The Story From the Team After the Game? The Fans Made the Difference

Zach Lancaster

STILLWATER – Oklahoma State has a long history of some of the best game day atmospheres in college football. Tens of thousands of fans flock to the Oklahoma State campus and Boone Pickens Stadium hours before kickoff to tailgate, eat and drink and generally just have a great time.

We knew that wasn’t going to happen this season, but there was no way to know just how drastic that change was going to be.

As I made my way to the stadium this morning, there were a few things that stood out. One, it was the easiest game day drive I’ve had in the four years I’ve been covering Oklahoma State. Two, it was the easiest walks I’ve made from the Monroe parking garage to the loading dock on the Southeast side of BPS.

This was the first game of a socially-distanced season for Oklahoma State and other than no tailgating, there were plenty of things that made it a rather topsy turvy afternoon. First, and probably something that no one will probably get used to, was the 14,668 fans instead of the usually 55,000+.

Before the start of the game, it felt as if the crowd noise wasn’t really going to be a factor for the Cowboys. However, that turned out to not be the case.

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“I thought the crowd was fantastic,” said coach Gundy.” A couple of penalties that Tulsa got on the offensive line, I believe, was because of the sound. They were really loud. I mentioned that to the coaches, I mentioned that to the team that the limited number of fans that were able to come to the game, they were awesome and we’re very appreciative of it, but there were times that they actually got loud in the stadium.”

Something else that stood out were a few performances from two guys that was completely unexpected: back up running back LD Brown and third-string quarterback Shane Illingworth.

Tulsa had an answer for Chuba Hubbard throughout most of the game, although he finished the day with 27 carries for 97 yards and one score, Brown had just six carries for 63 yards. Brown had a run late in the game of 51 yards and was able to get into the end zone, but it was called back on an offensive holding call.

As for Illingworth, Spencer Sanders was injured in the opening series of the game and was sent to the locker room with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Coach Gundy and Kasey Dunn gave backup Ethan Bullock the nod, but Bullock just couldn’t get it done. He finished the day going 8-of-13 with just 41 yards and an interception and was sacked multiple times.

Both coach Gundy and coach Dunn mentioned how Illingworth was the third option because he’s missed a lot of practice due to contract tracing.

However, that wasn’t a factor at all as Illingworth got the nod and immediately turned things around. His first play from the line of scrimmage was a 29-yard completion to Tylan Wallace and he went 3-of-3 for 73 yards on his opening drive that led to a three-yard touchdown by Hubbard.

It wasn’t the ideal afternoon for Oklahoma State as there haven’t been too many instances in program history where the Cowboys haven’t scored a touchdown in the first half. But once Illingworth hit Wallace for 29-yards to start the third quarter, the fans came alive and gave the team a massive boost.

The Cowboys face a tough West Virginia team next weekend in Boone Pickens Stadium and as we made our way through the postgame Zoom call with players and coaches, it was very clear they’re hoping for the same level of participation from the Cowboy faithful.

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