesday. This Tuesday, January 21.

Momentum has surely swung, with Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard and Kasey Dunn all returning for more, along with an already stacked roster. And the positive vibes don’t rest solely with OSU fans, either. The national media, usually slow to notice what’s going on in Stillwater, is on board, too, with the Cowboys firmly in play with the various “way too early” Top 25s.

So why not capitalize, pushing the pedal on excitement, even if Tuesday’s fun will mostly be enjoyed by students and faculty with a noon gathering inside the Student Union.

I can dig it.

Here’s some other things I dig, and a few I despise, around OSU athletics this week:


Guys Who Get It

History and tradition don’t mean what they once did. We’ve become a society of the here and now, taking little time to reflect and always moving on to the next thing.

So it was fun to see Nick Piccininni understand the weight of his Saturday milestone, after he stuck Pitt’s Louis Newell with a pin for his 100th career win as a Cowboy. Piccininni became just the 44th wrestler in OSU’s unparalleled history to reach the 100-win mark.

“It is special,” Piccininni said. “Putting my name next to a bunch of guys before me who are legends of the sport is definitely something to be proud of.

“Getting 100 wins is a cool milestone to hit in the orange Oklahoma State singlet.”

John Smith’s signature is scrawled on a decent portion of OSU’s great wrestling tradition, so he’s a good source for perspective. And Smith gets it, too, the winning, and much more.

“He's one of those guys that you would coach forever,” Smith said about Piccininni. “It's not so much about being good, but his attitude… the way he addresses practice… the way he comes in and he's a great student.

“I don't think in my five years coaching him I've ever had to question him about school or what's happening in school. He's just a consistent guy who has great discipline in his life.

“I think he's a guy who really wants his team to do well. It's his senior year. He knows our team has to fight for tough wins, and he does everything he can to start that off in the duals.”


OSU basketball fell to 0-4 in the Big 12, playing better, but still losing to No. 2 Baylor 75-68 Saturday.

Now what? Hard to say, with three of the next four on the road – at Iowa State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma – broken up only by a home game against No. 6 Kansas.

Cowboys coach Mike Boynton asks fans to stick with his squad, while also recognizing the current state isn’t good enough.

“I don’t want to ignore the obvious. Losing is not fun,” Boynton said Saturday. “It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable and nobody wants to lose. I don’t want to be unfair to our fans and tell them that they should accept losing.

“But I am as proud of my team today as I have been at any point in the season because of the way we played. We’re close.”


The Cowboys essentially took Baylor to the wire; it was a one-possession game with 19 seconds remaining.

And things could have gone different from that moment on, if…

With the OSU down three, 71-68, Cowboys center Yor Anei grabbed a rebound off a missed free throw… and promptly turned the ball over, hurriedly rocketing a pass past nearby Isaac Likekele, when patience was needed.

Baylor padded the final score at the foul line and left Gallagher-Iba Arena with a win. And Anei’s mistimed turnover became a focal point in a game of what ifs.

Rightly, Boynton put some needed perspective on the play, one of many that may have changed the Cowboys course in the game.

“I told Yor it was one of a hundred mistakes that was made in that game,” Boynton said. “Obviously, it was highlighted because it was the moment people want to look at, but there is no guarantee we go and make a 3 at the next possession and don’t have to foul again.

“That kid has responded to the challenge of having to come off the bench today. He gave us unbelievable effort on the glass, he battled his tail off against some strong guys in there and he was a part of the reason we were right where we were to have a chance to win today.

“So, I need that kid to know that I love him and that he is going to be a part of our success moving forward.”


Armchair QBs/PGs

Hey we’re all guilty to some degree, thinking we’ve got the answers that coaches somehow don’t.

Here’s the truth: We don’t. You don’t.

Watch and critique all you want, head to Twitter and spread your expertise, call into question the ability of your coaches. It’s foolishness.

I learned this lesson long ago, taking my own questions into private interviews with coaches, only to find out there was so much more to know about certain plays and game plans and even personnel, provided with just a little bit of enlightenment.

That’s not to say coaches never make mistakes or wish they had a call or approach to do over. Oh, they do.

But more times than not, there are simple reasons for failure. Understandable reasons, once explained or even pointed out with film.

So take a breath and relax when you think you see things so clearly from Section 207 or from your barcalounger. It’s never as easy as it seems.

Inconsistent Officiating

I know officiating isn’t easy. I know it’s thankless, too.

But here’s a tip for Big 12 hoops referees: stick with your plan. Call things close, or don’t, but do it one way within any given game. Don’t let guys pound on each other, then blow your whistle when a guy gently puts his hand on an opponent’s hip.

Oh, and wait until you see a foul, before calling a foul. There’s too many anticipation whistles being called, and some are just wrong. Wait for it.