On Saturday’s ride up the elevator to the suite and press box level of Boone Pickens Stadium, one Cowboys fan summed up the afternoon ahead with all the optimism he could muster.
“We’re going to have fun, no matter the outcome,” the gentleman said. “We’ve already lost expectations.”
Little did he know…
Oh, there was fun, lots of fun, in a Big 12 throwback that sparked memories of OSU-Texas Tech shootouts gone by, and signified the year that is 2020.
And there was a Cowboys win, too; maybe not such a conquest to heal the wounds of another Bedlam bummer, which always linger with OSU fans, but one that delivered good times and should have revamped expectations, and some swagger, both for the weeks ahead and for the future, too.
Cowboys 50, Red Raiders 44.
“It would be nice to win nice and smooth one time out… not have to sweat bullets,” said OSU offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn.
Fortunately, the Cowboys were shooting a bunch of bullets, in a pistols firing kind of way. And in every way.
It was a jam-packed day, beginning with an unveiling of the Boone Pickens statue in the pavilion outside the west end zone. It was Senior Day, serving a reminder of the talent that won’t be back playing on that field in the future, guys like Tylan Wallace, Chuba Hubbard, Malcolm Rodriguez, Amen Ogbongbemiga, Dillon Stoner, Rodarius Williams, Teven Jenkins and more.
Bad news was prevalent, too, with word that a cast of Cowboys would be unavailable due to injuries or COVID-19: Hubbard and LD Brown, the team’s top running backs; offensive linemen Jenkins and Hunter Anthony; kicker Alex Hale; and backup quarterback Shane Illingworth. Starting corner Rodarius Williams went down and out during the game.
None of that mattered a few hours later.
Not after three-plus hours of giggling and gasping in awe and delight.
The Cowboys scored in almost every way, literally. Their ground game, seemingly decimated by so many missing pieces, instead piled up 317 yards, with Dezmon Jackson going for 235 yards and three touchdowns – in his first career start – darting and pile-driving for yards with a dazzling game.
Spencer Sanders threw for 222 yards and a score and ran for 78 more, looking like the elite prospect from his prep playing days.
The defense bent and broke, a lot, but delivered, too, producing three turnovers and a safety. Tre Sterling carried one of the takeaways to the house on a Pick 6, and added to a dominant day with nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and a big fourth-quarter, fourth-down stop in OSU territory.
And no, that’s not all.
Special teams – special teams! – provided a thrill, as Jason Taylor II snatched a bounding onside kick that hopped into his hands, then raced untouched for a TD moments after Tech had taken a third-quarter lead.
That was one of Tech’s three onside kick tries in the game, further hinting at the zaniness of the day.
“It was a crazy game,” said OSU safety Tre Sterling, at the center of much of it, “… how many crazy things that just don’t happen.”
How crazy? The third quarter alone featured 34 points, with five touchdowns scored in a span of 5:53. Overall, the teams combined for 1,178 yards and 94 points scored in a myriad of ways.
Now, about those expectations.
The Cowboys remain in the Big 12 title chase, although they need help, likely from dangerous West Virginia, which still has dates with Iowa State and Oklahoma.
There will be a bowl game, cemented with Saturday’s sixth win.
And Saturday reminded us not only of the Seniors signing out, but those in line to return.
Sanders, Jackson, Sterling and Taylor, all from Saturday’s spotlight. And that’s just to name a few.
Jackson, who vowed to call his grandmother first following his postgame media duties, learned from coaches he’d be starting on Monday. Unlike the gentleman on the elevator, Jackson was more focused on producing and resetting expectations.
“We knew we couldn’t lose this game,” he said. “Texas Tech beat us two years in a row. After losing Bedlam, it’s been bumpy. But we had to win for our seniors.”
Jackson, who’d totaled 18 carries and 135 yards previously in his OSU career, took the ball 36 times against the Red Raiders. Afterward, he reflected on it all.
“Physically, I feel fine,” Jackson said. “Emotionally, I was very emotional. After the game, I had my hands on my head, I was so emotional.”
In the stands, and surely in living rooms, Cowboys fans surely could relate, with their hands on their heads often Saturday.
“Obviously, very unusual,” Mike Gundy said. “But found a way to win.”
And that matters. Still.