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Samuel Bryant of 'Cowboys Ride For Free' recaps the 2010 Oklahoma St. season.

In an effort to educate the Wildcat fans a bit about our bowl opponent, I'm doing a couple of projects with Samuel Bryant of SBNations Oklahoma St. site, 'Cowboys Ride For Free'.  Today, Samuel recaps the 2011 Oklahoma St. football season.  It's a good read, and gives a good overall picture of the Cowboys.  Enjoy, and let us know what you think in the comments.

Samuel Bryant's Oklahoma St. season recap:
Preseason expectations for Oklahoma State were basically a gigantic "incomplete". Sure most national media outlets made guesses because that is what they have to do.. and most of these guess put the Cowboys in 5th or 6th place in the Big XII South and finishing 5-7 or 6-6. But they were making these prediction/guesses based on what we all knew about this team, which was that we didn't know much.

Oklahoma State returned only 6 starters from 2009 and with 16 new starters being broken in the assumption was that it would be a slow learning process. The only areas where anyone was comfortable was at RB with 2008 AA Kendall Hunter making his full strength return from an injury plagued 2009 season, and at DE where Ugo Chinasa, Jamie Blatnick, and Richetti Jones were all returning and all proven.

The offensive line only had one returning starter, the WR's were unproven and were lacking a leader in 2009 after the Dez Bryant suspension, and the Cowboys quarterback was going to be this 26 year old dude that we had only seen play one half of football last season. On the defensive side the cause for optimism was the return of the DE's, the return of stud MLB Orie Lemon who missed all of 2009 with an injury, and returning safety Markelle Martin. Everywhere else the starters were new, but at least the Pokes returned a leader on the line, at LB, and in the secondary.

On top of all this Mike Gundy had fired himself as OC in the off-season and hired Dana Holgorsen to replace him as Gundy would focus purely on being the Head Coach. Dana is a product of the Mike Leach/Air Raid system and was coming off a 2009 season leading the Houston Cougars to the #1 ranked offense in the nation. He would be implementing this new scheme in Stillwater with mostly new and unproven players. Everyone was expecting growing pains.

Then week one came around, and we knew it was Washington State, and we knew that Oklahoma State should win by 2 or 3 TDs... but we were not expecting a 65-17 romp where the offense was built around the running game. This OC that was supposed to be a Mike Leach clone called more runs than passes and Kendall Hunter ended up with 257 yards for the game. While Cowboy nation wasn't fully on the bandwagon yet, everyone was starting to ponder what the Texas Tech offense was capable of when you add a Doak Walker candidate to the backfield.


Game 2 reminded us how young the Pokes were as they barely squeaked out a 41-38 win over Troy thanks to 5 Cowboys turnovers (including a fumble in victory formation... I still have not found evidence of this ever happening in any other game in history). Then game 3 was a bounce back 65-28 blowout of Tulsa that looks better in hindsight as the Hurricane ended up putting a decent season together. And this is how we thought the whole season would go. One week the Pokes would look great, then the inexperience would show and the next week they would look beatable and so on.

Then came a national TV audience for a Thursday night game at home against Texas A&M where the Cowboys were scrappy, forced turnovers, came up with big drives when they needed to, and eventually kicked a GW FG as time expired to take the 38-35 victory. This is when we started to believe. I don't want to get into the entire history of Oklahoma State football here... just know that there is a term "The Poke Choke" that is regularly used by Cowboy fans and opposing fans alike to describe the un-clutch nature of Oklahoma State football. If the Cowboys could win a tough game like this, then maybe this season they were the real deal.

The next 2 games were a couple of easy road wins over Louisiana Lafayette and Texas Tech

(although the Tech win did end a 60 year streak of losses in Lubbock) and it was around this time we were really starting to notice WR Justin Blackmon. Sure we saw that he had some nice games and big catches early, but this was one of the guys that never did step up last season after Dez was out, and we just figured the early games were a sign that he was maturing. We didn't realize that he already matured into the best WR in the nation. Well these two road contests let us know as he combined for 23 catches, 397 yards, and 3 TDs in just these 2 games (he had 20 rec, 260 yrds, 2 TDs the entire 2009 season!). On top of that, Brandon Weeden (the 26 year old QB) was playing like a veteran and had turned into an offensive leader. So with the production of Weeden, Hunter, and Blackmon, and how the Orie Lemon lead defense was forcing turnovers and coming up with big stops when they were needed, Oklahoma State fans (and the nation) were realizing that this really was a complete team.

Then comes the first loss of the season. A 51-41 beating at home to Nebraska. It was one of the more exciting first haves of football I have ever seen, but in the 2nd half the Cowboys ran out of gas and could not keep up with the Nebraska passing attack which had come to life in that game. There were some moral victories in the loss as it was the first time the Nebraska defense had been beat up like that in a long time, and most Nebraska fans I know said that the last team they wanted to see in the Big XII championship game was Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys bounced back from this loss with 4 straight wins @ K-State, Baylor, @ Texas, and @ Kansas in games where they were favored and took care of business. The notable accomplishments in this stretch was the team winning without 3 of their top 4 WRs @ K-State, beating Texas in Austin for the first time since 1944 (and only the 3rd time overall), and that the defense was coming around. The offense kept racking up the yards and points as expected, but in this stretch the defense was starting to show what it could do. The Cowboys only gave up 18 points per game in these 4 games, and a lot of that was in garbage time of blowout wins. Everything was set up for a season ending showdown with the Sooners for the Big XII South crown.

Well, since this was the Cowboys most publicly known game and it was only a couple of weeks ago, I probably don't need to rehash it, but the Cowboys did lose in absolutely heartbreaking fashion. It was one of the more painful losses in Oklahoma State history as it kept us from getting a shot at the conference title (which we have never won btw), it was at the hands of our rival, and the last 5 minutes of the game was absolutely insane.
Here is a pretty good highlight package with some terrible music over it.

In the end, Cowboy fans are happy with this season. 10-2 doesn't come around here often (or never) and the fact that it came in a re-building year is amazing. With the way the season ended there is a bit of disappointment that we will be traveling to San Antonio instead of Tempe for the Fiesta, but that 11th win is important to us, as is sending Kendall Hunter and Orie Lemon and the rest of the seniors out with a win. There will be a lot of orange in the Alamo Dome cheering on these Cowboys to do what the analysts seem to think they will do and beat the Wildcats handily. I'm not confident that it will be that easy, but I do know that we could use one last game to work on holding onto the ball in victory formation.