This weekend the Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the number two team in the country, the Kansas State Wildcats. I am not here to tell you that one team is better than the other. I am simply about to point out to you why, after a season plagued with bad injuries, OSU fans should feel optimistic going into Saturday’s game.
It’s just set up perfectly. It’s like deja vu.
In OSU’s 2011 heartbreaking loss to Iowa State, the Cowboys had just been ranked #2 in the BCS, as the Wildcats have this week. While OSU is ranked #24 this week, they are similar to last year’s unranked Iowa State team in that they have nothing to lose.
Rewind even farther, 2008 #17 Oklahoma State at #2 Missouri. No one gave the Cowboys a shot in that game, they had been written off. However, they went in there with nothing to lose and pulled it off. The Cowboys defeated the Tigers and their Heisman frontrunner, QB Chase Daniels 28-23 that night, at Missouri.
I learned early on in equestrian that you have to perform at every show to win. You can’t just go out there and perform to not lose, you have to perform to win. Sometimes when you have a perfect record, like Kansas State, you get so wrapped up in trying not to lose that you stop trying to win. Don’t get me wrong, I think Kansas State is a great team and deserve their spot-they have a great record. I am just saying that sometimes your head is not completely clear when you are at the top, and this is a mental edge the Cowboys have on the Wildcats this weekend.
The Cowboys seem to be in the right frame of mind going into this weekend. They know what it will take to win the game but they are still confident. After all, they did finish as the number two team in the country last season! They know they haven’t had as good of a season as they had last year, but they know they can still make this season special.
“We control our destiny,” said senior linebacker Alex Elkins. “There’s no point in looking forward because we have a game this weekend that can basically decide our future. There’s no reason to look past that and we all know that. We have all the motivation we need coming in to this game, playing the number two team in the nation. We win this game, and we’re back in the top spot with a chance to win a conference championship.”
Elkins and his fellow linebackers have been playing at a high level in these last few games. The Cowboys have held 3 straight conference opponents to 20 points or less (Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Christian). The area the defense really needs to step it up this weekend is in turnovers. Last year the Cowboys led the nation in turnovers. Top cornerbacks senior Brodrick Brown and junior Justin Gilbert were supposed to have a huge impact but have had a relatively quiet year by there usual standards. Gilbert is a star. The man had five interceptions last year (3 of which were from first round draft picks who currently start at QB in the NFL). He was also the defensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, a top 15 draft pick on Mel Kiper’s preseason board, not to mention returning kicks and punch for touchdowns more often than the guys from First Take talk about Tebow. So where is Gilbert this year? Gundy is trying to figure this out as well. Coach had a talk with Gilbert on Sunday, telling him he needs to step it up. Hopefully he does! He is one of the top players in the country and his turnover/return magic could be a serious factor in tomorrow’s game.
Here’s my keys to tomorrow’s game:
A confident Wes Lunt, winning the turnover battle, containing the Klein, blocking for Randle, Blake Jackson’s hands, special teams, strong front seven, strong O-Line….basically everyone! I am ready to see a great team concept tomorrow. Bring that Honey Badger mentality and we will win. Ready to see the swagger of defending Big 12 Champions!
There will be pistols firing in Manhattan tomorrow! Go Pokes!