STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — After its loss to Kansas State virtually eliminated it from just about all of its goals this season, No. 18 Oklahoma State needs to somehow get back to work and prepare for another game.
The Cowboys are not yet officially eliminated from the Big 12 championship game, sitting in a four-way tie for third with one week left in the regular season, but there doesn’t appear to be any plausible scenario in which they get into the top two, even in the unlikely event that second-place No. 10 TCU loses to 1-10 Baylor.
Oklahoma State (8-3, 5-3, No. 13 CFP) closes out its Big 12 schedule by hosting lowly Kansas (1-10, 0-8) on Saturday.
Coach Mike Gundy acknowledged it was difficult reviewing the tape from last weekend’s 45-40 loss . His team fell behind 42-13 in the third quarter before rallying in the fourth, only to fall short on a final three-and-out possession with less than 2 minutes left.
“They are off the table, as sad as it is,” Gundy said of the team’s postseason aspirations. “Sundays are not very fun here when you lose, so for me to come in here and say everybody’s happy and passing around lollipops and telling jokes, is not the way it is. There are some long faces, but that’s my job to fix it. And, the culture that we have allows them, and it should, that you get your butt ready to play the next game. It’s the same way when you have a big win, sometimes maybe a little worse, because they’re floating on cloud nine. The difficult part is you’ve got to look in the mirror and say, `What could I have done better?’ Same thing with me and the staff.”
Gundy pointed out that he has far more difficulty sleeping after losing a game he feels his team should have won, such as the game against Kansas State.
“I thought we had the best team,” he said. “All the credit in the world to (K-State’s) staff, their coach and their players, but my job’s to evaluate talent and I thought that’s a game we should have won. That goes back to the culture that we’ve created here. There are certain games when we lose, I’m not disappointed, but I was disappointed after this last game. Then you go back to the culture, it makes you feel a little better, it gives you something to hang your hat on. That’s why you have to do things right all the time. Otherwise, if you don’t have that, you’ll just be upset.”
Gundy lamented the lost opportunity to play for the Big 12 title and possibly squeeze into the College Football Playoff.
“But here’s the good news: If you go back to the year we went to the Holiday Bowl (2008), we were really good then,” he said. “From `08 up until this year, if you look at our track record, 10 years, I’m going to bet that seven of those 10 years, we could have played with anybody in the country on any given day, so I’m in the boat with (feeling this year was a missed opportunity). But I feel good about, we’ll come back, we’ll be around, we’ll be there.”
After noting a couple of other years that he felt Oklahoma State missed out on being in the national championship conversation, without quite living up to its potential or expectations, Gundy remains optimistic and determined.
“It was that way the year we won the Fiesta Bowl (2011, when Oklahoma State won its only Big 12 title and finished ranked No. 3), and we came back and rallied around,” Gundy said. “The Sugar Bowl year (2015, when OSU started 10-0 but finished 10-3 after quarterback Mason Rudolph got hurt), we had a few injuries that were a problem, we were pretty good that year.
“But yes. Yes. This was a special group. And does that part eat on me that they couldn’t get to whatever their ultimate goal was? Yes it does. But life is full of events that make us not feel so good about things, and that’s why we believe in systems and things that say, `OK, let’s keep rolling.’ Until you can’t draw another breath, you got a chance.”