As the Quest for 10 Wins Falls, Oklahoma State's Defense Rises

Curtis FinchumCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Zac Robinson #11 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys drops back to pass against the Mississippi Rebels during the AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 2, 2010 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This was a game of the season's two underachievers. Oklahoma State and Mississippi were chosen to be the teams to shake up the BCS. 

They failed. Both teams played through controversy throughout the season, from injured players to suspensions. 

For Oklahoma State, the adversity started early. First senior linebacker Orie Lemon fell to a torn ACL during fall practice.

Then All-American Dez Bryant was suspended indefinitely just three games into the season. 

Not long after the loss of Bryant, the Cowboys lost fellow All-American Kendall Hunter to a severe ankle injury. Those are the two most productive offensive players on Oklahoma State's roster. 

Senior quarterback Zac Robinson was the only player left from last season's high-octane offense. Fellow senior Keith Toston, however, stepped into the shoes of Hunter and filled them spectacularly. 

The receiving corps, however, suffered by youthful mistakes. Starting with dropped passes, to lack of ball security on the run. 

But even Robinson suffered a view injuries, not playing against Colorado due to a head injury. Though the Cowboys found their future quarterback (sophomore Brandon Weeden) that game. 

The Cowboys entered the Cotton Bowl with its second consecutive nine-win season and its fourth consecutive bowl appearance. 

As the Cotton Bowl began, both the Cowboys and the Ole Miss Rebels offense's sputtered. Though Robinson and company fell to the Rebels 21-7, an unsuspected group of men made a statement to the nation. 

The Cowboy defense had finally arrived. Though Rebel running back Dexter McCluster had a great game, so did the Cowboy defense forcing five turnovers. 

Apart from McCluster's production, Oklahoma State stayed in the game because of their defense, something no Cowboy fan had expected upon kickoff. 

Seniors Andre Sexton, Terrance Anderson, and Lucien Antoine all had interceptions, Sexton gathering two. The Cowboy defense even contained McCluster to an extent, excluding an 80+ yard run early in the first half. 

Head coach Mike Gundy, throughout all the mixed emotions of his play calling, has successfully brought in a defensive coordinator who has helped resurrect the Cowboys into the national spotlight. 

Bill Young returned to his Alma Mater to bring promise to a Cowboy defense that had never been more than underachievers. 

Young improved a defense that returned a majority of veterans. Sexton and fellow seniors Patrick Lavine, Perrish Cox, and Donald Booker finished off their legacy with a bang. 

Though the 2009 senior class will leave with a bad taste in their mouths, they have built up a program that will soon be feared by all. 

Oklahoma State's surge into the BCS talk and as the latest star in the Big 12 South will always remain a part of their legacy. Robinson and company have nothing to hang their heads about. 

Though as a team they fell, as a family they flourished. Oklahoma State has become a family beyond any that Gundy could have predicted so quickly. 

As the offense has many times had the back of its defense, Sexton and company returned the favor and made a statement to his future Big 12 foes. 

As the 2009 season ends, the 2010 Cowboys begin to prepare to what could be the most significant season in years. They have not only the opportunity to continue to rise of Oklahoma State, but advance it into that of the elite. 

Farewell seniors of 2009, and hello Cowboys of 2010. Hold your heads high and your pride higher; this is your shot at making history.