On Saturday night Oklahoma State went into Tucson to face an Arizona team that barely escaped with its life a week earlier against Toledo. Not only did the Cowboys leave the desert with a loss, but they also learned a big lesson about trying to play with the big boys.
For the past four seasons Mike Gundy and his Cowboys have been living in a fantasy world, as they have gone 41-11. They even won their first ever outright conference title in 2011. But, at some point in time, a little taste of reality has to return to Stillwater.
That time came Saturday night. That's when we got to see the Cowboys we all grew up with.
It was starting to look a little too easy for Oklahoma State. Did they really think they could have Boone Pickens throw a little money their way and that would give them the right to hang out with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama?
Actually in 2011 they did more than just hang out with Texas and Oklahoma, they left the Sooners and 'Horns in their dust by winning the Big 12 title and narrowly missing a shot at the BCS National Championship Game.
From the outside it looked like Gundy had the Cowboys in a position of reloading instead of rebuilding. Afterall, they did nearly hang 100 on Savannah State last week with mostly their second and third string.
Fans in Stillwater were ready to crown their freshman quarterback, Wes Lunt, the next king of college football. But, Arizona is no Savannah State. They're no Alabama, either.
As stated above, the Wildcats nearly lost to Toledo on their home field, and they are still adapting to a whole new offensive system with Rich Rodriguez now running the show. In fact, their win over the Cowboys will likely be just enough to keep them from having a losing record.
Once again, we saw the same weakness we've seen in Stillwater for decades: defense. Not just one piece of the defense but the whole darn thing.
After Arizona was done spotting the Cowboys 14 points, Oklahoma State decided to fall apart faster than a Kardashian marriage. Wildcat receivers ran open all night and quarterback Matt Scott looked like he was playing Savannah State.
The Cowboys forgot to make tackling a part of their strategy, and they committed so many penalties the NCAA will probably make Pickens pay for new flags. Don't be surprised if you hear of a few officials having Tommy John surgery.
Coming into the season it was the defense that was supposed to be the strength of this team. The biggest concern was breaking in a new quarterback after the exit of Brandon Weeden. Now the exact opposite is true.
While Lunt appears to have a bright future and the running backs are elite, the rest of the team looks like the Cowboys we all grew up with.
Let's face it, Oklahoma State is a program that cycles like the weather. It's always been like this. Three to four years of good football followed by two decades of average to below average football. They aren't the first program like this. Every college football season has its dorks who try to sit at the cool guys' table before they end up locked in a locker or head first in a toilet.
Just ask Clemson, Utah, Kansas State and Arkansas, to name a few. They've all tried to step up a level in stature before being put back in their place.
Oklahoma State faces the same problem as each of those teams. They will always have a tough time matching the elite programs in recruiting.
That's why, for the most part, you always see the same teams at the top of the rankings. You can pretty much predict who will finish in the Top Five 10 or 15 years from now by going with teams like Alabama, Southern California, Oklahoma, Texas and Ohio State.
Minus a probation or a rare down year, these guys along with a few other programs can be counted on to be there at the end because of recruiting. Their tradition and winning culture give them a recruiting advantage over teams like Oklahoma State.
Gundy is one heck of a coach—probably one of the top five or six in the country. But, he will always have to recruit against Oklahoma and Texas. After that he will still have to fight Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Arkansas for the leftovers.
Oklahoma State has definitely picked up it's recruiting efforts under Gundy, but when they lose a guy to injury or a guy just doesn't pan out, they are replacing him with a two-star recruit instead of four-star guy like they do at Alabama and LSU.
It's that depth in recruiting that allows the top-tier teams to consistently have 10-win seasons.
Last season Oklahoma went 10-3 and was considered a major disappointment. The Cowboys are hoping for eight wins this year. Nine wins would have fans doing cartwheels in Stillwater. That says plenty about what level this Oklahoma State program is at.
It was fun while it lasted, but while every dog has his day, reality must eventually set in.
So, Oklahoma State, when eight or nine wins becomes a disappointment, you will know you have made it big.
But, until then, welcome back to reality.
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