November 9, 2008

Sunday Conversation: Moving past Tech

After last night's 56-20 pounding in Lubbock, Oklahoma State's goals for a Big 12 title game appearance and BCS bowl berth are all but gone.

And for a team which has had legitimate shots at both up until this point, it might seem understandable for players to get down and lose focus after a big loss like the No. 11 Cowboys experienced against No. 2 Texas Tech.

The big question, which we won't find out until next Saturday, is how will the Pokes respond to this adversity? In his Sunday media teleconference, head coach Mike Gundy said the team was disappointed and there wasn't much talk after the game on the bus or plane home. But he added that he doesn't feel the need to check up on them as much to see how they're handling a loss.

"I don't feel like I have to do that as much anymore, because this team is mature," Gundy said. "We have good leadership. We went out and played a good ball team and got beat. And you have to give them credit. I would like to think these guys will come back and prepare to play well on Saturday."

The Cowboys' next game is a trip to the Flatirons against Colorado Saturday night at 7. With OSU now 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big 12, it's unrealistic to think about the Big 12 title or BCS anymore. And since this team had orange bracelets reminding them about the conference championship game, what's the new goal for the Pokes?

"To win the next game," Gundy said. "It's always that way. What we do is try to prepare each week. I've watched some of Colorado and this is a good defense we're getting ready to face. They're pretty sound, with the exception of Missouri. They've got some guys on defense that can make some plays. We'll have to prepare and get ready to go play on the road."

As far as road games go, moving from Lubbock to Boulder is a tough one. Both sites have a reputation of being snakepits at night, and Folsom Field is more than a mile high, which can always test the visitors.

While neither side of the ball played particularly well overall, one would assume the offense will get back on track without much problem. But what about the defense? It's a unit that performed fairly well this season, but was obliterated for 629 yards of total offense (516 through the air) and 14 points each quarter.

"I think our defense felt like they didn't play very well and I think Tech is pretty good on offense," Gundy said. "And again, we'll meet tonight again as a staff and discuss defensively kind of what transpired and what happened. But they got hot and got on a roll and we didn't slow them down. And I think they're pretty good."

By the time Brandon Pettigrew committed that now-infamous fumble, the Cowboys were on the ropes and were falling out of the game, but still had a small chance to mount a comeback.

But the fumble basically snuffed that out.

After the play, Pettigrew appeared to be pretty distraught on the sidelines. What did Gundy think of the play?

"I think the ball was a little bit loose, but the guy came from behind him and punched it out."

Whatever the case, the play definitely swung every bit of momentum in Tech's favor.

"We were moving the ball again," he said. "We had played pretty well coming out of the locker room at halftime and thought we had a good series of plays and turned it over and let them go punch it in. From that point on, we became so one-dimensional. You don't like it but that's how it is."

It's readily apparent that Dez Bryant is a special player. He has a ton of talent and should be projected as a high draft pick in the spring of 2010. And while he's had some big games this season, they've all come against sub-par competition at home. All of his triple-digit receiving games have come against teams from lower-quality conferences (Houston, Troy) or weak Big 12 teams (Texas A&M, Baylor and Iowa State). And each time out, the big games have been at Boone Pickens Stadium.

His best away-from-Stillwater performance? The first game of the year, when Bryant caught seven catches for 90 yards. Against Tech, he reeled in four catches for 86 yards. He has not caught a touchdown outside of Payne County in 2008.

"We've played pretty good teams on the road," Gundy said. "That could have something to do with it defensively. Teams that have played pretty well this year may have had something to do with it."

In Bryant's defense, Gundy is right. Against the three top 10 teams Bryant has faced this season, he has 17 catches for 207 yards and no scores. That averages out to only 69 yards a game in those three contests.

And just like against the Longhorns and Tigers, he was frustrated against the Red Raiders.

"They played the safety over him the whole game," Gundy said.

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