September 18, 2009

Back on Track? OSU denies overlooking UH

When a program isn't used to the circus surrounding a top 10 team, sometimes all of the other stuff can become too much.

While that may or may not have been the case with Oklahoma State - the coaches and team certainly don't admit as much - the fact remains that being at that high of a level is different than other spots in the college football world. Much like flying at 100,000 feet, you better have your oxygen mask properly strapped on or it might be a short ride.

The Cowboys, for whatever reason, didn't handle being ranked in the top five very well. After beating Georgia, the program enjoyed so much positive press - outside the state, anyway - that it could have gone to their heads. But then the Houston Cougars pounced on the Pokes and ended their ride as early-season national media darlings. Now the Cowboys are just another team ranked in the top 20.

In the post-game story published Saturday afternoon on OSI, head coach Mike Gundy refuted that argument.

"I don't believe in the SI jinx, I don't believe in being ranked really high and everybody telling them they are good and not preparing," he said. "I thought the team prepared well. I was disappointed that we made mistakes and turned it over. I don't think that played a role. I think Houston played a good football game."

The players would be the first to say overlooking UH never entered their minds. After all, this is a program that beat OSU straight up in 2006 and put a scare into them last year. The Cougars should have been no surprise.

"I don't think so," said Derek Burton on overlooking UH. We focused on them. It's not like we were looking ahead or looking past them or whatever. We just didn't play a good game today and it got on us."

"We were focused," Brady Bond said. "We had a better week of practice this week than we did last week. And there's no doubt that we were focused. We just made some mistakes and we put ourselves in too deep of a whole down 17, 20 points or whatever it was at the half - that's hard to come out of. And we did come back in the second half there, but it would have been nice to have been a touchdown or two ahead of them, that way we would have had some cushion was there. But all the pressure was on us and we just didn't perform well."

So the top five, Sports Illustrated cover and SportsCenter mentions are a thing of the past - for now. While OSU blew its chance to be a national name in the early part of the season, all is not lost. In the wild and wooly Big 12, losing early is better than losing late. And Justin Blackmon was quick to remind people that OSU's goal for 2009 are all still standing.

"We've got the same goals," he said. "We're going to come out and play. We still win out, we still win the Big 12 South and still win the Big 12. We can still make it to a BCS bowl, so that didn't really change any of our goals. We just have to work hard and finish the season."

The question is, now that the Cowboys have suffered their first down moment in 2009, how will they react? We'll get a clue as to that answer tomorrow, as OSU hosts Rice at 6 p.m. inside Boone Pickens Stadium.

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